TOKYO: Nissan, the carmaker, is looking for future growth in the luxury and green vehicle sectors, with a marketing push that leverages kotozukuri – the art of storytelling.

Andy Palmer, Nissan's executive vice president, told Marketing Week that premium and luxury carmakers account for around half of the total industry's profits but admitted that "Nissan more or less plays in the other 50%".

He also said that Japanese companies are good making things but "are pretty lousy overall when it comes to the art of marketing." 

That is changing at Nissan, however, as evidenced by last year's corporate restructuring which joined the marketing and communications divisions together with a remit to find and tell compelling stories about Nissan.

The automaker is prioritising sales growth of its luxury Infiniti brand – from around 150,000 cars per year to 500,000 – and is using Formula 1 racing as a global platform for raising awareness.

In a reversal of the usual arrangements, the brand is sponsoring a team run by the energy drinks company, Red Bull.

Simon Sproule, the carmaker's corporate vice president, global marketing communications, observed that sponsorship is "more and more interesting" to global brands as the impact of TV campaigns is diluted by audiences spreading across viewing platforms.

Consequently Nissan has signed up as one of the sponsors for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, in a deal reported to be worth US$250m.

It is expected to use the Games to showcase its electric vehicles, including the Leaf. Palmer said that Nissan aims to sell 40,000 Leafs worldwide in 2012 and 150,000 in 2013.

And he likened efforts to get people to see electric cars more positively to the shift in perception of diesel away from tractors. 

Production of the Leaf in the UK starts next year and already the company is sending targeted direct marketing to its customer database there ahead of a mass consumer marketing effort over the next two years.

Data sourced from Marketing Week; additional content by Warc staff