Nissan marketing boss: ‘I would be happy if the word digital disappears’

Nissan’s marketing boss Roel de Vries has said he would be ‘happy’ if the word digital disappears, saying brands should be focusing on integrating their marketing channels and making communications more consistent if they want to build a strong brand that resonates with customers.

Nissan plans to use the Champions League tournament to become the number one Asian car manufacturer in Europe.

Speaking to Marketing Week he says: “Everything is digital, we should not separate we should integrate. We want to change the perception of our brand but to do that we need to engage, be part of the discussion. To do that need to create advertisisng that makes people sit up, sponsporships that make our brand part of what people care about and digital platforms that people can engage on.

“I would not look at percentage of investment going into digital, I would look at how much engagement we can make. If we create that through TV commercials that bring people to the conversation or through display advertising, that is great.”

His comments follow a busy year for the car marque. It has recently announced an overhaul of its sponsorship strategy to focus on more high-profile global deals with the Champions League, Team GB and City Group and has introduced a new agency network, Nissan United, to ensure the consistency of its messaging.

Marketing Week caught up with de Vries to find out how the car marque is grappling with global messaging and local activations, the role of sponsorships and how it can create a more emotional connection with consumers.

Marketing Week: Where is Nissan’s marketing strategy focused?

Roel de Vries: What we are trying to do is create a stronger emotional link between our brand and our consumers. As an industry, we spend the majority of our marketing dollars trying to reach those people that are close to purchasing a car but by the time people get close to the decision to purchase a car a lot of their opinions have already been made. That doesn’t happen because we tell them about our vehicles it happens because they have a general perception of and feeling towards our brand. We are moving more and more of our marketing dollars into entertainment and sport especially to create a more emotional connection between our consumers and us.

MW: How do people perceive the Nissan brand and how do you want to change that?


RdV: In general we are a very good brand in terms of anything that has got to do with the basics – do people trust us, do they think we are reliable, that we make good vehicles. We create a good emotional connection when you look at how people engage with our products so in Europe the Qashqai and Juke have a very positive and engaged owner base. Where we believe we still have a lot of opportunity is to create emotional engagement at the level of the Nissan brand.

MW: Why has Nissan picked sponsorships such as the Champions League?

Sponsorship is a good opportunity to create a consistent brand experience The way we communicate and activate the Champions League in Europe, Asia, China is 100 per cent the same. We stopped doing horse jumping in market A and soccer in market B because that involved us spending a lot of money on sponsorships that were very region or country specific.

Football covers a big part of the world, not but everywhere. In the US we do a lot of activity with American Football, there are certain parts of world like Australia, Africa, China where we could still do more. But we look at what engages people in those markets, it doesn’t have to be sports. We just signed a big deal with The Voice in the US. What is common is that we want to invest in things that are generally entertaining, needs to be a high level of engagement and we believe in things that are live. So the finals of The Voice are live, same with a football match where people are talking about it as it happens and then discussing the result.

MW: Nissan recently revamped its agencies to create one team, Nissan United. What was the reason behind that?

RdV: Nissan United has two elements – one is the global aspect and how we make sure what we learn in one market we can use in others to get better in general.

The other aspect is the concept of integration. Integration in today’s communication world intrigues me more than globalisation. Over the last 5-to-10 years we have been driven by the fact there is so much possible, there are so many opportunities to invest money and so much information available as to where our customers are and what they do. We created a world with lots of specialised agencies and diversified investments on our side and a big part of Nissan United is to start integrating again. I want to have the PR person, the digital person, the traditional creative person and the media agency sitting around one table. Over the last few years the onus has been placed too much on the client to do the integration work as opposed to agency groups becoming the experts on that.

MW:How do you make sure marketing is locally relevant?

RdV: My job is not to police the marketing in every single market because we would make a mistake. We need to make sure that markets are independent and can tailor their messaging.

However what is really important is that there is a lot more in common between markets and people than there is different. If you look for what is different then you can find a lot. For me what is much more powerful is to figure out what is the same because then you can create much more powerful messaging.

The brand direction is globally consistent, the high-level messaging and the story we want to tell is globally consistent, the way we want to go after entertainment, sports and the emotional connection, the same everywhere in the world. Individual executions are made in each market.

MW: What is the biggest challenge facing the Nissan brand?

RdV: Our biggest job is to create a consistent connection with our consumers over a long period of time. Strong brands have been incredibly consistent almost since inception. To control yourself, to not waver and go in different directions is the biggest challenge. If we can do that it is very powerful.