YOKOHAMA, Japan -- An increasingly brand-conscious Nissan Motor Co. is embarking on its first global marketing campaign in an attempt to build a cohesive public image worldwide.
The push, described last week by CEO Carlos Ghosn, began April 1 with billboard advertising at 37 international airports.
"This year, our first-ever global brand campaign will be rolled out in locations such as major international airports, reaching hundreds of millions of people with the same, consistent message," Ghosn said.
Under the catchphrase "Innovation that Excites," the campaign will feature the same colors, logos and wording, but be tailored to local markets. Nissan plans to expand the advertising to events that receive Nissan corporate sponsorship, such as motorsports.
The advertising also will feature a "what if" question.
One example touts Nissan's around-view monitor that gives drivers a 360-degree view outside their cars. It asks: "What if a car could change how you see the world?"
"It resonates around 'innovation that excites,'" said Andy Palmer, executive vice president. "That's very close to our brand positioning statement, which is innovation and excitement for everyone."
"You'll see this campaign line used everywhere," he said. "I walked through the L.A. airport last night, and it's already on display."
Cultivating a potent brand is a top priority for the automaker under the midterm business plan that Ghosn introduced last summer. He wants to refashion Nissan's pedestrian image into that of a technology pioneer by showcasing such products as the Leaf electric vehicle and GT-R sports car.
Nissan's brand value trails that of top Japanese rivals, according to the branding consultancy Interbrand, which has advised Nissan on how to improve its image in Europe.
Nissan cracked Interbrand's list of top 100 global brands in 2011 but ranked only No. 90. Honda Motor Co. came in at 19, while Toyota Motor Corp. was the top carmaker worldwide at No. 11.
Interbrand blames Nissan's focus on cost cutting after its near bankruptcy in 1999 for creating a "weak and undifferentiated brand." Customers didn't know what it stood for, it says.
"It's something that Nissan historically hasn't done very well, which is show a common face around the world," Palmer concedes.
But that is changing.
According to Interbrand, Nissan's appearance on last year's top-brands list was due to the carmaker's taking "firm control of its communications through a potent mix of stories, blogs, online videos and an effective new global marketing team."
Nissan's alliance partner, Renault SA, which also is headed by Ghosn, didn't make it into Interbrand's 2011 list.
But these automotive brands ranked ahead of Nissan: Mercedes, BMW, Volkswagen, Ford, Audi, Hyundai and Porsche.
Nissan's brand campaign is being managed by the TBWA advertising agency, a division of Omnicom Group Inc.