Nissan’s Datsun Disconnect


Back in the day, everyone knew the Datsun name as well as the sleek design and low price of its popular 240Z sports car. Strangely, in 1981, the Datsun name disappeared, replaced by Nissan.

Caroline Winter at Businessweek wrote: “…the company resolved to rebrand all Datsuns as Nissans, as part of a global strategy to strengthen the company name. It proved to be a disaster.”

Gee, who could have seen THAT coming? I’ll bet that no Datsun customers, while plunking down their hard-earned cash, ever complained to dealers that the Nissan name was too weak.

Customers in every country except Japan knew and loved the Datsun name. So, some HQ geniuses, with zero customer orientation or knowledge and no marketing skills, decided to scrap the embedded brand in favor of a name nobody knew.

Brilliant! This branding blunder inhabits a wing of the marketing museum with New Coke and The Shack, RadioShack’s gem that nobody uses.

Contrast Nissan’s decision with that of Federal Express, which changed its name to FedEx, the sobriquet that customers invented and preferred to use.
Rx from the WhiteNoise Doctor™

Nissan, unlike FedEx, was disconnected from its customers and didn’t grasp the power of its Datsun brand. Impossible for me to fathom. Akin to a standing-room-only performer whose fame eludes her.

Nissan paid dearly — hundreds of millions of dollars and lost impetus — for killing Datsun. Now, the company is resurrecting it but only in Russia, India, and Indonesia. If this gambit succeeds, perhaps someone at HQ will notice, stay connected to customers, and not kill Datsun again.

Let this be a lesson: If your corporate name is not part of the brand, don’t waste any time or money trying to make it so. Pay attention to what’s working — and why it’s working — and strengthen that.
POSTSCRIPT #1: Nissan Unveils First Model of Revived Datsun


About the Author

Marc Rudov is a branding advisor to CEOs,
producer of MarcRudovTV, and author of the book,
Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.


© 2012 Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.


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