Nissan Beefs Up Manpower to Reach the Female Consumer


Male marketers, a word of advice.

If you are charged with effectively connecting with the female market, consider putting female marketers in charge – not short dresses. While this might be appealing to men, the majority of women will assume your car cannot stand on it’s own. That you need gimmicks to attain their attention. Quit trying to market to women through male lenses.

According to Marketing Magazine, Nissan’s global marketing chief Andy Palmer said:

“The rise of the ‘empowered female’ is the biggest consumer trend affecting its worldwide marketing plans.”

Palmer went on to say that Nissan is reshaping its approach to marketing to help target women “dissatisfied” with the automotive industry. Referring in particular to female consumers in recently-emerged and emerging economies, Palmer claimed the “empowered female” is either responsible or has significant influence in approximately 70% of all global vehicle purchases.

He continues with, “Women have much more power and say in the choice of the family vehicle. Looking specifically at the US, about 70% of US females are dissatisfied with the process of purchasing a car, and about 50% are dissatisfied with their car.

“We have a huge empowered segment which we as an industry are not particularly satisfying, and a key trend for us is reaching that new generation.”

Nissan is definitely moving in the right direct as Susan Heller, writer for Women2Women Magazine points out that according to Road and Travel, women in the United States have a direct influence of 93 percent of vehicles purchased by others; friends, colleagues, coworkers, family.

However… exactly how is Nissan going to attack this challenge? So far, it appears their plan is to hire and promote numerous men within their marketing and advertising key positions. To name a few…

In early October, Nissan inked a multi-year agreement with Omnicom Group for communications, advertising, marketing, media, promotions and digital services. AdAge points out that this move was driven by Roel de-Vries, Nissan’s corporate VP and global head of marketing, brand and communications. 

Further, Omnicom Group has named Jon Castle as president of Nissan United, which will include leaders from various expert agencies in the group.

On Reuters today it was noted that Nissan Motor Co announced that Fred Diaz will be promoted to senior vice president for sales and marketing for the Nissan brand in the United States as part of a management shakeup that involves 13 executives taking new positions – all men.

So, what’s missing in this quest to sell to the female consumer?

WOMEN. At the top anyway – where the major decisions are made. To be fair, I am not aware of who rounds out the team. But guys, until women are included in the top-level decisions, chances are good that the new cars and messages will continue to be off-base.

Why does the auto industry get women so wrong? 

Below is an excerpt from a recent Slate article by former Washington Post editor Libby Copeland who explores that very question.

When automakers fail now it’s much more subtle, a matter of the men who predominate in most companies failing to anticipate the needs of female consumers. (For some indication of who’s designing cars, consider that just 5 percent of American automotive engineers who belong to the engineering organization SAE International are women.) A story from Automotive News chronicles how, about 10 years ago, GM had 100 of its male employees attempt to get into a full-sized SUV while wearing heels, fake nails, and plastic bag skirts, and carrying purses and babies. Upon reaching the driver’s seat, one engineer had a revelation that has occurred to virtually every woman: “I thought, ‘Well, shoot, I would want my purse right at arm’s reach.’ ” He wound up designing a console to store it.

But sometimes, the disconnect is more serious. Marketers I spoke with mentioned high-up trunks that make it difficult for women to hoist heavy luggage, and nonadjustable gas and brake pedals, which force shorter women (and men) to crunch up close to steering wheels and potentially explosive airbags. In 2011 researchers at the University of Virginia found that women drivers are 47 percent more likely to be seriously injured in crashes, in great part because cars are designed to protect men’s larger bodies. The advertising falls short, too. Men get adventures in their car ads—epic treks along mountain passes, Kate Upton bursting from her tank top while prancing around a Mercedes. Even when they’re tasked with taking the kids for the day, as in this recent Hyundai ad, men get to break rules by taking the kids off-roading and racing motorcyclists. But advertisers seem to think women have no need for fantasy and instead, we get downtrodden realities—a mom dutifully carting the kids to hockey practice, a bunch of self-identified “housewives” fist-bumping because their kids finally think their car is “cool.”

Time will tell if Nissan is going to figure out how to understand women through the male lens. For now, it seems they are still introducing shiny new products alongside long-legged models.

If a car manufacturer ever does include women at the top, they will surely leave the others in the dust.

Leave in the dust

Stephanie Holland is President and Executive Creative Director for Holland + Holland Advertising,Birmingham, AL. Working in an industry that is dominated by men, she is one of only 3% of the female creative directors in the country. Stephanie works mostly with male advertisers, helping them successfully market to women. Subscribe to She-conomy by Email

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