To Interest the Kids, Target the Big Boys

March 19th, 2009 by Chris Bull

Nissan’s flagship car, the GTR is delivered to its first UK owners this month. The GTR is the replacement for the Skyline, Nissan’s previous flagship model. Out of production since 2000, it was essentially a regular two door saloon, with a whopping big turbo, and some clever technology under the bonnet. Its close association with the launch of the Gran Turismo computer game in the nineties meant that it became a bit of a cult classic among the ‘playstation generation’, especially in its native Japan. It was good, but not earth-shatteringly so. The fact that it was ugly as hell meant it never really made it into the mainstream. Nissan needed to broaden the appeal…

Initial rumours claimed that the Skyline’s replacement would be tame, non-turbo charged, and timid. However, backlash from the hoards of hardcore Skyline fans was so unremitting, that Nissan reconsidered. And then they got carried away…

What they have produced is nothing short of astonishing. In track tests, the GTR has disposed of anything this side of £100k, but itself costs just over £50,000. And with its styling based on the traditional Japanese art of Oregami, I actually think it’s quite a looker.

You may imagine then, that they spent all their time and money making sure it would go around a track fast, and not much else…but no. The attention to detail, and the strides for perfection, is absolutely remarkable. The tyres are not filled with plain old air, but instead nitrogen (if your front drivers side is looking a little flat, don’t expect your local BP to be much help). The engines, for example, are hand-built in a hermetically sealed room, to ensure that they are not infiltrated by minuscule dust particles. Further, each engine is hand built from start to finish by one person, meaning that each engine has a slightly different power output and ‘personality’. One tested by a popular car magazine, for example, had 30 bhp more than Nissans already impressive claims of 480bhp.

But what has all this got to do with PR? Well sound bites such as those just mentioned will get quoted so many times (like now then, doh!) that it doesn’t really matter if it makes much difference on the road. They have got people talking: job done. In my opinion, this car is some of the best PR money can buy.

I mean let’s be honest, five years ago, would you have considered Nissan ‘cool’? I certainly wouldn’t have. Would I have considered buying a Nissan? Nope. How much money could Nissan have spent in vain trying to engineer a better image? But one thing is a certainty; products speak for themselves.

The whole Nissan brand, much like a proverbial celeb hanger-on-er has become cool-by-association. Traditionally, Nissan was just another huge car manufacturer, outputting millions of dull, but worthy and reliable cars every year.

What Nissan has done with the GTR, however, has sent shockwaves through the performance car industry. They have shown that, whenever they feel like it, they can produce a car that can beat a Porsche 911 Turbo (a £100k car) around a track, for half the price. It is worth bearing in mind that Porsche specialise in making performance cars, and they have been fine-tuning their formula in the 911 since the sixties!

By creating this car and aiming it at those who can afford to splash out 55k on a car (the proverbial big boys) people a little lower down the financial ladder (the kids) will get a bit more interested in the cars in their price bracket. Perhaps someone my sort of age may find the Nissan Cube a bit more desirable as a result. And for any brands long term survival, it needs to appeal to the kids, as today’s kids are tomorrows key influencers.

I guess it pretty much work like this: Imagine for a second you are back at school. If your older brother is the 6’5″ captain of the rugby team, no one is going to mess you around. You are cool by association with them. Well now all the cars in the Nissan range have the coolest and hardest older brother around. Suddenly, people have a bit more time and respect for them.

(Nissan is a client at Staniforth but Chris Bull does not work with the brand and the views are entirely his own).  

About Chris Bull

Account Exec for Staniforth PR, based in the TBWA\ Building in Whitfield Street, London. Areas of interest include politics, the car industry and sport.

3 Responses to “To Interest the Kids, Target the Big Boys”

  1. Helen Lambert Says:

    There’s nothing wrong with using a fantastic model like the GT-R as a halo product for a brand.

    Motor manufacturers have been doing it for decades to glam up their appeal – not least, Nissan itself.

    You mention the Skyline which indeed has a cult following but what about the Z series, now in its 40th year? The current 350Z can hold its own next to a Porsche at half the price.

    No mention either of NISMO’s fine and proud racing heritage, its association with the late Paul Newman (who used to race Skylines – how much cooler can you get?) or even Nissan’s quirky and still-coveted Figaro?

    I agree the GT-R has made some good headlines but in the mass-market Nissan has been achieving exactly the same with its QASHQAI – when it went on sale, the Sunderland plant had to increase shifts to keep up with demand…

    As I said, nothing wrong with using a halo product for the good of the brand but I don’t think there’s anything “sudden” about it in this instance.

    (I have worked on the Nissan brand in the past.)

  2. Chris Bull Says:

    Hey Sarah,

    Thanks for commenting, and I completely follow your points. However, in some ways you are clarifying mine; the Z cars, the old Skyline, Nismo Racing etc had a cult following. The difference with the new GTR is it has mainstream appeal to those without a specialist interest in motorsport. Kids are sticking posters of the GTR up on their bedroom walls instead of Ferrari’s now!

    Indeed the 350Z can hold its own against a Porsche, but a Boxster, certainly not a 911 Turbo. I have driven both around a track, and trust me, they are in different leagues.

  3. Chris Bull Says:

    Many apologies, I meant to say ‘Helen’. I had the name Sarah in my head for some reason!

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