By on March 29, 2016

Christian Meunier, Image: Nissan

Nissan’s U.S. sales boss delivered some Glengarry Glen Ross-style “motivation” to its ad agencies in order to pump up the brand’s weak messaging via a new campaign.

Christian Meunier, who took control of Nissan’s U.S. sales and marketing in January, dressed down a roomful of agency reps a week into his new job, according to Automotive News (via Ad Age).

The automaker’s dedicated ad unit, consisting of a number of Onmicon agencies, was told by Meunier that their ideas were utter crap. Or, in his words:

“I challenged them. I locked them in a room for a week in New York, and came back after a week and it was still shit. I came back after two weeks and it was still shit.”

You can catch flies with honey, but it doesn’t seem to do much for marketing materials. Nissan’s new ad campaign, which will hit consumers in May, came about after Meunier delivered an Alec Baldwin-worthy ultimatum.

“I said, ‘You guys better deliver something. You’d better come to Nashville next week with a plan that works.’ And they came back with a very good plan.”

The Nissan Motor Company hasn’t fallen on hard times. Its sales have risen every year since the depths of the recession, hitting nearly 1.5 million in the U.S. last year.

That’s isn’t the problem, however.

The problem, Meunier told the reps, was that people don’t really know what Nissan is all about. It isn’t the fun-loving, perpetually adolescent Honda, or the respectable, slightly stodgy Toyota. In marketing terms, Nissan suffers from weak brand identity.

The ad campaign crafted by the unit’s members — no doubt with shirt sleeves rolled up and brows beaded with perspiration — is currently in the consumer test phase. Dealers also get a say before it goes live.

What will the ads contain? Well, besides the brand’s lineup of sedans and SUVs … no one knows. But if it pleased a guy like Meunier, it has to be above par.

It had better be.

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70 Comments on “Nissan to Ad Agencies: “It Takes Brass Balls to Sell Cars!”...”


  • avatar
    GermanReliabilityMyth

    I’ll just wait here for the jokes about Christian’s last name…

  • avatar
    JimZ

    I don’t think you can blame the ad agency for people “not knowing what Nissan is about” when it’s clear *Nissan* doesn’t know what Nissan is about.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      I think it is more about Nissan trying to compete in a Toyota and Honda world. Nissan lost many former customers due to their bad ownership experiences.

      My wife’s Avon lady switched from Altima to Camry. Another lady we know switched from Murano to Grand Cherokee. Anecdotal, but not isolated. Happens a lot. Look for used Nissans on their competitor’s lots.

      With Hyundai an Subaru both offering better options to Nissan products, it will take more than brass balls to sell Nissan cars.

      • 0 avatar
        rocketrodeo

        Spend some time in Mexico and you’ll see what Nissan is all about.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          how about you just tell me what the f**k your point is instead of snidely telling me I should spend a significant amount of my time and money just to try to win an Internet Argument.

          Can you do that?

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          rocketrodeo, I have spent quite some time in Mexico at various places, including Mexico City, Vera Cruz, Ensenada, Cabo San Lucas, and other places, where some of our American friends or family have settled or retired, and I did not see significant more Nissan products there than in the States.

          I saw a lot of Suburbans, Chrysler Minivans, Impalas and millions of Chevy pickup trucks.

          Maybe YOU could tell us what Nissan is all about, and what parts of Mexico YOU are referring to.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            HDC, you’d have to be willfully ignorant or else blind to not notice the legions of Tsuru, Tiida and Sentra taxis and personally owned cars, D21 Hardbody and NP300 fleet and farm trucks toiling away, and a fair amount of Frontiers as well.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            I’m sure I saw them but they didn’t register as Nissan. Everywhere we went it was Suburbans, Chrysler Minivans and Chevy pickup trucks.

            Whatever Nissan has in Mexico, it doesn’t resemble what Nissan sells in the States.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            ” I did not see significant more Nissan products there than in the States.”

            But they didn’t look like Altimas and Rogues so it doesn’t count? Seems silly.

