Allyson Witherspoon (Nissan) - Lots of Automotive Puns

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This is a podcast episode titled, Allyson Witherspoon (Nissan) - Lots of Automotive Puns. The summary for this episode is: <p><span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">Allyson Witherspoon, Chief Marketing Officer at Nissan, details her globe-hopping career arc that took her everywhere from Amsterdam to Japan. She also discusses the transition from “kicking the tires” to researching cars in the digital space, as well as how shopping for a new car doesn’t need to be an either/or experience. Ajay gets a new laptop and Vincent remembers with fondness his Nissan Altima.</span></p>
Don't Be Set in Your Plans, Be Able to Adapt
00:50 MIN
The Ever Changing Role of CMO
00:59 MIN
Nissan is Positioned for the Renaissance in Electric Vehicles
00:45 MIN
Be Creative with Your Outreach
01:00 MIN

Jared Walls: Welcome to the Marketing Stir Podcast by Stirista. Probably the most entertaining marketing podcasts you're going to put in your ears. I'm Jared Walls, associate producer, and Stirista Creative Copy Manager. Goal of this podcast is to chat with industry leaders to get their take on the current challenges in the market. Also have a little fun along the way. In this episode, Vincent and Ajay chat with Allyson Weatherspoon, Chief Marketing Officer at Nissan. She details her globe hopping career arc, that took her everywhere from Amsterdam to Japan. She also discusses the transition from picking the tires, to research and cars in the digital space, as well as how shopping for a new car doesn't need to be an either/ or experience. Ajay gets a new laptop, and Vincent remembers with fondness his Nissan Altima. Give it a listen.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome. It is another episode of Stirista the Marketing Stir, I of course, I'm one of your hosts, Vincent Pietrafesa, the Vice President of B2B products here at Stirista. Really quick, who is Stirista? Well, we're an identity marketing company. We help brands acquire new customers through our data sets. We own our own data, B2B, B2C. We own our own DSP. We help brands execute display. We help them execute CTV. That's a lot of acronyms. I just threw at you ladies and gentlemen, but this is not about Stirista, this is about our podcasts, about our guests, about my co- host as well. You know him. He is my commander- in- chief here at Stirista. Ladies and gentlemen, he's coming in nice and clear, he's got a new laptop, Mr. Ajay Gupta. What's going on Ajay?

Ajay Gupta: Hey, Vincent. I feel brighter just looking at my own face. So, that's good.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Ain't that great. You brighten my day every day, Ajay. Now at least, you're brightening your own, so that's pretty good. What's going on in San Antonio these days?

Ajay Gupta: It's been a weird weather wreak here. It's been raining thunderstorm, hailstorm. So, the whole year has been odd in Texas. But last seven days we've seen everything. We've seen 85 degree weather, we had a day without any sunshine, multiple flash flood warning, but it's back to being nice out again. But, still getting some tennis in middle of all this, so that's good.

Vincent Pietrafesa: That's awesome. That's awesome. As the warm weather approaches here in New York City, more people are out and about, people are just hanging out, I went out the other day to the comedy clubs and people were out on MacDougal Street. Our guests will know MacDougal Street, she used to live in New York City look like Mardi Gras out there. I was like, " What is happening?" But it was fun. Oh, hey Ajay, speaking of fun, we have an amazing guest. An amazing guests. Let me first tell you a little story. So, the very first car that I bought myself with my own money out of school was a 2003 Nissan Altima. 2002 that automobile won a North American Car of the Year. If I remember correctly. And she will tell me if I... Hopefully that's correct. But it was amazing. I remember that feeling. It was black, nothing like a clean black car. When you turn it on, it would just start it up. The car I had before was just old, and it was such an amazing memory. I'm talking about my Nissan Altima. We have someone out from Nissan, but before I get to this amazing guest, and then, fast forward, now, people in the podcast know I live in New York City, Ajay always makes fun of me because I don't drive, or he makes fun of my driving. So, fast forward 2020, I'm renting a car because I'm in another state. My wife and I are expecting another baby. We had to move out of New York City. We needed a safe, reliable, and we wanted some style in our car. So, we rented a Nissan Altima and it got us back and forth. We took the baby home in that Nissan Altima. So, proud memories that I have. I just want to share with all the listeners and our guest of honor tonight. Ladies and gentlemen, before I get to her, let me introduce her awards. I'm going to embarrass her for a second for these awards, 2020 named 100 Leading Women in North America by Automotive News, named Female Frontier: Breaking Brand Barriers by Campaign US, named to Adweek's Executive Mentor Program. I could go on and on, ladies and gentlemen, a great Marketing Stir, welcome to the CMO of Nissan, Allyson Weatherspoon. What's going on Allyson?

