Brand Strategy Global Marketer Week Nissan

Nissan CMO Allyson Witherspoon on marketing in age of connectivity & automation


By Audrey Kemp, LA Reporter

May 16, 2024 | 5 min read

In an interview at the World Federation of Advertisers’ Global Marketer Week, Nissan’s global CMO, Allyson Witherspoon, muses on how she is shifting the brand into the next gear.

allyson witherspoon

Witherspoon sits down with The Drum's Audrey Kemp to discuss Nissan's dynamic marketing strategies / Credit: Audrey Kemp

In the bustling conference halls of The World Federation of Advertisers’ Global Marketer Week in Toronto, The Drum catches up with with Allyson Witherspoon, the visionary global chief marketing officer of Nissan Motor Company.

With an astute focus on privacy, creativity and Nissan’s electric future, Witherspoon unveils her strategic blueprint for the 90-year-old brand that promises to redefine automotive marketing today.

The value proposition of privacy

When considering the consumer privacy oversteps in the digital landscape, automobiles often escape scrutiny. However, Witherspoon highlights this as a concern with connected vehicles, or vehicles that can connect to the internet.

Her concerns strike a chord in light of a bombshell The New York Times report from March that exposed automakers’ conspicuous practice of selling consumer data to insurance companies.

But, more importantly, Witherspoon sees data privacy as a potential competitive differentiator for Nissan in a crowded market.

“Connected cars represent all the data we have in the car and how it can inform more impactful ways to connect with consumers. I want Nissan to be the most privacy-conscious brand. We are cognizant of what data consumers want to share and how we use that information for good, to deliver value and impact to them.”

Harnessing creativity as a solution

When she assumed the role of global CMO at Nissan just a year ago, Witherspoon brought with her two decades of experience at global marketing agencies and automotive firms.

Her initial task at Nissan was to craft a roadmap for the brand’s global marketing team, delineating three core pillars: refined brand messaging, data-informed decision-making and what she terms “creative problem-solving.”

In Witherspoon’s words, creativity isn’t just a soft skill concerned with artistic conception, design and production; it serves as a catalyst for forging deep connections with consumers amid an increasingly competitive and economically tenuous environment.

In her view, creativity can serve as a strategic driver for Nissan’s business, navigating it through challenges such as increasingly price-conscious consumer behavior.

Plugging into Nissan’s electric vision

Witherspoon sees Nissan’s future successes tied to its disruptive potential in the the electric vehicle space. With an ambitious plan to launch 30 new models over the next three years, Nissan aims to leverage its legacy in electric vehicles to maintain a competitive edge in the market.

She notes that Nissan will roll out power trains, internal combustion engines and hybrid-like solutions “at the speed at which consumers are ready to adopt them.“

“We were pioneers in the electric space several years ago with the Nissan Leaf and the solutions we have in the pipeline will help re-establish our leadership position,” she says, optimistically.

Redefining the role of the CMO

It is this multifaceted approach to marketing that underscores Witherspoon’s evolving role as CMO, which she views as increasingly strategic.

Drawing from her extensive experience in marketing and the automotive category, she aligns marketing initiatives with overarching business objectives, such as profitability, while ensuring efficient utilization of marketing spend.

“With any type of company, you want to make sure you are getting the most out of marketing spend,” she adds. “In the case of automotive, we must help the brand drive business growth, volume and profitability for the company all around the world ... It’s becoming more difficult for brands to stand out because the traditional ways [of advertising] no longer exist ... It starts with us asking ourselves, ‘Are you driving efficiency?’ and ends with, ‘How can you attract more people to the brand?’”

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Brand Strategy Global Marketer Week Nissan

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