We have more to learn from tractors than you probably think

Don't make assumptions about which kind of businesses can offer a model of good practice, Nissan's marketing chief suggests.

I’m often asked what marketing is all about. For me, the answer’s simple: understanding people. People are at the heart of everything we do. And so they should be. It’s consumers who drive our business forward; if we don’t listen and act on their needs, there is no future.

My role has seen me work with hundreds of people from different occupations, in different functions and from various cultures in Europe, North America and Asia. It’s a position that I’d always longed for as a 24-year-old business school graduate in international marketing.

From idolising the 350Z sports car poster in my bedroom as a child to appreciating the intricacies of Japanese engineering solutions as a student, Nissan had a clear impact on my development into the marketer I am today, long before I joined the business. Moreover, I was enticed by the brand’s global presence, which complements my own international upbringing and interests.

Joining a brand with such a storied past, and with innovation in its DNA, was an opportunity the young marketer in me couldn’t pass.

Fourteen years on, I am still relishing the opportunity to drive Nissan forward, delivering on our promise of "moving people to a better world" through "meaningful" advancement in electric vehicles, energy solutions and connectivity. That "meaning" isn’t derived from engineering for the sake of it, but by relating our innovation to customers' needs.

One of my favourite projects has been our "Power your passion" campaign, which showcases how our range of energy solutions – including second-life batteries – enable people to quite literally power their passions.

In a bid to electrify the world, we have helped local communities harness the power of the sun to generate clean energy with Nissan Energy Solar panels, store it with xStorage and then use it to power what they love – day or night.

We helped Lexi, a non-profit cinema in London, screen films to the local community cheaply and sustainably, and helped Black Bay Studio in the Isle of Lewis make solar-powered records.

Being a good marketer requires curiosity, adaptability and genuine care for people. Drawing from the richness of personal interactions is also essential; family, friendships, alumni and professional networks all play a role, as do benchmarks from other industries.

To this day, one of the top learnings in brand management that has stuck with me came from John Deere – yes, the agricultural tractor business.

While tractors might sound dry, John Deere’s revenue model is not. With brand loyalty at its core, the business understands the lifetime value of consumer relations, which in turn impact on how it creates long-term business strategies.

Although it's perhaps rarer to find in today’s quick-fire world, customer relationship management is the key not only to every good marketer, but to every good business.

What we learn from this agricultural tractor business is that it pays to be deeply focused on customer retention. This means having a good heart, strong brand values and taking care of customer relationships. In real terms, businesses must listen to their customers and properly plan and action what added-value services they can advise and build. Take care of your people and their needs; don’t just attract them with the next shiny thing.

I’m often asked how marketing has changed over my career. And my answer? It hasn’t. Although we’re in an era of fast-paced change, there remains one golden rule: put the people first.

Marketers have always had to be ethnographers, caring about people and their motivations, wants and needs. Indeed, this informs our business decisions. All that has changed today is that we do everything 10 times faster.

New technologies offer new possibilities and speeds to access information, data and insights, but at the end of it all technology is just another vessel to find the insight. When used correctly, technology is an enabler to help us understand, connect with and serve people’s needs.

I am proud to say that Nissan understands and embraces these new technologies and I look forward to the next insight, the next challenge and the next creative opportunity.

Nicolas Verneuil is marketing director at Nissan and a member of Campaign’s Power 100

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