NASHVILLE -- Nissan’s newly launched national advertising campaign will beat out a single message for at least the next two years: the product.
No stars. No catchy jingles. No clever story lines. And not even any humor.
Just the vehicles, their features, safety technologies and capabilities.
The new “Take On” campaign, which went live nationally last week, will pound out the single-minded message that Nissan-brand cars, crossovers and trucks are safe, advanced and capable of “taking on” a 21st century landscape of careless drivers, heavy traffic and unpredictable road conditions.
“Our first priority was to make the car the star,” says Jeremy Tucker, Nissan’s vice president of marketing communications and media. “We wanted the features to come through clearly.”
The campaign breaks six months after Christian Meunier took over as Nissan’s senior vice president of North American sales & marketing and operations. Days after taking his new post in early January, Meunier put the automaker’s agencies on notice by demanding a fresh new message that made the brand clearer in U.S. consumers’ minds.
The company has struggled for years with the feeling that consumers are not clear what the Nissan brand is all about -- even as it posted higher and higher U.S. sales.
Tucker says the new campaign will achieve that and should serve the company for the next two to three years.
“We in the auto industry lose sight of the fact that consumers are not as educated as we think they are about the new technologies that are available,” Tucker says. “We need to communicate what we have to offer.”
The national campaign, along with a new cache of Tier 2 retail spots that will run regionally, shows Nissan Sentras, Altimas, Maximas, Rogues and Muranos in action on the streets. The Nissan vehicles warn their drivers about cars in their blind spots, stop automatically to avoid front-end collisions and stop before backing up into unseen obstacles.
Bright cherry red
In every shot of every ad, the featured Nissan vehicle is a bright cherry red in high definition to stand out on the screen.
“The message in every case is: The car performs. The driver is confident,” Tucker says. “It’s not about feeling good. It’s not about pretty people. It’s about how Nissan will help you face the driving challenges you face every day.”
The shift in tone illustrates Nissan North America’s current drive to capture a 10 percent share of the U.S. new-vehicle market -- up from 9.2 percent for the year to date. The company is determined to reach its 10 percent goal by March 31 of next year.
In repositioning the marketing message, Tucker instructed Nissan’s agencies to leave the humor out in order to focus on the product.
“I said, ‘No humor,’” Tucker says. “The ads were getting kind of wacky. So, zero humor. We’re a serious brand with serious cars. We’re about performance, quality and excitement, and we need to bring that to life in a powerful way.”
However, that edict will not affect the annual TV spots Nissan creates in conjunction with ESPN and college football’s Heisman Trophy program. Nissan airs zany TV spots during football playoffs called “Nissan Heisman House,” featuring past Heisman winners who appear to be living together in a large house.
Those ads have little to do with Nissan’s vehicles.
“Is there a role for humor in the future?” Tucker asks. “Sure. But not for now.”
Tucker says the makeover also prompted him to throw away Nissan’s existing media plan and recalculate where the automaker will spend its ad dollars. The company has backed away from some media where it has been prominent, including certain TV shows where it will no longer advertise.
“We made some tough calls,” Tucker says, declining to specify where.
Tucker says Nissan will now channel 40 percent of its national budget into digital marketing, compared to 30 percent or less in past years. A larger share of the budget also will go into multicultural marketing.
“This is our first foray into communicating intelligent safety as we move into a future of intelligent mobility,” he says. “It’s an education process. Most consumers still aren’t familiar with the safety technologies that are out there and that are still coming.
“This is a new phase for Nissan and it’s going to drive consideration for us in the future.”