From Social Media to Socializing: Nitto Wants to Interact More Closely with its Millions of Followers

April 20, 2018

Social media and millennials go hand-in-hand. Nitto Tire U.S.A. Inc. wants to go face-to-face with its social media followers. The result is a 2018 marketing campaign built around a community made up of at least 11 million people.

As part of its multi-channel marketing approach, Nitto will continue to emphasize and expand on its involvement with three social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The company’s Facebook page has more than 11.2 million followers, more than any other tire manufacturer.

“We have 54 events planned in the calendar year,” says Stephen Leu, manager of the Brand Publishing Department. “We are trying to put faces to names!”

Millennial revolution

Leu says Nitto is trying to actively convert customers in four market segments: light truck enthusiast, passenger car enthusiast, casual enthusiast and broad-line. Proportionately, millennials represent the largest group in those segments.

“The millennial generation is an important target for all marketers from a very practical standpoint. They not only represent the country’s most powerful spending group — $200 billion a year — but also the largest population group — over 75 million.

“The auto and tire industry has had their reservations about the millennial generation, as we all believed that they have a tendency to prefer urban cities with affordable public transportation, and avoid vehicle purchases. But as they become of age — they are now 21-37 as of 2018 — they are forced to commit to owning vehicles due to starting families and settling down in suburbs.”

Millennials like social media, which is why Nitto believes social media is so important, says Leu.

“Nitto’s philosophy and approach in our social media program is to provide value to our fans. We strive to create and share content that our fans find to be insightful, useful, and at the very least entertaining. Social media is the pipeline or distribution, and the product that is being delivered is the content. We will continue to focus on the quality of the content.

“The goal with our content is to support our fan’s lifestyle as enthusiasts,” he says. “An example of this is us publishing a ‘how-to’ article on ways for casual enthusiasts to get their start in sportsman-level motorsports or recreational off-roading. We also provided them with a buyer’s guide and vehicle maintenance tips.

“In terms of the content form, this ranges from written editorials to videos to even simply photographs. The length of content varies depending on the publishing channel. For instance, certain social media sites are more conducive to short form content, while others engage users for longer durations. For example, Instagram is still predominantly about photograph and short form video.

“Facebook in 2017 used to be a good platform to publish long form articles and videos, but they have recently changed their system and algorithm, so we are currently re-evaluating our Facebook strategies for the current year.”

Fan appreciation

In 2017, the sixth annual Nitto Auto Enthusiast Day drew more than 20,000 people to Angel Stadium of Anaheim in California. The seventh annual event will be held at the same place on Saturday, June 30, 2018.

“The Nitto Auto Enthusiast Day (AED) started as a celebration of hitting the milestone of 5 million fans on our social media channel,” says Harry Kong, brand publishing events and motorsports strategist. “However, we realized through this event that the relationship we build with our fans through digital channels needs to be further nurtured with a more immediate and intimate interaction. The event gave us invaluable face-to-face time with our core consumer groups, and the result was even a stronger brand affinity and loyalty on their part.

“The vast majority of our promotion was in the digital channel. If I had to place a number on it, I would say 97% of our event promotion was done through our digital channels. However, word-of-mouth is also very powerful.

“Our event promotion efforts reach the core fan base, then the word-of-mouth created brings in the ‘casual fans’ outside of our core demographics,” says Kong.

“Nitto always has had an emphasis on doing things differently from the rest, on being innovative,” says Leu. “That naturally led us to having a ‘digital-first’ mind-set in our marketing so we could adopt new consumer/communication technology before others. We now realize that it wasn’t and isn’t enough just to be the first adopters; we need to come up with ways to integrate all our marketing, both digital and analog, per se, into a true multi-channel experience.”

More marketing

Another example of Nitto’s multi-channel integration is its coast-to-coast billboard campaign.

“The genesis of the campaign started from our successful Major League Baseball team sponsorships and the postseason exposure they generated,” says William Hong, national sales manager.

“Our analysis of the teams led to us sponsoring three of the four teams in the American and National League Championship Series, and both teams in the 2017 World Series. We noticed that during that time period, the conversation of the Nitto brand skyrocketed in the social realm. Most of this buzz, however, was originating from outside of our enthusiast consumer base – the broad audience was curious about the Nitto brand! We decided to take advantage of this opportunity and launched the out-of-home billboard campaign.”

“We still rely on many traditional media and marketing channels for our brand promotion,” says Leu. “One of the big fallacies within the brand marketing world is the common belief that print is dead. We do not agree with this statement.

“We believe a superbly crafted print book provides an experience that digital magazine and websites can’t for the core enthusiast fan base. This is the reason why Nitto has established its DrivingLine publishing brand ( DrivingLine is an automotive enthusiast magazine published by Nitto that lives both in print and online. We place up to 15,000 copies of the printed magazine directly into our consumers’ hands on a quarterly basis.”

Leu says the marketing group at Nitto is responsible for creating the relationship with the consumer through social media channels. But it has help.

“We also have a system established with our Consumer Relations team that allows for further nurturing of these relationships. Their sophisticated systems allow interacting with fans in live-time to proactively address any questions and concerns.

“The repeated interaction is what transforms brand exposure to brand relationship.”

Dealer participation

Whether Nitto is sponsoring Auto Enthusiast Day or the CMA (Country Music Association) Music Festival or any of its seven planned Formula Drift events in 2018, Nitto tire dealers are invited.

Nitto also launched its Enthusiast Circuit dealer program in the fourth quarter of 2017. “Without disclosing too many details, I can state that we have plans to have our dealers be more deeply integrated into our consumer-facing brand website, which we believe will help generate additional traffic and leads for our dealers,” says Leu.    ■

About the Author

Bob Ulrich

Bob Ulrich was named Modern Tire Dealer editor in August 2000 and retired in January 2020. He joined the magazine in 1985 as assistant editor, and had been responsible for gathering statistical information for MTD's "Facts Issue" since 1993. He won numerous awards for editorial and feature writing, including five gold medals from the International Automotive Media Association. Bob earned a B.A. in English literature from Ohio Northern University and has a law degree from the University of Akron.