It was a bit outside the box when Nissan's U.S. sales chief, Fred Diaz, recruited Jeremy Tucker from Disney last fall to head Nissan marketing.
Tucker put the question directly to his future boss.
"I told Fred, I'm not a car guy," says Tucker. "I'm a consumerist. I love humans. I love marketing. I'm an idea guy. I'm trained as a storyteller. I learned the philosophy of 'imagineering' from Disney. So how do you bring together that dreaming and doing?
"And Fred said, 'That's exactly what I want.'"
Tucker, who has twin degrees in fine arts and business from Louisiana State University and an MBA from Southern Methodist University, embodies a new philosophy at Nissan. It's a philosophy that can be summed up as "Let's do things differently here."
"I'm surrounded by car experts at Nissan," says Tucker, who also honed his consumer craft at PepsiCo and Procter & Gamble. "We've got that covered. They have leagues more experience in automotive than I do.
"But I'm looking at it all through a fresh lens -- through the eyes of people and families, and through the lens of passion and engagement. My job is to bring all that together, to bring collaboration and new ideas to build relationships with the consumer."
Last November, a few weeks after his arrival, Tucker took a novel approach to creating a campaign for Nissan's sponsorship of the talent-search TV show "The Voice." Nissan already had decided to do a safety campaign called "Red Thumb," urging young people not to text while driving. The idea was there, but the marketing team was starting to get a little nervous. The campaign needed to air during the show's season finale in December.
Tucker took out his cell phone and recorded a selfie, issuing a "red-hot challenge" -- a phrase he frequently throws at the team.
"In the next 72 hours," he said into his phone, "I need you to think about this: How do we get people to stop texting while they're driving? I don't know what we call this movement. How do we bring it to life? I don't know how consumers enter. I don't know what the logo is."
He sent the video to a broad spectrum of people: ad agencies, Nissan's creative leaders, marketing staffers inside Nissan and the automaker's public relations team.
Within 72 hours, Tucker received 50 submissions on how to proceed. Not one to be hemmed in by organizational dotted lines, he selected ideas from two junior marketing staffers -- ages 23 and 24 -- from two different agencies.
"My philosophy is that the best idea wins, and good ideas come from anywhere, from the most junior people to the most senior.
"That's the sort of change we want to drive at Nissan," he says, "to think outside the box and think like our customers and really engage with America. And it means we have to be able to push and pull things a little differently."
-- Lindsay Chappell