Allyson Weatherspoon: Hello. Hello. I'm very, very excited to be here. I loved your ultimate story. I love, love, loved it. Loved it.

Vincent Pietrafesa: I love. It's rare that I think this is maybe our 75th podcast and there's maybe a few brands on there, maybe one or two, that I we're actual customers of it and use. But it's not every day, and it wasn't as big as an automobile. An automobiles are such parts of people's lives. And it was almost, 18, 19, 20 years in between. But yes, I had to share that story.

Allyson Weatherspoon: That's awesome. I love it. Actually, I just thought DeVonta Smith, who just was the number one draft pick, Heisman winner-

Vincent Pietrafesa: Sarah Obama.

Allyson Weatherspoon: That's right. And Nissan has a relationship with the Heisman Trust. So, we're corporate partners and we help deliver the Heisman Trophy. So, he was on actually a show and they were asking him, " After you get drafted, what are you going to do? What are you going to buy?" And they were asking him about his cars, and you know what he has? He has a Nissan Altima.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Love it.

Allyson Weatherspoon: And he said he wants to keep it.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah. I know. I'm a huge fan of Nissan. Like I said, it's rare that I have ties to it, but that's awesome. DeVonta Smith, he went to the Eagles, so as the New York Giants fan, Allyson, I'm that happy about that, but Ajay, doesn't get that reference, he's not a football fan. We make fun of on the podcast, because of that sometimes. But that is awesome. Allyson, thank you so much for joining us. So, people obviously know Nissan, but please tell our audience your role within the organization?

Allyson Weatherspoon: Sure. I'm the Chief Marketing Officer. I'm responsible for all of our consumer facing communications, whether it's something at a national level, even in our regional levels as well. So, all of our consumer facing marketing communications, the media, and that's where we place it, buying side, not the selling side, but on the buying side of it, our data innovation and customer experience and sponsorships. So basically, it's external facing with all consumer facing communications, but then also the foundation, which is the data and customer experience piece of it. So overall, I'm responsible for enhancing brand value, how do we leverage insights and data? How do we deliver on consumer trust? And then how do I work closely across our entire organization? We're responsible for Nissan, we're responsible for all the automotive design, engineering, consumer, and corporate financing, distribution manufacturing, and then, sales and marketing. So, how do I bring what we're doing when it comes to what consumers see in communications? Or what I like to call, out in the world? How do I collaborate with all of my counterparts across the entire organization to really bring that to life?

Vincent Pietrafesa: Wow. That's quite the role. There's a lot of moving parts.

Allyson Weatherspoon: It's not dull. There is no two days are the same, and it's not dull. It's constantly exciting. And I think in the automotive space is really interesting. And I think on the Nissan side, our future and our path ahead is really, really exciting. So, definitely not bored. It is exciting every single day.

Vincent Pietrafesa: That's awesome. And we'll definitely get to learning more about the future of Nissan, but I want to go back to the past. I want to go back to your past and talk about, how you got into marketing? It's a Marketing Stir podcasters. We always hear from students who are getting into this field, talk to us about that journey.