            I’d say Nissan occupies the enviable segment as the ultimate workhorse in Mexico. In the cheap car segment, the old Tsuru is the gold standard for durable, simple to service, affordable transportation. Honda and Toyota sedans are mostly an anomaly from what I’ve observed. Likewise the D21/D22 body Nissan (our Hardbody and gen 1 Frontier) serve as the standard basis for cab-chassis delivery trucklets and seem to be farmers’ favorites out in the rural areas (along with old US domestic fullsizers and old Toyota pickups). At my work site, all of the top brass drove loaded new (D40) Frontier Pro-4X crewcabs. So while Nissan may have an identity crisis here in the US, down in Mexico they’ve earned a reputation as sturdy and dependable vehicles.

            Second to Nissan vehicles seem to be mid-90s US midsize SUVs: gen 1 and gen 2 Explorers, ZJ Grand Cherokees, S10 Blazers/Jimmys. I imagine most of them made their way South from our border. It is common practice for people coming to the US for seasonal/temporary work to use a chunk of their earned wages on buying a car to drive back South, for resale or to keep for themselves. Mexico is like a de facto haven for Cash for Clunkers refugees!

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            All excellent points. But how does this relate to Nissan’s US sales and marketing efforts?

            Wasn’t this article about marketing and selling Nissans in the US?

            Who handles Nissan Sales and marketing in Mexico, Central and South America?

            To me Nissan is very much like VW in that it may be a huge brand elsewhere on the planet but a non-player in the US.

      • 0 avatar
        A09

        Nissan lost many former customers due to their bad ownership experiences.

        I am one of those statistics. I had a 2002 Altima 3.5SE with the 5MT. It was my first new car, and the final Nissan I will ever own. In four years of ownership I spent $4,300 in maintenance and repairs; this does not include the $2,200 in electronics damage (crank position sensor, ECM, BCM) that was covered by the extended warranty. I gave the vehicle to my parents in 2006 and they held onto it until the floors rotted out in 2012. My friend (a former Nissan technician, whom I became friends during my Altima ownership) bought the car from my parents for $800. He sent the car to Copart when the VQ35DE finally died in 2014.

        Since the Altima, I owned a 2006 Honda Accord Sedan EX V6 6MT, 2008 Toyota Highlander, and now a 2016 Honda Pilot.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          A09, the lady who switched from Murano to Grand Cherokee had two CVTs go out on her, the first after two years, covered under warranty with a two week loss of vehicle waiting for a new CVT.

          The second CVT would have cost her ~$6900 in total, to replace, so she parted out the Murano through a junk yard broker and bought herself a Grand Cherokee 5.7L 4×4 Limited in Dark Cherry Red Clearcoat.

          A lovely sight to behold, both woman and her Grand Cherokee.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          So the worst car you ever owned lasted 12 years, and through three owners.

          • 0 avatar
            A09

            Corey: Yes; 12 years three owners.

            The 12 years came at a very high cost; moreso than the three Ford products that preceded the Nissan. Cashflow alone was $4,300 for me; perhaps another $1,000 for my parents in their six years (they are retired; their drives are limited to the doctor and grocery; no more than 2,000 miles/year).

            The ownership experience also included being stranded twice: myself for 2.5 hours when the crank position sensor malfunctioned, shutting down the engine while I was driving 65mph. The second incident stranded my parents when the ignition decided to stop authenticating the key, forcing us to tow the vehicle to the Nissan dealer.

            The three Fords preceding the Nissan were an ’84 Escort L, ’89 Taurus LX, ’96 Mercury Sable GS. None of these left me stranded…or cost over $4,000 in repairs throughout the duration of ownership.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            CoreyDL, you can keep any car running forever by just fixing it each time it breaks.

            The question becomes, do you really want to?

            My best friend has a ’93 S-10 ExtCab 4.3L and he tells me that he’s still driving it today because he has so much money tied up in it to keep it running that he can’t afford to let go of it.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Nope, there’s a very limited tolerance for that in my book. Both the mental tolerance book, and the bank book. So far, I haven’t bought cars which break.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            I’m on my last cars now and I hope they’ll last without breaking until I check out from Hotel Earth.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Arec Bawwin is the greatest aktor in the worl.

  • avatar
    andyinatl

    Nissan commercials are so dreadful, that i switch channels every time one comes on whele i’m watching something. I think Kia has better commercials (minus the hamster one, which actually helped rule out Soul for me when i was cross shopping).

  • avatar

    PUT THAT COFFEE DOWN!!!

  • avatar
    qfrog

    Nissan, we made some cool cars a couple of decades ago so please don’t forget that we still make cars and a couple of trucks even though they are mostly forgettable appliances with styling by S. Dali.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Have you compared the Altima to a similar Camry, Accord, Sonata or Legacy? NVH, ride, steering, braking? Not in the same league.

