Marketing, ad firms join forces to pursue Nissan brand clarity

Jon Castle
Title: President, Nissan United
Age: 47
Hometown: Concord, N.H.
Alma mater: University of New Hampshire
Current residence: New Canaan, Conn.
Home life: Married, 4 teenage children. "My wife is a pediatric dietitian who, thankfully, has been so busy writing her second book, she hasn't been looking at my diet recently."
In his garage: Nissan Juke NISMO to commute; Jay Chiat’s 1990 Nissan 300ZX for the weekend

Nissan took a dramatic step in global branding last year when it created Nissan United in New York, a central office that will coordinate global advertising, marketing and brand image decisions. The shop brings together a team of Omnicom Group companies to focus solely on the Nissan brand's needs, including Nissan's agency TBWA\Chiat\Day, media-buying company OMD, PR provider Emanate and the consulting firm Interbrand.

Jon Castle, who had been head of TBWA's Nissan U.S. agency business from offices near downtown Nashville -- where an upside-down 1972 Datsun Z hangs from the ceiling, just for the fun of it -- was named Nissan United president and relocated to New York. The new shop integrates global Omnicom resources to give Nissan more consistent oversight.

Castle spoke with Staff Reporter Lindsay Chappell about Nissan United's job.

Q: What is the thinking behind Nissan United?

A: Historically, Nissan has done quite well in many different markets around the world working with all of its independent agencies. This is an effort to really drive consistency around the world, drive brand initiatives around the world, and just tighten up the independent works that have been going on around the world.

Ultimately our job is to help drive interest and clarity and value of our brand. If we have a more valuable brand, people might be willing to pay a little more for our products.

So it's ultimately a very strong business proposition for Nissan.

The idea came from Nissan's new global marketing team. Nissan and Omnicom had some conversations in 2012 about how we could bring the power of Omnicom to bear, from a marketing and brand perspective. How could we create something that could bring the various markets of the world a little closer together?

What have you brought together in New York; what's the mission?

[We are] focused on Nissan's marketing and communications initiatives around the world. We have representatives here from the content and creative side from TBWA, from OMD on the investment side, from the communications and PR side with Emanate, and from Interbrand to help create a brand-value perspective.

We'll be working together as a leadership team. We're not replacing agencies around the world. We don't want to be another agency creating enormous amounts of things here at the center. The idea is to work as a team to be ultimately the stewards of the brand around the world.

Our question to answer is, how should Nissan be telling its story, and what is the best way to express its message of "Innovation that Excites"? And how do we make sure the voice is consistent around the world?

Success has many fathers, of course. But whose idea was this?

One of the key pillars of Carlos Ghosn's Power 88 business plan is to enhance brand power, recognizing that Nissan's future growth will come from a stronger brand. And Mr. Ghosn put the responsibility for that into [Executive Vice President] Andy Palmer's hands. Roel de Vries is the corporate vice president for global marketing. I certainly can't speak for Carlos Ghosn, but I believe he empowered Andy and Roel to really drive that mission.

At the same time I will tell you that it has also been the brainchild of Simon Sproule [Nissan corporate vice president for communications]. And Shiro Nakamura, the global head of design, has also been engaged in every part of it.