17-1, Ginza 6-chome
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Fax: 81 3 55652228
Web site: www.nissan-global.com
In the late 1990s, after nearly a decade of declining sales, Japan's Nissan Motor Company, Ltd., flirted with bankruptcy. The 1999 arrival of Carlos Ghosn as Nissan's CEO, however, marked the beginning of one of the automotive industry's most striking turnarounds. Within a few years Ghosn moved Nissan out of debt and into a new era of profitability, thanks to dramatic cost-cutting measures and a renewed emphasis on innovation in car design. The European automotive market remained a tough one for Japanese brands, but Nissan was counting on a 2003 redesign of its subcompact Micra model to drive growth across the continent. To announce the redesign, Nissan and its agency, TBWA\G1 Europe, created an integrated advertising campaign called "Do You Speak Micra?" which suggested that the supposedly groundbreaking Micra redesign required the invention of a new descriptive language.
"Do You Speak Micra?" combined TV, cinema, print, outdoor, and online elements, among other assorted marketing platforms, and it spanned 19 European countries and multiple languages, at a price tag of more than 20 million euros. The idea of "speaking Micra" was first circulated by a January 2003 television and cinema spot in which a set of mysteriously disembodied blue lips intoned invented words, such as "modtro" (a combination of "modern" and "retro"), to describe the new Micra. This spot also ran online courtesy of an arrangement between Nissan and Yahoo!, and print and outdoor ads used the same concept and imagery. As the 12-month campaign matured, individual country-specific variants of the "Do You Speak Micra?" message were implemented.
In 2003 Micra sales grew by 70 percent compared to 2002, outperforming Nissan's ambitious precampaign goals. Unaided, spontaneous awareness of the Micra model grew considerably, as did consumers' willingness to consider purchasing a Micra. The campaign won a French EFFIE in 2003 and a bronze Euro EFFIE in 2004 in the automotive category.
After a production peak in 1989, Japan's Nissan Motor Company saw its sales decline steadily throughout the 1990s, so that by 1999 the automaker was on the verge of bankruptcy. That year, however, France's second-largest automobile manufacturer, Renault, purchased nearly 37 percent of Nissan's public shares and set the Japanese company on the road back to solvency by providing a much-needed infusion of cash and by installing Carlos Ghosn as CEO. Ghosn instituted the Nissan Revival Plan, mandating a return to profitability by 2001, an increase in operating margin (the percentage
of revenue remaining after a company had fully paid its production costs but before it paid interest or taxes), and a dramatic reduction of its debt load in the coming years. Ghosn was able to meet these benchmarks ahead of schedule, thanks to measures that included an aggressive diet of job cuts and a streamlining of the company's supply chain. By early 2002 Nissan had officially recovered from its near-death experience and could focus again on future growth. At the same time Renault increased its Nissan holdings to 44 percent, paving the way for an increasingly vital partnership.
In the European market Nissan was particularly counting on a 2003 update of its subcompact-class Micra, which had not been redesigned since 1992. Not only...