Disruptive or Not? Successful or Not?

Nissan’s latest innovation that makes car washes unnecessary has recently gained publicity thanks to a prank video. Is it a disruptive innovation? Or is it just new but futile?

We missed this video at the end of April but it is worth watching:

If we focus on the innovation itself, it is a truly disruptive one, as it disrupts the market by transferring money from car washes to car manufacturers. Consumers have to pay for the extra layer of coating not for the cleaning.

To be able to estimate the potential success of the innovation it is worth considering what this function gives us beyond the obvious?

The self-cleaning layer was first used on Nissan Note, then after a period of silence the marketing machinery repositioned the service as a green innovation, so now it’s marketed with the Nissan Leaf. For now, it is simply a prototype and not yet available for the public.

The clean car image pushes two emotional hot buttons of customers. These are: convenience and ease. The message convinces us that we can save the time and money we spend in car washes Furthermore we do not have to worry about paint or other substance damaging our car.

Nissan will surely have a hard time making this function a competitive advantage as this is only a minor consideration when buying a car. Let’s see a non-exhaustive list of the most important features for consumers when buying a car: consumption, maintenance costs, safety — just to mention the most important ones.

Besides, the durability of the layer is worth contemplating about. Can it guarantee a life-long protection for the car? What about glass surfaces? If they are not self-cleaning what effect the washer fluid will have on the layer? And if I have to clean the windows myself, I do not need much more time to clean the whole car. And what about the inside?

These questions highlight that “convenience” is not worth focusing on in communication, as customers might believe at first that the special layer will make their life more convenient, but giving it a second thought or having some experience on their own will surely refute this argument.

A much stronger and at the same time weaker argument that the consequence of deliberate damage can be significantly reduced. “Convenience” is a kind of reference point everyone can relate to. “Ease” however, requires the same argumentation as a comprehensive insurance. And similarly to insurances hopefully you will never need it. Although this argument will yield more satisfied customers, it is not that strong as a sales argument.

Nissan dealers should consult with insurance companies and find out how often they pay for this type of damage. Customers should be enticed by offering them a lower-price comprehensive insurance providing the car is coated with Nissan’s special layer. If the argumentation feels like an insurance why not bundle it with an insurance? There must be a considerable overlap between the clientele anyway.

The other option is still there –i.e. pushing the argument of convenience -, although in our view it does not make much sense. We do not know which way Nissan will go, but we will keep our eyes wide open.

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