      • 0 avatar
        ammom_rouy

        Had an Altima 3.5 S as a rental recently. A very nice-driving car. Made an Avalon I rented recently seem like a dog.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Every single thing you say from this point forward is now suspect in the highest degree.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Well, “your-mama” has a point in that the Altima 3.5 is a totally different sedan from the staid Avalon.

            I can’t even begin to understand the correlation of comparing these two vehicles. The Avalon is a sedate, smooth riding, quiet, almost-luxury sedan as opposed to the Altima 3.5’s rude, crude and noisy, sport-tuned characteristics.

            No one in the industry puts these two sedans in the same category, class, size or target demographic.

            The Altima 3.5 is in the same class, size, price and market-demographic as the Camry V6.

            The Avalon competes with the Maxima, but the Maxima is a Sport Sedan while the Avalon is a near-luxury Interstate Cruiser with the handling characteristics of the latest US Aircraft Carrier.

            If compare and contrast was the objective, there IS a difference between a Sport Sedan and the Avalon.

            It all depends on what a buyer wants and what they can afford.

  • avatar
    tonycd

    What an admirable human being and effective role model of leadership.

  • avatar
    319583076

    Great scene or greatest scene? The debate rages on…

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    I grew up on Nissan – driving my mom’s MY84 Nissan truck, and then I got my dad’s cast-off, the MY87 Nissan Stanza. Neither were very fast, or sporting, but they sure were reliable. The Stanza had just north of 200k miles on it with only oil ‘n’ air filter changes, along with tires. It was a great car until it got totaled in an accident when my brother was driving.

    Back then I dreamt of 300ZXs, Nissan hardbody trucks, and the Maxima.

    After college, when it was time to buy my first car, I got a MY94 Nissan truck and then a bit a later a MY97 Altima for my wife. I considered myself a “Nissan guy”. And then I just sort of stopped buying their cars since nothing interested me. The Frontier? Nope. The Maxima was starting to get outclassed and the Altima turned ugly funky. Heck the seats in the MY97 Altima weren’t as good as the MY87 Stanza, nor was the build quality.

    But now it seems that Nissan has lost the thread. I have no interest in any of their cars.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      ^This! Datsun/Nissan was an innovator a long time ago. Nissan lost their way.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve Biro

        Exactly. Nissans, despite the vaguely bizarre styling of some if its models, are kind of invisible. But not in a Toyota way. Nissans aren’t particularly good looking, not particularly well built, not particularly reliable and not particularly affordable. Nor are they the worst. But their CVTs are somewhat questionable (as opposed to, say, Subaru’s CVTs). Whenever I’m in the market for a vehicle, Nissan never comes to mind.

  • avatar

    By the time they run it through consumer focus groups and THEN the dealer group, any brilliance this campaign may have had will be reduced to unmitigated drivel. I used to work for the ad agency for Audi many a moon ago, I know how this movie will end.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Nissan’s new ad campaign will wow! the credit criminal crowd.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Last time I went to shop at a Nissan dealer, I was the only person in the entire store who was a native speaker of English, figuring for customers AND employees.

    I’m pretty sure Nissan should only be advertising on Univision and Telemundo.

  • avatar
    RHD

    Nissan needs:
    Better build quality
    Better comfort
    Less ugliness
    Longer warranty
    Clever products – the Juke isn’t much of a showroom star.
    Outstanding fuel economy

    Add it all up, and the total = A reason to even consider looking at Nissan.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    His last name best describes Nissan’s CVT’s

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    ALEC BALDWIN GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS ALWAYS BE CLOSING FULL SPEECH

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    First place? Cadillac. Second place?

    …oh, never mind…y’all know the rest.

  • avatar

    What’s Nissan about?

    Nissan is about waking up on weekday morning and strolling into your nearest Nissan dealership at 11:30AM because you don’t have a job that requires your presence with a battered 3-prong folder filled with two months of bank statements, a 29 day-old paystub from your gig at Qdoba, a xerox of a water bill with the delinquent notice cropped out, and your aunt’s social security number and date-of-birth scribbled on a Pizza Hut receipt and leaving at 7:30PM in a silver Altima 2.5S with a fancy backup camera and wheel covers.