Allyson Weatherspoon: Sure. So my journey, it starts... First, my love for automotive started when I was a little girl. So, I was just obsessed with cars and I had brothers and my dad, we were all just really obsessed with cars. And my first love was a Porsche 911 and I was probably seven or eight. And I would stare out of my family's stat... We had a station wagon at the time, and I would count the Porsche 911's that I would see. And I was just fascinated by the design. I was amazed by how designers could shape sheet metal like that. And so, that's how it started. I went to the University of Missouri Columbia, and I started out first as an accounting major. So, I was in a five years master's program. And my junior year I was getting ready to take a prerequisite of international marketing. And I took that class. And the very first day they were talking about, Got Milk? campaign and how Got Milk? is translated all over the world and what that means and how there are different meanings for that across all these parts of the world. And I was just sucked in. I changed my major overnight. I literally dropped out of my master's program, completely freaked my parents out. And I was like, " This is what I want to do for the rest of my life." So, I got my first job out of college. I got a job consulting from Mercedes- Benz and I was implementing brand standard programs for the dealerships. I became a Jack of all trades, working with the team out in Montvale. They were in Montvale, New Jersey at the time. And I was living in New York and just working with them on all these different projects. And I just started to learn different parts of the business. So, whether it was setting up business development centers with their dealers, ran communications, product management and product marketing, and how do you price vehicles? And how do you package vehicles? Do things like certified pre- owned. And I just learned all of these different aspects of it. And then, I moved agency side for Mercedes. Mercedes actually asked me to take a position at the agency. So, I went agency side, got a lot of that experience there. And then, I worked for BMWs agency, and led the team there. I did Olympics, Super Bowl. I spent a lot of time in Munich at their global headquarters. And then, I was really intrigued by international work, and international advertising and marketing, and what that means for a brand across all of these different markets. So, I took a position leading the global agency team for Volvo, which was based out of Amsterdam. So I moved to Amsterdam, led that team, was in Sweden every week working with the teams there. And then, I got a call, and I always described this as... And I had been all consulting and agency side. And then, I got a call that just changed my life. And it was actually Nissan. And they were looking for a marketing director for Infinity, for our luxury brand Infinity. And so, I moved from Amsterdam, Netherlands to Nashville, Tennessee, which is where America's headquarters are and where our headquarters are as well. So, let that, I was there for several years, it was a great time. I learned a lot being a client, especially coming from the agency side. I transitioned to the Nissan side a few years ago, and I worked in our global headquarters in Japan. So, I lived in Japan for two years working on the global marketing team there, and then came back here and I've been the CMO here. So that is my journey.

Vincent Pietrafesa: I love the journey. And we always like those stories, because like you said, it was accounting first. And then, now it's marketing.

Allyson Weatherspoon: Yeah.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Thank you for sharing that.

Allyson Weatherspoon: And I think our finance team, I'm the secret accounting person, because it's like, " I have that background." And so, I love to have conversations with the CFO and I always lean into that. So, I'm this stealth marketer.

Ajay Gupta: What a cool story and background Allyson. So, thanks for sharing and sounds like you've lived at some pretty amazing places as well as part of your job.

Allyson Weatherspoon: Yeah. Definitely.

Ajay Gupta: So has the pandemic changed some of how you approach marketing and obviously, probably the traveling portion has been affected? But in terms of marketing, has there been a big shift?

Allyson Weatherspoon: Yeah. I think the biggest thing that's come out, and I think I'll start with the consumer and consumer behavior and what we've seen there. And then, I can talk a little bit about internally, how it's changed us as marketers. So, I think the first thing that we've seen is that consumers, they're always in the driver's seat. I will use a lot of automotive puns. So just allow me to have this moment. I consumers have been in the driver's seat, especially in how they research and purchase products. And you've seen so much of that in the retail space. It has not been as prevalent in the automotive space and a lot of that is because so much buying, all that transaction, was solely happening at the dealership. And there's a lot of reasons why. But what we saw during the pandemic is that, it really started to shift for automotive into this digital space. I think from a consumer behavior standpoint, it was all about what used to be called, " Kicking the tires," which is what you would do when you go to dealership and look at the car, is on the weekends or on your own time. All of that now happens online. All of that research is being done and they're using third- party auto sites, they're using platforms like YouTube, they're using a lot of social media, and Facebook, and Instagram. And then they're also using the brand websites, and how do you get all of that pricing information? And what we saw is that, consumers are really starting to, one, during the pandemic, overall dealerships and this was across every brand, in many states, dealerships were not considered essential service, so they were closed. And it really became a moment of truth for our dealers and that they needed to start to shift into online retailing, which was allowed. And so, on our side, it was more about, " Okay. We know consumers want to shop this way, we were already working on e- commerce efforts, how do we start to accelerate those?" And so, we brought forward plans, and we launched plans that were maybe six months to almost 12 months out to launching within a matter of weeks. And it's really about being there for consumers, first and foremost, if they have needs. If they do have a need for a car, how can we be there for them? And then, future forward, it was, how do we continue this? How do we keep building on this? Dealers are already starting to get used to online retailing. They're already adapting to it, let's create that foundation and those tools to have them do that. So, I think those are the two big things that we saw from a consumer standpoint. Internally, I would say the biggest thing is to just not be so set in what your plans are. And it forced us to really have different scenarios to be able to adapt to what consumers are wanting, and how they're going to respond. And so, the days of having 12 months to develop a campaign, that doesn't exist anymore. Because we were developing work in hours. We were developing brand new campaigns in a matter of hours. And so I think, we're now getting to a point of a little bit of equilibrium, but it's really forced us to be much more agile in our approach, and be much more in tune with what consumers are wanting? How are they wanting to engage with brands? What are the types of conversations that they're wanting to have?

