Perhaps more than any other brand category, the consumer purchase route in the automotive industry relies on pre-purchase trials. While this is understandable, nobody in their right mind is going to buy a new car on sight (apart from me - Ed) the test drive is a lengthy process, and with so many marquees on offer, this presents another layer of competition for motor companies.
Although the Nissan Patrol had undergone several developments leading to a more sophisticated and luxurious design, the basic outside design had remained largely unchanged. Nissan needed to get potential drivers to experience the interior changes for themselves.
Recognising that drivers often prefer specific types of vehicle, Arabian Automobiles (the exclusive Nissan distributor in Dubai) chose to target drivers of competitor SUV models. But instead of wasting time trying to persuade otherwise loyal drivers to book a test drive with a different brand, Arabian Automobiles chose to take the test drive to the drivers - and force them to take part.
On different days at different car parks, Nissan Patrols blocked other SUVs in their bays by parking behind them. When drivers returned to their vehicles, they discovered a note on their windscreen encouraging them to move the Nissan Patrol behind them.
Once they were inside the Patrol and had started the vehicle, a CD automatically played a special message that apologised for the inconvenience, explained the new features of the Patrol and encouraged the driver to sign up for a real test drive. At the end of the message, drivers were invited to collect a CD from the central console that contained brochures and videos of the Patrol in action.
Since this took place in car parks, Arabian Automobiles needed police permissions, a filming permit, and of a new Patrol vehicle for the participant to use.
After the mini test drive, Nissan invited drivers to sign up for a longer test experience. On average, 7 out of 10 respondents opted for a full test drive, including drivers of Toyotas, Jeeps and Range Rovers.
Two drivers failed to "get" the stunt. One woman who called the police and one angry man beeped the horn for 10 red-faced minutes.
Nissan plan to repeat the stunt over more weekends, and Arabian Automobiles have adopted this technique as part of the 2011 Patrol marketing plan.