    Nissan is about having the option to change the color of the Altima on your IP cluster but perenially ignoring the TPMS, Oil Change, Service Engine Soon lights.

    Nissan is about backing the car up against the acoustic wall of your apartment complex and obscuring the VIN plate on the dash with an overdue parking citation

    Nissan is about 4 different used oriental tires like its a Consumer Reports test car.

    Nissan is about STRUCTURAL DAMAGE on about 25% of the units Santander finds.

    Nissan – SHIFT_subprime

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Who is the biggest subprime offender in the market today? Nissan? Mitsu? FCA?

      • 0 avatar

        From my offhand observations of Santander repos, Nissan, Chrysler, and Toyota.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Not too surprised on the first two, but I’m surprised at Toyota.

          • 0 avatar
            TonyJZX

            Toyota sell so much I guess they sell a significant proportion to deadbeats.

            I had a look at the Nissan USA brochure and their breadth is unattractive. They seem to have a car for every segment but nothing their pops out at you. So then you guys are right, they do not make any cars that are outstanding or make you lust after them. And even then their cars seem old.

            You may level similar accusations at Toyota but they actually have a reputation (which can be argue as being undeserved).

    • 0 avatar
      319583076

      Nailed it. It’s only fashionable to denigrate upwardly aspirational auto purchases around here, though.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      “What’s Nissan about?”

      Does anyone else notice that any auto company asking this question has a clear identity crisis that can”t and won’t be resolved by any such thing as an advertising campaign, no matter how much they focus on it or spend on it, nor how elaborate their advertising becomes?

      In most cases, their attempt to define themselves and their products BEFORE the market has already done so completely backfires.

      Cadillac is a great example of such modern, catastrophic efforts at attempting to define an alleged vehicle company (even though they claim that they are and aspire to be a “brand” rather than a product manufacturer) BEFORE the market has done so, and it has failed in the most epic manner possible, resulting in laughably bad ads and in creating more muckety-muck confusion):

      The Arena By Millennial Chick

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDCX4sxU-iS

      CT6 “Daring” by Jason Wu

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNezjVnaV14

      If a company has to engage in such meaningless blather (a discordant ad campaign cribbing gladiator narratives and moms who encouraged their creative-type/flamboyant sons to play with dolls and presumably have princess tea parties), it’s nearly a certainty that the company’s messaging is absolutely floundering (unlike Subaru; Subaru’s narrative wasn’t created by ad campaign, but ad campaign further cemented an already-existing image).

  • avatar
    el scotto

    “Dogs love trucks”, their new advertising needs to be at least that good.

    • 0 avatar
      tbp0701

      My first thought was why don’t they just bring that campaign back?

      At any rate, I’ve owned two Nissans (pre-Renault) and the ownership experience eventually sent me to Honda and, currently, Mazda. I’m also one of those nerds who greatly prefers a manual transmission, and the last manual Nissans I tried were an affront to humanity.

      As an aside, the one Nissan/Infiniti dealer in my area that didn’t make me want to shower in sanitizer sold the business quite some time ago. From what I’ve gathered Nissan dealers with questionable business practices aren’t a rarity, which I believe has more of an effect than manufacturers seem willing to admit.

      I did test drive a couple of Nissans and Infinities in 2012, including a G37 sedan with a manual (they do exist), and didn’t care for any of them. (Mainly they just felt dull to me).

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I’d vote for that old 300ZX ad with Barbie and Ken set to Van Halen. To paraphrase an old Nissan tag phrase…that was AWESOME.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I saw that ad when I was what, 14? Still remember it.

        Also, the Del Sol ad where a woman in a bikini was sitting on an above view Del Sol beach towel. She swiveled her legs to the foot well, and the car became real, and she drove off.

  • avatar
    johnny ro

    Can’t wait.

    Board members running a rally in an AWD B13?

    Drifting a skyline? A real Skyline?

    Heritage?

    What?

    Focus on the gum chewing public for another few tenths of low end mass market share. That is what.

  • avatar
    AoLetsGo

    Well here is something new.
    Smug new sales boss chains consultants/contractors to whipping post and blames them for the crappy product and marketing of his company.
    Then collect big bonus and move on in 14 months.

  • avatar
    gamesdr

    Brit here, I do hope this new branding follows over to this side of the pond. Never understood what Nissan UK stood for either. Last five years of commercials have seen the same Juke/Qashqai/X-Trail driving around a generic city called an “urban playground”. Which was fine when they was launching the Qashqai but now every other brand has an urban SUV or three.