Ajay Gupta: Yeah. That's definitely very true. We see, especially being on the delivery side of things that clients never come to us and ask for things two months in advance, it's always in two days, or next morning, usually.

Allyson Weatherspoon: Yes. Exactly. And we did have a conversation midway through the year, because, you just get into this mode of adapt- execute, adapt- execute, adapt- execute. And then, we started to have conversations internally like, " Let's not just deliver right in time, let's bring back planning and strategy, once things start to stabilize." And so, I feel we've gotten to a place that is much more realistic in being able to adapt to consumers, but we're still operating much faster than we were two years ago and before the pandemic. I think there's always going to be a little bit of, right up against those deadlines. But I feel we're starting to get to a more stable place than where we were a year ago.

Ajay Gupta: Sure. That makes a lot of sense. You mentioned your background in finance, so does that give you a different approach to marketing? Are you more focused on metrics than perhaps other CMOs?

Allyson Weatherspoon: I think the role of the CMO has changed, especially in the last couple of years. I think from my background, I am a hundred percent comfortable leaning into those finance conversations. To me, the role of the CMO isn't about the TV spot, or what the Super Bowl spot is. And I think that was the case a few years ago, and especially, 10 years, or so ago. To me it's about, how do we measure the performance of our marketing, instead of just, " Here's what the big ideas is, how do we start to measure that?" For me, where I really feel comfortable and where my sweet spot is, is the intersection of data and creativity, and how can we use data to help inform what our creative solutions are going to be? And then, how do we reach consumers with that? And I don't think that either one lives in a vacuum, I think the combination of the two of them that's where the real power is. So for me, I think it's been an evolving role of the CMO. I think you have to be much more data and analytics oriented now, there is a lot of pressure that comes in this chair to make sure that your marketing is performing, you're delivering on investment levels, and all of those things that go along with it. And so, I feel very comfortable in that space. And I do think that that is a function of one, my background, but two, just the evolving role of my position.

Vincent Pietrafesa: And Allyson, before I asked this question, because I want to focus on data. Did I get the North American car of the year right? 2002, Nissan Altima?

Allyson Weatherspoon: We're confirming that. We are confirming that.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Love it. Love it. So, I want to talk about data, because you and your career and your role, now you use data, but what advice do you have for marketers out there on the best practices, best way to use data effectively?

Allyson Weatherspoon: I think some of the... That's a great question. Where I feel like I really got a lot of experience was, one, especially if you're starting out, learned CRM, learned the basic fundamentals of CRM, because that you add in technology platforms, you add in things like DSPs, you add in things like that, and those are enablers of the fundamental strategy of, how do you reach the right consumer with the right message at the right time. And so, I think for me, it's learned the fundamentals of CRM, stay on top of what the trends are when it comes to the Adtech and MarTech that's going to enable that. And to me, I would just constantly learn, this is an evolving space, understand you're never going to be an expert in it because that's how quickly that it's evolving. And just stay on top. Leverage the people around you, leverage the partners that you have, understand who the new players are as well. And just stay on top of your skills.

Vincent Pietrafesa: I like that. I liked that. So, also Allyson, as the automotive industry retailers in general shift, what do you anticipate as being the new normal? Has things either, A, start to come back? As well as people are just used to a certain way after this past year. So, what do you anticipate the new normal?

Allyson Weatherspoon: I'm a firm believer in experience theory. I think now that consumers understand that they can transact online, they can already do that for probably 90% of the products that they do. It's these number one and number two considered purchases, which are home and a car. I think it's now that you can do that online, that will become the norm. And so, I think what we're seeing right now is that we're seeing, it's a small group of people that want to fully transact and want to fully do that online. Vast majority of people still want to go to the dealership. And what we need to do instead of making people choose, provide both. And it's not this either/ or, and I think that's what we have to make sure that we... It needs to be based on how consumers are wanting to shop and it's going to evolve over time, but don't force that. Let the consumer drive what that shift is going to be and be ready for it. Because I think, as a car lover, the best part of the experience is the test drive. Because that gets you into... You understand that car is going to make you feel, you feel it on the road. I think that is a very important part of it. " But can everything else happen online because that's how I want to shop?" " Yes." And I think we as brands, and on the Nissan side, that is very much what our philosophy is. We want to be able to provide a shopping experience based on how consumers want to shop, versus what our own preferences.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah. Now definitely, I need to have options. Me personally, I have to go to the dealership. I have to see the car, I have to smell it. I have to be inside it, and then, of course, that test drive, feel how it feels. So, that's just me, but it's great to have those options you're adapting with that.

