Nissan’s President Carlos Ghosn continues his leadership series in the Nikkei Business magazine, this time focusing on brand strategy.
Ghosn asserts that leaders must pay attention to the value of the brand – it is the only way to sustainable growth. If you do not have a brand which consumers value, then you have to go down the route of becoming a commodity. It’s not enough just to have a stronger brand than anyone else, you need to have loyalty from consumers. If the product price and quality seems similar to a customer, then they will choose first on the basis of the brand.
You can see if the brand is strengthening by looking at unit sales and market share and whether you can charge a higher price than rivals, he explains. For example, Nissan has doubles its unit sales since 1999 and increased its market share by 2%. “But this is not enough, we have to compare pricing strength with Toyota and Honda in Asia or Volkswagen or Renault in Europe, and with US brands in the USA.”
Nissan revived the Datsun brand for developing markets because the Nissan brand itself was not appropriate, due to its brand promise of “excitement, innovative, for everyone”. Datsun’s brand promise is accessibility, durability and modern.
“If a leader defines the brand clearly, then it brings together all the strengths in the company – designers, engineers, production, logistics, marketing and PR.” Ghosn goes on to explain that Nissan has created an expression in Japanese “kotozukuri” – a deliberate pun on the popular concept of “monozukuri” (craftsmanship, literally “making things”). In the age of social media, rather than “making things” we need to be “making stories” he says.
Nissan set up a global media centre in 2011, with professional journalists and cameramen, as a “kotozukuri” factory. They make stories which are “interesting” – every company has lots of stories, and with the internet, it becomes much easier to share them.
The way of telling the story must suit the audience, however. He points out that he told his own story of the Nissan revival in two ways – a book in Japanese called Renaissance, and a manga comic. The book sold 300,00 copies, and the comic sold over a million copies. “Most people don’t want to hear about the high level management details” he says.
“We must not underestimate how important story telling will be in developing markets” he concludes. People in developing markets have the skills and ability to gather information – more and more devices are being adopted, so they will be able to access high levels of information. “Nissan has the history and the strengths to bring kotozukuri up to the same level as monozukuri”
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