  • avatar
    April S

    When I was shopping for a new car (mid size sedan) I stopped by one of our local Nissan stores and was immediately turned off. Tacky gimmicks plus pushy salespeople.

    I really doubt a new nationwide advertising campaign will make a real difference. Not when customers encounter dealerships that are continuing the same old garbage.

    P.S. I ended up buying a leftover 2015 Honda Civic.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    I recently rented a Nissan Versa Note hatchback for a week on the big island of Hawaii. I don’t normally drive that size car and was impressed with it’s handling and packaging. Not that you really need much power in Hawaii. There is about 10 miles total of four lane road there, but it comes with traffic lights. Once out of the towns, it’s all two lane, 50 or lower mph roads. And people respect the speed limit. Given the relative high price of gasoline and congestion, there is not much need for anything larger than a four cylinder.
    Nissan seems to rule the rental car market there. I would guess that 60% of Hertz’s inventory is Nissan products. After spending a week in the Versa, I averaged about 38 mpg in mostly urban type driving. No idea how it would hold up in the long run.

  • avatar
    ericb91

    The problem starts at the top. Carlos Ghosn is a maniacal genius. I would be terrified to meet him. He runs the company like a true businessman who only cares about market share. That trickles down to every aspect of the company. Engineering, product quality and customer satisfaction are not important. Sell, sell, sell. That’s all that matters.

    On the retail side, the reason for the scum-of-the-earth sales staff is because the dealer-manufacturer relationship is incredibly hostile. When I worked at a Honda dealer there was a Nissan dealer in town who had an awful reputation. They still sold hundreds of new Nissans each month, mostly to the get-me-dones and straw purchasers. Yet Nissan came in and threatened to revoke their franchise simply to light a fire under their butts. This dealer is selling something like 150+ new Nissans every month and Nissan only wanted more. Their online inventory showed anywhere from $4,000-$9,000 off everything in stock from Versa to Pathfinder. And you know they don’t have $4,000 margins on the Versa.

    It is a toxic relationship between Nissan and their dealers and it starts at the top.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Maniacal genius. The same could be argued about Sergio Marchionne. But Fiatsler has a few winners. That was the rationale behind our friend switching from Murano to Grand Cherokee. She won’t be getting rid of that 5.7L Hemi Limited 4×4 any time soon.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Ghosn has also had a lot longer than Marchionne at the helm, though. Nissan also had a far better domestic rep than Chrysler ever did, and wasn’t at absolute rock bottom when Ghosn took over.

        Who knows – FCA may turn out to be a winner. Wouldn’t bet the farm on it, but you never know.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          FreedMike, I agree with your assessment. Datsun was a real contender and innovator in the past. Their King Cab and twin-plug engines made them many fans. And they ran beyond forever. Often the Datsun owner died before their Datsun did.

          But I don’t know what happened after Datsun changed the name to Nissan. The Titan was the first full-size pickup truck from Nissan and the 5.6L Endurance engine was designed for the long haul. Pretty darn good!

          Of course then Toyota came out with their magnificent all-aluminum 32-valve DOHC 5.7L V8 and put Nissan’s dick in the dirt and stepped on it.

          Selling Nissan in America today reminds me of trying to sell VW in America. Slow and painful for both dealer and buyer no matter how much lubricant incentive is applied. Always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Kinda like buying GM.

          Instead of brass balls I think it will take a 5-year/100Kmile warranty like Hyundai’s, AWD like Subaru’s, and engineering like Toyota’s.

          Imagine if Toyota came out with AWD standard for all their vehicles, like Subaru. That’s the biggest attraction in buying a Subaru: the sure-footedness of AWD, standard.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    Well to be fair , no one may know who they are and maybe they do not either but their sales are up , I am sure there are a number of auto companies who would be very happy to be Nissan. Maybe they are/ will be the car company that rules the Latino market and that is not a bad place to be in the US. I am sure VW for one would love to have this problem.

  • avatar
    amancuso

    I don’t like any of Nissan’s US offerings. My Dad however is a Nissan aficionado due to a 300ZX he loves. Thats a great sports car but the Murano he had was a huge pile of crap that rusted from the inside out, and the Rogue he replaced it wth, well the less said about that, the better.


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