Allyson Weatherspoon: Exactly. And also, you were correct 2002 Nissan Altima North American Car of the Year.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Yep. Now you see, marketing works, Ajay, because I saw that, I remember seeing that, it was a year later, but it was into the new models. And that was the year which the old model, or design, shifted into that new design. And it was sleek. It really was. It's still sleek. So, I'd say there's just memories that you have... Yep. Look at that. I don't need a fact checker. Right Ajay? I knew it.

Ajay Gupta: Well, if you're saying it on the podcast, I'm guessing you did some research at least, we're hoping.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Just stop here. That's it.

Ajay Gupta: But actually, Allyson, it's a surprise that Vincent actually has ever owned a car. I've known him 10 years and this came as a surprise.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Look it up. Go into the archive. You can see. You can go right to a database. I'm sure... Look me up.

Allyson Weatherspoon: I love it. I love it.

Ajay Gupta: So, Allyson what do you see as the future for electronic, versus gas vehicles? Do you have a strong opinion on it?

Allyson Weatherspoon: Oh, I think this is where it's getting super exciting right now in automotive. I think for us as a company, we've always been a company that is understanding what the trends are several years out. What are those trends that are going to be coming down the road? And I mean, 10- 15 years out. And then, how do we work to address the rapidly changing needs of consumers? And I think through that, and especially over the last few years, I think brands, it's so important for brands to be purposeful and how we connect with our consumers, which is where EV comes in. And our brand purpose is to drive innovation, to enrich people's lives. And what that means is that, our focus is on building a truly sustainable and mobile society across everything that we do. It's in the products that we manufacture, it's in our manufacturing facilities, it's how we go to market. It's all of those things. So, it's not just about the product, it's everything that we're a part of as a company. Obviously we've seen, you guys have seen EVs are gaining so much momentum in terms of conversation, as well as sales and in market share. I think, for us on the Nissan side, we're completely comfortable with this, because we have a legacy of being pioneers in the electric vehicle space. We actually, I don't know if you guys are aware of this, but we actually created the first electric vehicle, which was in 1947 and it was the TAMA. This was the very first electric vehicle. So, we have decades of experience in electric vehicles. We also, which I think, this will probably sound a little bit more familiar, but we also were the first ma... We have the first mass produce electric vehicle, which was the Nissan Leaf. And so, the Leaf just celebrated 10 years. It hit the double digits. So, we have a long legacy of this, and I think the beauty of that is taking those decades of learning, and especially having the Leaf on the road for the last 10 years is taking all those learnings and applying them to the future of electrification, which we feel we're perfectly positioned to do. And an example of that is going to be our upcoming, all electric crossover, the Aria. So, this is an amazing all electric crossover. It's going to be coming out later on this year. So I think, we're ready to deliver that. We have our relationship with Formula E, so how do you translate electric performance into a motor sports area? And how do you take that road and track... How do you have that exchange between road and track? Which you could really have with electric vehicles much more so than you could with some of the more traditional racing. And I think, going back to the purposeful brand piece, we recently announced that we want to have every... All new Nissan vehicle is going to be offered in all of our key markets, they will be electrified by the early 2030s. And we want to work towards carbon neutrality by 2050. So to me, electric, it's here, it's more and more what consumers are looking for. They're already wanting to have more sustainable solutions for automotive. On the Nissan... For us as a brand, Nissan, we have a long legacy dating back to 1947 in offering electric vehicles. So, we feel perfectly positioned for this Renaissance in electric vehicles.

Ajay Gupta: The 1947 thing, I did not know. It's a nice trivia fact to know, so that's cool.

Allyson Weatherspoon: And we talked... Actually on Earth Day, we started to talk about this a little bit more because I think that we need to... My job as a marketer is to tell that story. And so, we did a lot of social media content a couple of weeks ago for Earth Day to talk about that, because I think that is a unique point to us as a company. And I want to make sure that consumers, they see that.

Ajay Gupta: That makes a lot of sense. Are there any more exciting for 2021/ 2022 plans that you could share without giving us any trade secrets?

