Nissan – Crowdsourced Innovation that excites

KSurette    October 22, 2014


Organization Name: Nissan Motor Company

Industry: Automotive

Name of contact: Erich Marx, Director of Interactive Marketing and Social Media

Web references: Nissan



Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG at

The widespread use of social media in our everyday lives has changed the way we act as consumers. More and more, consumers are willing to share their impressions of a product or service (good or bad) with their online social connections. Smart companies have realized that this plethora of information can be invaluable in improving products and services.

Nissan understands the value of listening to social conversations about its products. A multinational manufacturer of cars and trucks, Nissan was ranked sixth largest automaker in the world in 2012. The company’s motto is Innovation that excites, and Nissan has demonstrated that product development through social media can deliver on that promise.

Virtual Focus Group
Today’s technologically-advanced consumers are increasingly turning to social media to share their opinions about a company or its products/services. Facebook and twitter, and retailers such as BestBuy and Walmart are just a few examples of websites where consumers can get reviews and comments on positive and negative experiences with products or services.

Companies engaged in social media applications for business grasp the opportunity given to them by all the interaction on various social media sites. Actively monitoring social media conversations allows companies to become aware of what consumers are saying about their products/services. This feedback can then be used to tweak/tailor products and services to suit consumers need and wants.

Innovators in social media realize the value in taking social media engagement to the next level. Social media, and the wealth of consumer information it contains, is increasingly being viewed as a real-time focus group. (Source: Is Social Media the world’s largest focus group?)

By cooldesign

Image courtesy of cooldesign at

Crowdsourcing a new product or service – obtaining ideas or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, especially online (Source: Wikipedia) – is seen as a cost-effective and efficient way for organizations to gain different perspectives on concepts, target consumers or trends, which can then be incorporated into the final product. A report by Kalypso, product development consultants, showed faster adoption rates among consumers for products designed through social media, a 6 percent higher market share on average and improved revenue from products by 5 percent (Source: Companies trade focus groups for social media)

Project 370Z
In 2012, Nissan engaged auto enthusiasts in helping to build the world’s first crowd-sourced car. Over a series of weeks, Nissan gave its fans an opportunity to vote on the car’s specs: performance, parts, colour. Over the next several months, the car was assembled. The process was filmed and shared with the community.

Nissan Project 370Z – Stage 1

Nissan Project 370Z – Stage 2

The final product was revealed in May, 2012 at ZDayZ, a gathering of car enthusiasts in Tennessee.

Nissan Project 370Z – Reveal

Juke Nismo
Nissan again used crowdsourcing to generate ideas and buzz for another product launch. In April, 2013 Nissan used social media channels to provide input from fans for a one-off version of the Juke Nismo.

Nissan involved fans in the development process by inviting them to submit suggestions for technology that should be incorporated into the car. Ideas were submitted by using the hashtag #Jukeride

Nissan Juke Nismo

Nissan’s Observation
In a recent presentation to participants in the 2014 Automotive Social Media Summit, Erich Marx, Nissan’s Director of Interactive Marketing and Social Media, reflected on the company’s social media engagement.

The digital space is unbelievably cluttered. We have to try new things to remain competitive. It’s critical for brands to be innovative and exciting in the social space with new ideas and content that keeps consumers engaged. (Source: Nissan Marketer Tells of Social-Media Hits and Misses)

They certainly achieved that with their Project 370Z and Juke Nismo product development exercises.

Lessons for others
According to Stephanie Gehman, marketing manager for Harrisburg International Airport and a frequent blogger and speaker on emerging marketing touch points, asserts there are three key steps to ensure crowdsourcing is successful in product research and development.

1. Establish your roadmap/goals — know what you are trying to achieve (eg. improve problems with an existing product/service; develop an entirely new product/service)

2. Pose relevant questions and collect the data — questions need to support your goals, and should reflect the medium you’re working in (eg. Twitter vs blog)

3. Put the data to work — participants expect some sort of outcome for their effort.

Genham indicates that companies using crowdsourcing should be prepared to invest the time and effort to engage with participants on a real-time basis. People participate in such initiatives because they want to be involved in the process to develop products/services, not just consume them. (Source: 3 Ways to Use Social Media for Product Research and Development)



Fourth Source


Social Media Examiner

Wiley Online Library

Financial Times

Wards Auto


Social Media Today

Submitted By: Kevin R. Surette – SMBP Student, University of Waterloo.

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