CMO Q&A: Allyson Witherspoon, Infiniti

Allyson Witherspoon, director of marcomms at Infiniti talks about the luxury of taking risks and her plans for internal integration.

Allyson Witherspoon, director of marcomms at Infiniti talks to Lindsay Stein about the luxury of taking risks and her plans for internal integration.

How are marketing and communications structured at the company?
Right now, it’s two separate units. The two go hand in hand, so while they are different departments, I work very closely with the PR team because anything we do from a marketing perspective needs to have some PR amplification to it. I want to be attached at the hip to my PR counterpart, Kyle Bazemore, senior manager of Infiniti USA communications.

We have 20 staffers across marketing, communications, and media in the US. I work closely with Canada and Mexico and there is constant collaboration with the global team in Hong Kong.

What is your main scope of work?
Developing the brand positioning and communicating it for the US. We need to establish communications around new prod-ucts and develop communications around and maintain momentum for our volume models. We also need to make sure that everything we’re doing is working at the national, regional, and local dealer levels.

We’re definitely a challenger brand. We have been with Nissan for a long time and now we are becoming our own entity. [Infiniti is now being positioned as a distinct car line, separate from Nissan.]

We are a smaller brand, so our objective is to take risks, something we have the luxury of doing. In the near future, you will see things from us that are not necessarily typical in the automotive area. It is about positioning ourselves, communicating to our prospects and owners, and creating experiences for those who are interested in our models, as well as getting new people into the brand.  

How does Infiniti break through the cluttered auto space?
It’s difficult because there is a lot of noise in the area. We want to find areas we can disrupt in a way that is separate from everyone else. It can be something that has never been done. You need to go outside of what is typically done. At times, I take my auto hat off and think about what a consumer really wants to hear from a car brand.

Tell me about internal comms plans.
I’m doing a full evaluation of internal communications and putting together my recommendations. A major goal is to create a more collaborative, integrated environ-ment, as opposed to having digital over here and traditional creative over there.

I also want to make sure that we’re covering other things, such as retail communications. It’s about how we can optimize existing teams, and it’s a great time to be doing this.

Do you use an internal social media tool?
We have an internal portal and some dealer tools for when we push our communications to retailers. We haven’t evolved into another social media tool, so that’s something we could be looking to do internally.

As a separate company from Nissan, we are trying to create a culture that is unique to Infiniti and there’s a lot of effort that’s going into that right now.

What’s going on in the social space?
Social reports into me and my aim is to grow our presence in a way where we are
communicating with our fans and developing a unique tone of voice.

I want to make sure that anything we’re doing from a marcomms perspective, we are amplifying in social. With monitoring tools, we are always watching what is going on in the social space and what people are saying about our products.

Leading up to the auto show in Detroit, we supported an Infiniti global social campaign conceived as the first socially powered reveal of a concept vehicle for the Q50 Eau Rouge. As fans shared their views on social platforms, the first image of the vehicle was revealed in a virtual garage.

Each share built individual Q50 components – as more fans shared, the quicker the car was built. What is fun is that we are continuing the story long after Detroit, with the first engine sound for the Eau Rouge released via social and through the same dedicated site.

Does Infiniti create content?
The goal is to make sure we are creating content with a purpose. We don’t want to just throw it out there and hope someone is going to look at it.

We want to focus on what is going to be the hook that gets people into it. We have a communications calendar that we abide by, but as things change in real time, you need to be nimble enough to be relevant and try to be a part of that conversation.

What are your goals for the brand?
To establish a brand positioning and make sure that we’re going to start to communicate it consistently. I also want to create some rigor and define the brand and show why it is culturally relevant for Infiniti and develop communications around that.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in