Allyson Weatherspoon: I can. I think we have some... 2021 is a really exciting year for us. We have been on a massive product transformation. So, we have revealed 10 products in the last 20 months. That's major. And so, over the next few months, basically through the end of December, we're going to be launching... We'll have the only Pathfinder. So, I conic Nissan vehicle, it's going to be back and it is better than ever. It is this amazing rugged vehicle, it's got everything that... It has all the technology in the car. And then, we're also going to be rolling out the all new Frontier, which is also this mid- size pickup truck. It is also another iconic Nissan truck. It was originally called the Hardbody. And now, it's going to be coming to market again. So rugged, so capable. The performance is there. And inaudible on the rest of our passenger cars, the all electric Aria is coming, the Z-Car is coming. And then looking a little bit forward into the future, I think what's really excited about automotive and what I've seen, and this is a little bit past 2021, is actually around connected vehicles. And this is a little bit more futuristic, but I think when you have connected vehicles that are on the road and how they're communicating with each other, I think that that becomes a very interesting thing for consumers. It also is an interesting place to be for a marketer. And how do you make sure that that is being used for good for consumers? So I'm excited. And again, that's much out ahead. But right now we're focusing on again, our legacy in electric vehicle and what that means for our future, and then all of this new product that we have coming as well.

Ajay Gupta: I love that, and how you reminded me of another vehicle. I love the Pathfinder. That's such an amazing car, one of my best friends had that growing up, you just go back to times when you were in high school and in college, my friend had that car. And the Z, my friend's mom every year buys it, I know you know that's demographic, but she loves it. And she buys a Nissan Z every few years actually, and just loves it. So, it's the Murano anyway. crosstalk who I'm I telling? She's like, " Yeah. I know."

Allyson Weatherspoon: No. I love that. Yesterday a friend of mine was telling me she's like, " In high school, I wouldn't talk to a guy unless he had a Pathfinder." I was like, " That's great. I love it." And that's what I love. Launching these vehicles, especially Pathfinder, Frontier and Z, these are such iconic Nissan cars. It's a privilege to launch these. It's so humbling. And the Z, my personal story with the Z is, my older brother is a huge Z lover. And so, the Z is actually the first car I learned how to drive a manual on. So, it was a 300 ZX Turbo, solid 90s design. It was sleek, it was beautiful. And that car is still in our family. And this is what I love about automotive, and this is what I love about being a marketer in automotive is that, there is this love of cars and it's changed over time, because there's so much more technology that's in the cars that we have today. But there still is that love, you still have these great stories, people name their cars. It's like they saved them in situations. And I just think that that is what I really love about being a marketer in the automotive world.

Ajay Gupta: Mm- hmm( affirmative). No. Absolutely. It's like you could think of certain times, when it took me to my friend, it took me to my friend's mom. There's nostalgia about it, there's passing down of cars, getting into cars. But Allyson, I want to talk about the recently, obviously travel restrictions changes. I feel like me personally, my family, we did more road trips, Nissan had to pivot marketing in some way to the family road trip gathering around that.

Allyson Weatherspoon: Yeah. Actually a hundred percent. And what we saw last year right around this time is, in the US, and there are other parts of the world where obviously in different stages, but as the US started to open up, you started to see, people were getting fatigued by the quarantines and stay at home orders, and as things started to open up, we started to actually looking at the data. You're starting to see more mobility data and we have more cars on the road. They're going a little bit... They're not going to the normal places. And so, we started to think about the road trip, and it's another iconic thing. We knew travel was not going to be something that people were going to be doing at all, in some cases, but to the same level that they were doing before. The car is a safe space. It is this haven. During the pandemic, we saw people were using the cars as a mobile office. They were using it as a place to take a moment, take a minute from their families and get a little bit of a break. But then it also became a place for them to bond with their families and do these road trips. And so, we did pivot into that. And we were focusing on that all last summer. I think the other thing that we've started to show a lot is, and it goes a little bit more into, how do we enrich people's lives through innovation? But it's not just about technology. So how do you start to show technology in a way that's meaningful for consumers? And so, we wanted to tell family stories. And so, we launched the Rogue at the end of last year, and it was about where do you want to go? And it was about a family that was wanting to go to all of these exotic locations and how the vehicle, and how the technology can help enable that. So, we've shifted a lot more into, how do you talk about more human connections to the vehicles, versus just cold technology? And we were already starting to do that. And I would say that we accelerated it in the pandemic because there was this pronounced shift and how people were using the cars, especially for road trips.

