Automotive: March 2012 Archives

Datsun Product Name Makes a Comeback

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Datsun.pngI'm thrilled to see that the Datsun will make a comeback... and not as a zombie brand but as a division of Nissan.

The brand name dates back to 1931 and was a marketing coup for the Japanese company who used it as leverage to enter the Southern California market during the 60s and 70s.

The company's legendary success is greatly due to the 102-year-old Japanese marketing genuis Yutaka Katayama, who launched the name in the U.S. with a budget of $1,000.

Nissan discontinued the Datsun name - which was synonymous with cheap but sporty cars - to corral all the models under the Nissan name by 1989 they launched the upscale Infiniti brand.

Datsun cars will not be sold in the U.S., however, while the brand name will be launched in India, Indonesia and Russia. This keeps the positioning of Nissan from mid-to-high end, but allows the company to offer vehicles to first time buyers in developing countries.

Nissan Motor Co. Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn announced that the first new Datsun will stay true to the company's origins as a "green car, affordable car, small displacement, high local content. It's going to be a generous car."

Nissan expects to grab 8% of the global market by 2016 selling cars priced under $10,000. But one analyst says he is not convinced because "They haven't even achieved a solid brand identity for Nissan yet. It's going to be a bumpy road."

As for a possible relaunch in the U.S. in the future, Ghosn says "The name has been gone so long it doesn't carry any huge nostalgia."

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Volvo Naming and Branding Gets a Dose of Linsanity

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Lin.pngI think it is fascinating that NBA phenomena Jeremy Lin has signed a two year contract to be the face of Volvo.

You remember Volvo, right? This was the Swedish company that was acquired by the Chinese carmaker Geely.

The Lin marketing campaign will focus on the U.S. and China as well as "Chinese-language markets in Asia."

Lin is more than simply a basketball star, he has become a Linsation.

Lin, the only NBA player with a Harvard degree, is the "pride of the whole Chinese population" says Freeman Shen, the senior vice president of the Volvo Car Corporation and head of the company's China operations.

Volvo's willingness to use Lin means that they are also willing to subtly remind customers that Volvo - an iconic Swedish brand if there ever was one - is now a Chinese brand, thank you very much.

This move comes as basketball becomes more and more popular in China, and as the Volvo brand enters a period of "brand rejuvenation," with its "Designed Around You" concept.

We might be witnessing a turning of the corner for Chinese car makers, who might want to cash in on the quality of their cars and not hide behind former European brand names.

Could it be that in a few more years the Swedish heritage of Volvo will be swept under the rug? Is the world ready for a proud Chinese car brand? If Lin is the face of it, I guess so.


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Is Harley Brand Naming Working Outside of the Cage?

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So let us leave the debate for and against the new iPad name (or the lack thereof) and move on to what another former niche but now mainstream brand is doing: Harley Davidson.

This is a company that has used social media to an incredible effect, think 3.3 million friends on Facebook. Harley Davidson is doing so with the help of Fan Machine, a Facebook app that lets people rate, review, and offer suggestions on Harley Davidson advertising.

HarleySeventyTwoSportster.pngThe new viral campaign "E. Pluribus Unum" or "Out of many, one," that claims there is no stereotypical Harley rider anymore, is part of the "No Cages" slogan campaign which emphasizes Harley riders and also the new Seventy-Two Sportster model.

You can also submit ideas, pictures or videos to Harley via Twitter at #StereotypicalHarley and a microsite where you get an assortment of Harley riders.

Harley is proclaiming the fact that they are no longer a niche brand and are selling more motorcycles to today's Millennial generation than the Baby Boomer's generation of young adults.

Interestingly enough, one biker points out that the campaign "No Cages" actually misuses the term "cage" as a "true motorcyclist" would understand it

He points out that The Motorcycle Dictionary has the word "cage" meaning

"Cage - A car, truck, or van. The sworn enemy of motorcyclists, more commonly known as automobiles. The name stems from being all cooped up inside a closed shell, with no contact with the outside air."

"Cager - A person driving a car, truck, or van. Cage operator, or driver."

The ad behind the "No Cages" campaign expanded the term "cage" beyond its original context to mean no limitations in life, not just the cage of a car, truck or van.

If anyone is going to get dibbs on redefining a motorcycling term, it's Harley.

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