Japan's automakers have exported their share of jargon into the global industry lexicon. Consider: kaizen, kanban, andon cord and mono-tsukuri.
Now Nissan is priming a new one: koto-tsukuri.
CEO Carlos Ghosn batted the word about last week during the annual shareholders meeting. He used the word -- loosely translated as "storytelling" -- to encapsulate the global branding strategy Nissan launched this year, its first worldwide marketing campaign.
"This is an example of how we will facilitate the power of storytelling, or koto-tsukuri, to better connect with our customers," Ghosn said. By using koto-tsukuri to create unified branding, he said, Nissan can deliver "meaningful and lasting relationships with our customers."
The campaign was launched April 1 with billboards at 37 airports. Under the catchphrase "Innovation that Excites," the billboard ads have the same colors, logos and wording. Ghosn showed the latest billboard ad, which juxtaposes Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt -- a three-time gold medalist and world record holder -- against the Nissan GT-R sports car. The tag line: "What if the world's fastest man went even faster?"
It might be a while before koto-tsukuri catches on. But just as "sushi," "sumo" and "samurai" have entered the vernacular, so have specialty words taken from the factory floors of Nagoya and Japan's hinterlands.
Mono-tsukuri -- a favorite buzzword of late -- refers to the "art of manufacturing" and is a focus of much hand-wringing these days as more production moves out of Japan.
And the andon cord, pioneered in Japan, is the safety-stop rope workers can yank when they spot a defect, need help or fall behind.
Kanban refers to the instruction cards telling workers when to replenish components -- a key element of Japan's pull-oriented manufacturing system.
And then there's kaizen, perhaps the most pervasive lingo transplant. The word, which means "continuous improvement," was born in Japan but went vogue with management gurus worldwide in the 1990s.