Vincent Pietrafesa: I know. Exactly. And even me being a New York City guy, now that my kids don't go into cars all the time, but when my four year old goes into a car, forget, he already knows, he's like, " Ah, that's the Nissan," like we're going in. And it's an adventure for him already. So, it definitely brings the family together. So, I love hearing that. I have a question because we were talking about the Heisman, we're talking about football a little bit, and can you talk me about the coolest event that you've ever been to?

Allyson Weatherspoon: Oh, man.

Vincent Pietrafesa: I'm sure there's tons' like, " What is the coolest event? And why?"

Allyson Weatherspoon: Yeah. I have to say, I've been fortunate to go to a lot of cool things. I think the Heisman Award ceremony into 2019, it was one of the coolest things. And I think we've had a relationship with the Heisman Trust over 10 years now. And when I came into my role in 2019, I wanted to really redo the way that we are approaching our sponsorship and how do we approach the creative and give it little bit of a refresh. So we spend a lot of time doing that and then to see the fans reaction to it and how everyone was responding. And then, in December, 2019, we ended up going to the ceremony as we were corporate sponsors of it. And so, we got a chance to meet all the finalists and Joe Burrow, he won that year and being there when they're actually during the broadcast and sitting in the audience and the day after that, there's a reception and you meet all of the Heisman. And so, you're just walking around and you become a little kid and you've got your football, you got the crosstalk you're like, " Doug Flutie," like I'm this little kid, and I would just say it was really special, but I think the other thing that was really, really cool about it is that during the commercial breaks, during the actual broadcast, they're running our Heisman creative. And it's so rare as a marketer, that you see an entire room of people reacting to your spot and to see the Heisman's reacting to it, it felt really good to see how it was being received and in a setting like that.

Vincent Pietrafesa: That's awesome. And I'm sorry, I want to... So, you lived in different places, you went to school at different places. The who's your favorite NFL team?

Allyson Weatherspoon: Favorite NFL team? This one's a tough one. I, I have to say it has evolved over time. It is the Titans. crosstalk I've gotten to know the team, the stadium is Nissan stadium. We've had a lot of monumental brand company meetings that have been there. And so, it's just become the special place. And I think knowing the team, and getting to meet some of the players, current players and former players, it's the team. I think, before that, I have to say, it was probably the Giants, but I'm Titans up all the time.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Yep. Yep. That's where I was going, because New Jersey reference, New York reference, but it's okay. Titans, great team. They're doing well, their coach, that's awesome. Go ahead Ajay, sorry about that.

Ajay Gupta: I want to ask a follow- up question on football, but I do know if it's a trivial pursuit game, the right answer is either Tom Brady or Manning. So that's crosstalk

Vincent Pietrafesa: Usually.

Ajay Gupta: Usually, yeah.

Allyson Weatherspoon: Yes. I would say that that's the good answer.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Which Manning, Ajay?

Ajay Gupta: I leave it as Manning. crosstalk

Allyson Weatherspoon: The Giants would know. crosstalk

Vincent Pietrafesa: The Giants. There's only one Manning to me. That's Eli. Eli, shout out. Eli Manning if you're listening.

Ajay Gupta: So Allyson, more related to personal likes and dislikes is the question we like to ask all the guests. So, I'm sure based on your title alone, and your background, you probably get tons of unsolicited emails and LinkedIn messages. So, what's the message that really annoys you and what's one that gets a response back from you?

Allyson Weatherspoon: This is a great question, because I feel like I want to teach a class in this. crosstalk had been in my role. I think the first thing is the templative outreach. Very rarely is going to get noticed. And this morning alone, I had probably 15 solicitations that came through. And so, and it's like we get them a lot. I probably get 30-50 a day, if you include LinkedIn and other platforms, it starts to increase. And so, I think the key very similar to marketing, is that you need to find a way to break through. And the ones that really stand out are the ones that reach out in creative ways. And I've had people send me a really engaging gift that it was very humorous and they had reached out a couple inaudible, so when they sent that, I was like, " Okay." They have put some effort into this. It was personalized. And it was like, " Okay. I want to talk to these guys." So, I would say, " Be creative in your outreach." The business side of it and what it's going to deliver on the business, and I don't want to minimize that, but there's an expectation for that. So, I wouldn't lead with that. I would lead with an insight that could be new, or may have not been discovered and be creative with it. If it looks like it's simplified, or if you actually are sending it out to a blank list of people, it's going to be hard to respond to that.

