Infiniti Plays Up Japanese Heritage in Global Campaign

In its first global  campaign, Infiniti is showing off its Japanese roots.

The initiative seeks to drive home the brand’s association with Japanese-driven art and engineering and to make the Nissan brand’s marketing communications around the world more consistent.

The push comes as the 20-year-old North American-born brand steps up its rollout globally. Infiniti first started its international expansion in 1997 and moved into Western Europe and the U.K. in 2008—markets a comparable Japanese luxe brand, Toyota’s Lexus, has failed to crack. (Ironically, Infiniti is not marketed in Japan.)

Around that time, Infiniti set up a new global business unit to ensure consistent development of the brand globally. Some 18 months ago, Infiniti marketing executives met with counterparts at lead creative shop, TBWA\Chiat\Day, for a two-day summit to review Infiniti’s history of advertising as a way of distilling a core brand message.

The execs and the agency agreed that Infiniti’s global work had often been too model-centric and future advertising had to support the brand and its Japanese pedigree.

“We looked at the core elements of Infiniti and one of the things we saw was that strong luxury brands reflect their national culture and heritage,” said Carl Phillips, senior manager, Infiniti global advertising and marketing. “To be true to who we are, we have to be authentic to the brand. Japanese influence plays a role in the value of the brand, and it’s quite a powerful point in differentiating ourselves.”

Phillips added: “Our past communications have done a great job in selling products, but there hasn’t been a holistic message out there about the brand.”

Two new 30-second spots feature the redesigned Infiniti G line sedan and coupe. But Phillips stressed the brand is the messaging priority with product used to reinforce Infiniti’s core attributes. “We call it ‘I before G’,” he said.

The shift to a brand-focused approach is evinced in the TV work. One spot begins with a calligraphic brush stroke suggesting a vehicle design which bleeds into painterly visuals that intermingle with film shots of the car. The voiceover explains how Infiniti is “uniting engineering and emotion.” Another commercial shows a helmeted master driver testing an Infiniti, with the narrator explaining it’s that driver’s job “to measure what computers cannot…Our car moves you emotionally.” The pitch carries Infiniti’s tagline of 18 months, “Inspired Performance.”

“The television articulates the notion of craft through every Infiniti model and you see that through the juxtaposition of hand-painted scenes with those showing more design, engineering, car stuff,” said Rob Schwartz, chief creative officer, TBWA\C\D Los Angeles. “The Infiniti brand is trying to build an emotional, not just mechanical, connection with drivers.”

Underlying that message are two elements: “Dynamic Adeyaka”—combining an ancient Japanese ideal of grace and refinement with the modern concept of power and change—and the Japanese calligraphic tradition of shodo.

Despite recent recalls from another Japanese automaker, Toyota, James Bell vp, executive market analyst, Kelley Blue Book’s, said Infiniti’s return to its Japanese roots may be the automaker’s best strategy in now turning its attention to mature economies. 

“When you get into markets like Europe with luxury products, buyers are looking for history and gravitas, and Infiniti will be going up against brands like BMW and Mercedes Benz, with their Formula One racing pedigrees. Using its Japanese heritage is really the only way Infiniti can go.”