NASHVILLE -- As a small luxury brand with big ambitions, Infiniti intends to make the most out of critical model launches, like this year's launch of the Q50 sedan.
The company is supplementing the Q50's traditional advertising with ongoing social media campaigns and public events to keep it in consumers' minds, says Allyson Witherspoon, who became Infiniti's director of marketing communications in November.
Since the car's showroom arrival in September, it has been featured in a six-minute Internet film called "The Deal," produced by Motor Trend magazine. It was featured in a separate interactive video online. And two fashion designers -- Thom Browne and Zac Posen -- have designed custom versions for the car for charity to stimulate buzz.
Buzz is the operative word for both the sedan and the brand, Witherspoon says.
"We want to build buzz as we bring all-new products to market," says Witherspoon, who previously worked with BMW, Volvo and other luxury makes. "And we definitely want to capitalize on the momentum this has received so far. The key to maintaining momentum is to have staggered programs that launch over a period of time."
In Witherspoon's first week on the job in November, Infiniti held a Q50 technical presentation and high-speed driving event for journalists at a local speedway with Formula One racing star Sebastian Vettel. On top of his racing career, Vettel has been named director of performance at Infiniti, and the company is busily linking its identity to his reputation on the track. Infiniti now sponsors the Red Bull Racing program behind Vettel.
Craig Margolius, who oversees Infiniti social media, says the brand wants to use the Q50 to broaden its customer base and appeal to racing fans.
"To reach our stated vision, we have to conquest at a rate we've never conquested at before," he says. "And we want to be in segments we haven't competed in before. Partnerships like Red Bull Racing allow us to do that."
In December, Infiniti sold 4,568 Q50s. The car was unavailable a year ago. As a point of comparison, Infiniti retailers sold 5,516 G37s -- the entry-spot car the Q50 was designed to replace -- in December 2012.
Since rolling out the new sedan, Infiniti has decided to keep the G for a while and sell the cars side by side. In December, the brand sold 6,490 Qs and Gs combined.
BrandIndex, the New York market research firm that tracks public attitudes about more than 1,200 brands on a daily basis, reported a spike in Infiniti's consumer awareness this fall, following the model launch.