Ajay Gupta: And what else have you been up to during this a stay at home period? What are some of your other personal hobbies?

Allyson Weatherspoon: Personally, I've been trying to get outdoors as much as I can. I'm a runner. And so, it's just been getting outdoors, getting in, there's some really beautiful parks and things in Nashville and around Nashville. So I've been trying to get out into that. I've been hiking a lot. I did one of the first trips that I did, safe trip was actually rock climbing. So I actually learned how to rock climb and mountain climbs. So, that was good. And it was just a nice way to get out, you're outside, there aren't a lot of people. So I think it's just been active, taking care of myself, physically, the mental piece of it, I think we're all going through this. And so it's, how can I be the best version of myself, for my team and for everyone around me? And then, I think it's just also checking in on my friends, talking to them, FaceTiming with them. I got engaged over the pandemic. So, you learn how to communicate in these wild times. So, it's been an interesting year and a lot of learnings.

Ajay Gupta: Was it, a Zoom date, Allyson?

Allyson Weatherspoon: It wasn't. there was a lot of FaceTimes.

Vincent Pietrafesa: That's awesome. That was a congratulations. So, that was a personal highlight of the last year. So, talk to me about, we have a lot of people who are entering marketing, talk to them about how to break through in marketing? How to get into this field? And then, I'd love to hear a career highlight of yours?

Allyson Weatherspoon: Sure. I think in order to get into the field, I think there's so many great internships that are going on now. And I think I wish that I was able to intern. I'm trying to think. I think I worked at my dad's office as a file clerk in a doctor's office. So, I wish I would've had some of this experience. I would suggest just reaching out to any type of internship opportunities, paid or unpaid, and just get that experience and start to learn how it is. I think also, reach out to people that you know in the marketing area, and even if it's just shadowing. And anytime people reach out and like, "Oh, I want to shadow you." I'm open to it, because I just think when you get the inside view of how things operate, it prepares you that much more when you actually start to become a full- time employee. So, I would say those are the biggest things. Really look for those opportunities, reach out and look for mentors, and people that can help guide you into space. And I get a lot of outreach on LinkedIn and I tried to do this as much as my schedule possibly allows to do things like that. Because I think that's really important. It's, how do you build the next generation of marketers? And chances are, they know even more than I do today, but I have the experience, and the navigation skills that I can try to help with people that are coming up in the area. So I would say those are the two biggest things. And your other question was the biggest crosstalk

Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah. Just a career highlight, so far?

Allyson Weatherspoon: I have to say, this sounds super cheesy, but I'm in it. I'm in it, Really working on this Nissan, next product transformation, and what we've been doing with the brand and how we've been evolving, our creative, and our data approach, and how we're going to market, this has been the highlight and it's not just one moment in time. And I've had all the experience and I've done all of the things, but it's the building piece of it that is been so gratifying in being able to work with the team that I have both internally here at Nissan, but then also at our agency partners. So I'm in it. And I also like that we're not done yet. We have so much more to do.

Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah. I agree. I love the work that Nissan is doing. And a lot of the automobile industry there... A lot of automobiles to choose from, but I feel like Nissan is really been making themselves stand out, which is what prompted me to reach out. So, this has been awesome, Allyson, we really appreciate all your time and doing this, and I truly mean it, keep up the awesome work there. And I'm not mad at you that you're a Tennessee Titans fan now, don't worry. That's great. But this has been amazing. Ladies and gentlemen, that's Allyson Witherspoon. She is the CMO of Nissan. I'm Vincent Pietrafesa. That's by CEO, Ajay Gupta. This has been another episode of the Marketing Stir. Thank you so much. And we'll talk to you soon.

Jared Walls: Thanks for listening to the Marketing Stir podcast by Stirista, please like, rate and subscribe. If you're interested in being a guest on the podcast, email us at info @ themarketingstir. com. Thanks for listening.


Allyson Witherspoon, Chief Marketing Officer at Nissan, details her globe-hopping career arc that took her everywhere from Amsterdam to Japan. She also discusses the transition from “kicking the tires” to researching cars in the digital space, as well as how shopping for a new car doesn’t need to be an either/or experience. Ajay gets a new laptop and Vincent remembers with fondness his Nissan Altima.

Today's Host

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Vincent Pietrafesa

|Vice President, B2B Products, Stirista
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Ajay Gupta

|Founder & CEO, Stirista

Today's Guests

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Allyson Witherspoon

|Chief Marketing Officer at Nissan
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