Nissan’s Golf “Makeover” Taps Into Japanese Thirst for Endurance
Most golf enthusiasts look at a round of 18 on the links as a relaxing way to spend an afternoon. The hazards, aside from wickedly slicing a ball into sand trap or lake, are few. But what would it be like to play on a course that offered a little more edge; where the hazards are sand dunes and waterfalls and instead of a golf cart you are asked to tear around from tee to tee in a SUV crossover?
A recent advertising promotion by Nissan did just that, by challenging Japanese car consumers as well as those with an affinity for adventure. The “X-Treme Golf Cup” pitted three competitors (out of 300 applicants) to play what the campaign billed as “18 holes of the most difficult golf ever played.” The players faced larger-than-life obstacles, such as braving deep caves, dense forests, and sheer cliffs over 1,934 kilometers during a 96 hour time period. The tournament’s grand prize was Nissan’s new X-Trail Hybrid—the same vehicle the three participants used to navigate the course. Check out Nissan’s short film on the challenge below:
In the 1 minute video, Nissan captures the appeal of why each golfer enjoys participating in such an outlandish event. (You can watch an extended version of the video here.) The agency responsible for the campaign, TBWA Hakuhodo, made a savvy decision when they decided on the creative path. Match the sensibilities of a Nissan crossover vehicle with gaman (我慢)—a term which loosely translates as “endurance.”
Gaman is a unique Japanese mentality. Derived from Zen Buddhist thought, the concept has a lot to do with surviving hardship and showing stoic endurance through difficult times. A write-up in The Australian following the devastating 2011 earthquake why gaman is an important cultural idea, that helps Japanese overcome natural disasters or simply find enjoyment in games where feats of mental and physical endurance are highly prized.
From the business world to the playground, gaman (also known as gaman kurabe, or a “test of wills”) dictates a cultural desire to persevere at any cost and to not be undone by any sort of challenge, large or small. It’s a competitive spirit that emerges at the slightest hint of any sort of personal challenge.
Apply the idea of gaman to a marketing campaign directed at young Japanese consumers, and it’s easy to see why coming up with the idea of the X-Treme Golf Cup was a no-brainer. Mastering golf is no easy task in of itself. Mix it with a course designed to challenge a person’s abilities, and Nissan gets a subtle, storytelling-driven car campaign that makes the brand instantly synonymous with endurance, without a need for hard marketing. The company’s softer angle toward product placement means the emphasis is not only about the car, but also about the adventure. In a day and age where endurance is what separates Japanese automobiles from the competition, Nissan gives itself an enduring new edge.
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