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Innovation at Nissan: All Flash, No Substance?

August 25, 2010 Innovation 6 Comments

You might have picked up that Nissan is launching of a new corporate push dubbed “Innovation for All.”

This article from AdAge explains that the idea is to transition from a price-driven, model-specific strategy to communicate with consumers around a broader idea that Nissan cars come equipped with a range of innovative offerings, from keyless entry to air purifiers and smartphone apps, at an affordable price.

The article features an interview with Jon Brancheau, the guy in charge of the campaign. He states that “…the Leaf is the most recent example to believe that Nissan is an innovative company and that’s how we want to transmit our message to consumers, we want to turn it around a little bit — Nissan is the brand, and here’s the reason you should believe in it.”

Perhaps Nissan will be able to make consumers believe that Nissan is an innovative company, but they will have a harder sell with the global innovation community.

When you launch a campaign like this, I think it is fair to ask questions on what Nissan actually do on innovation and whether they have the corporate innovation capabilities to back up this campaign.

I did a quick check and I was surprised in a very negative way. I found close to nothing of interest on their corporate innovation capabilities. One example is Nissan’s global site where I searched for innovation. You get no real indication on how Nissan views and approaches innovation and you get no guidance on what to do if you want to collaborate with Nissan. It even got a bit funny as the third link they showed was a 12 years old press release : – )

I do not believe that Nissan has realized that the way companies innovate is changing dramatically in these years. One important change is that leading innovators understand that they have to tap into external resources in order to deliver the best possible products and services.

This does not seem to be the case at Nissan so based on what I could find, I just do not believe Nissan will be able to deliver in the long term. Sooner or later their current campaign will backfire.

Overall, this is a great example on what can happen when smart advertising guys get involved with innovation. Innovation has to be about more than just flashy words. It needs to have substance.

Nissan, please show us your substance…

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Currently there are "6 comments" on this Article:

  1. Nissan did quite a lot of work with TRIZ, training some of the engineering community in the UK in the toolkit to improve their innovation skills and capabilities. How far this has spread I don't know, and I agree this is still an internal focus, whereas so many companies are embracing partnerships and open innovation.

    It is a problem that a lot of companies espouse innovation not just through their ads but also corporate values etc, but don't actually do anything proactive to support or encourage it! Just putting it in your values isn't enough…

  2. Stefan Lindegaard says:

    Hi Lilly, I think we are aligned quite well on this…

  3. Trudy Lloyd says:

    Stefan,

    I’m reminded of the phrase ‘ a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’.

    I think Nissan is making a powerful commitment by going public and talking about plans to become more innovative.

    I also feel this ‘setting the intention’ can of itself actually start things happening.

    Obviously, to build momentum and get results there does need to be more substance and action.

    However, maybe like many companies Nissan is still exploring how much they can safely reveal about their innovation plans.

    For many organisations it’s one thing to know the theory of ‘open innovation’ and the benefits that accrue from inviting others to collaborate. it’s a whole diffferent thing to do it. It pushes newcomers right out tof their comfort zone.

    Give Nissan a bit of time!

    Being an advertising rag, Advertising Age of course want to talk ad campaigns and creative work. The interviewer is not prompting for revelations on plans for innovation.

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