David Blecken
Feb 21, 2018

Infiniti places ambition over odds in its push for growth

Still working to define itself in Asia, the Japanese carmaker is betting on social media and aims to combine inspiring human stories with more insight into its own brand DNA.

The Infiniti QX80 (image: Infiniti)
The Infiniti QX80 (image: Infiniti)

Infiniti is in the process or rolling out adapted versions of its first global branding campaign, 'Beyond Your Numbers', in Asia. It is also set to launch TV spot, ‘Thrones’, in the region in March to promote its QX80 SUV.

While it’s become fashionable for carmakers to talk less about their core products and focus on bigger picture themes, Infiniti, which still has relatively low recognition as a brand, stands somewhere in between. While ‘Thrones’ is a straightforward display of product benefits, the branding campaign aims to fuse product imagery with stories of personal achievement.

The premise is that unfavourable odds mean little in the face of ambition, and, of course, that Infiniti is the car of choice for the most ambitious people. Melissa Bell, Infiniti’s head of global marketing, said it’s about “going beyond the category conventions of tech and spec” to present inspiring stories. It’s not an entirely unique approach, but it’s a neat way of framing Infiniti’s positioning as a challenger brand in the luxury car category.

“It’s the first stake in the ground to telling the brand story,” Bell said. The ‘Thrones’ spot might seem a bit off-narrative, but she explained that it aims to promote the notion of shared success. “We see it as a continuation of the story,” she said. “Cultural convention is around individual success, but for us as a brand it’s about success being better when it’s shared.”

Although China is Infiniti’s second-biggest market after the US, Bell admitted that Infiniti’s brand awareness is still too low, especially in the rest of Asia. In Interbrand’s 2018 Best Global Brands ranking of Japanese brands internationally, car brands dominate. Toyota, Honda and Nissan (Infiniti's parent company) occupy the first three spots, with Lexus—the closest equivalent to Infiniti—at 11. Infiniti itself is nowhere to be found in the top 40.

Bell sees deeper storytelling as a way to strengthen the brand. While the current work features the stories of individual endorsers, including NBA star Stephen Curry, Bell thinks it will be important to present more facets of Infiniti’s own story.

“People don’t know the core DNA of the brand,” she said, noting that tactical communications have taken precedence. “We are very focused on building the car around the driver and this connects to human-centricity and even Japanese hospitality.” She said Infiniti Lab, an accelerator program for entrepreneurs, and the Infiniti Engineering Academy, will also feature more prominently in brand communications this year.

Melissa Bell

“These stories haven’t been told. The meaning of the logo—the crescent is intended to show the endless road on the horizon. Our consumers are interested not just in buying a car but the philosophy of the car and brand and buying into that.”

That may be true, but another challenge might be explaining the product range. One Hong Kong-based car enthusiast who works in marketing said he finds the lineup “confusing”, with too much overlap between models compared to other high-end brands such as Lexus, Mercedes and BMW. However, Bell said she believes Infiniti has already addressed that issue and that as awareness increases in a market, so do sales.

Indeed, sales are up. Infiniti sold 246,492 units globally last year, a 7% increase on 2016. China continued to dominate consumption in Asia with drivers there buying more than 48,000 cars, but the company points to Taiwan as a new relative success story, with a 21% increase in sales to 2,440.

To keep the momentum going, Infiniti is betting on social media. “We see digital and social becoming our primary communications channels,” Bell said. “We want to use the data we have to deliver relevant and personalised messages. Our consumers are progressive and self-driven, and we need to speak to that as well. I think we made progress [in social] in 2017 and that will become even more of a focus in 2018.”

Campaign Japan

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