Game of ‘Thrones’: 5 Questions With Infiniti’s Phil O’Connor


Infiniti Thrones spot

Infiniti is bidding to continue its strong 2017 sales performance into the new year with a marketing campaign for a timely upgrade to its big QX80 SUV.

Overhauls of large, luxury utility vehicles are busting out all over—Lincoln’s Navigator and Lexus’s extended RX among them—to take advantage of the robust U.S. market for SUVs in an era of reasonable gasoline prices, a growing economy, and a millennial generation that is forming families and in need for more spacious vehicles.

On the mainstream side, Subaru and Volkswagen are bringing out entirely new vehicles that meet the seven-passenger criterion. So the timing for Infiniti’s best-ever version of its QX80 large SUV couldn’t be better. And to distinguish the new QX80 in a segment with growing competition, the Nissan-owned luxury brand has decided to select a particular feature for “Thrones,” its first national U.S. TV campaign—its sumptuous seats.

Infiniti has been doing well this year in the US, through November selling 14% more vehicles compared with a year earlier. Part of the gain can be attributed to some new products, but also Infiniti seems to have sharpened its brand image more these days than in quite some time. It’s readily identifiable again even in an increasingly competitive luxury-car set in the US market.

It’s already looking ahead to the North American International Auto Show by teasing a new concept car coming to Detroit, along with its Spring 2018 QX50:

Phil O'Connor - InfinitiBut first, the QX80 new year’s “Thrones” campaign, about which we spoke with Phil O’Connor, Infiniti’s director of marketing communications and media, about the value proposition and messaging for Infiniti these days:

Infiniti has a lot of momentum these days. What are you seeing in the U.S. luxury auto sector right now?

The market growth has slowed down, but it’s still at a very healthy level. We’re still very bullish. We’ve been among the fastest-growing luxury brands in the last year and moving forward we think that things are only going to get better with a slew of new products. We launched a new Q50 in the fall; now we have the new QX80; and in 2018, there will be the all-new QX50, which will be a compact, five-seat CUV.

What are you trying to accomplish with this QX80 campaign?

With regard to the QX80 we’re always trying to do a couple of things. We’re trying to launch a new product, in this case a flagship SUV, and do it in a very bold, Infiniti way. We’re also always looking to build momentum around our umbrella brand of Infiniti. We’re 30 years in the market but relatively new compared with some competitors so we’re still trying to clarify what that brand stands for. The best opportunity to do that is when we have new product launch.

How does that approach fit “Thrones”?

At Infiniti we talk about being “human, daring and forward.” We’re in touch with our consumers and we’re an emotional brand. We’re forward-looking, not rooted in the past, and we’re daring in that we’re trying to make bold moves.

If you look at this spot specifically, in this segment things like cargo and carrying capacity are table stakes. But with QX80 we’ve got a few things that we believe set us apart: luxuriousness and detail in interior and the styling.

So we wanted to make a statement about those things that differentiate us in an Infiniti way. The spot is talking about the history of thrones and is a nod to human history, and plays on that in an interesting way by making the point that the interior of the QX80 is a luxurious space for a large number of people. This will comfortably seat a large number of people.

There are at least seven seats with the option of a second-row bench seat, which makes it eight. That’s one of the reasons why in the end of the spot we have the cast get into the interior, because you can see six adults. We want to communicate that the third row is a real place to sit, not just a place to put young children.

Are you specifically trying to woo millennials with this campaign? 

The creative—the music, the way it’s filmed—will break through. We measure ourselves on breakthrough as a real imporant metric for creative. Memorable? Reinforcing the Infiniti brand? We think between the film and music and the voiceover it will break through. As for media (buying), we are employing new ways to target specific targets—it’s a mix of broad reach and also new ways to target folks, through digital or addressable TV. We’re testing and deploying them to serve the ad to specific audiences that we want to reach.

Customer experience has become a huge focus, especially for luxury brands. What has Infiniti been doing in that regard?

When you look at the progress that Infiniti dealers have made in customer satisfaction, we’re among the leaders in every metric. That’s a really important part of our success: As we broaden our portfolio and bring customers back for repeat purchases, they’re getting the kind of service that the luxury buyer expects.

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