Palmer also inserted marketers into new product development from Day One.
Before, marketers would take their first crack at a product six months before start of sales. Now, Palmer says, "they are closely associated with the product four years out.
"When you come down to the last six months, which is booking your advertising space, fundamentally, your advertising position is well understood and simplified."
Thanks to such efforts, Nissan has climbed steadily in brand-perception rankings.
In 2010 it wasn't even on the radar of Interbrand's annual survey of the world's 100 most valuable brands. In 2011 it cracked the list at No. 90, and by last year it had risen to No. 65.
The survey measures brands based on financial performance, advertising exposure, consistency, customer understanding, clarity and relevance.
Palmer says he seeks marketing guidance from, among others, academics at the London Business School and Jim Press. The former Toyota Motor Corp. board member and Chrysler Group president has been a Nissan adviser since 2010.
Press calls Palmer a jack-of-all-trades who can be hands-on in all areas of the business. "There aren't many people with that ability," Press says. "He oversees a very complicated and complex portfolio. He's a terrific example of a global automotive executive."
Nissan's problem, Press says, is that marketing hasn't caught up with product.
That is partly because Nissan was on the brink of bankruptcy when Renault stepped in to rescue the company in 1999. Ghosn channeled Nissan's then-paltry cash flow into basics such as product development and manufacturing, not marketing.
"He inherited a company that was pretty well hollowed out," Press says. "They never really focused on brand development. That's what they are doing now."
Ghosn has made improving brand value a key pillar of his Power 88 business plan, which ends March 31, 2017. Nissan has invested billions of dollars in EVs and wants to take leadership in autonomous driving. But the message isn't sinking in, Ghosn says.
"That is the job of Andy," he says. "We discovered that even though we were developing a lot of products, a lot of technologies, in a certain way it was not communicated very well.
"The marketing side is a little weak. It is his responsibility to make it an asset for Nissan."
Palmer has another tough task: reaching the 8 percent global market share goal targeted by Power 88. In June 2011, the combined share of Nissan and Infiniti was about 5.5 percent. It had climbed to only 5.9 percent by last September, Nissan says.
Again, Palmer's sales road map brings him back to the data.
"We've got to get our incentive spends under control," Palmer says. "You should be able to use mathematics to model more or less where they should be. My hypothesis is that sales is a process, and therefore a process can be monitored like a production line, and within a statistical error, you can anticipate what's going to happen."
He suggests that just as global marketing methods were tightened and standardized, global sales methods will be, too. Some may even include new rules for dealerships.
Refining the dealer experience is especially important, he says, because customers spend more time researching online and less time visiting showrooms.
"From the moment somebody walks through the door, there is a process that can be applied and there is training that can be applied," Palmer says. "The way in which you welcome somebody can, in some way, be mandated."