Saturday, August 28, 2010

Toyota counts on a different story being told

Toyota has just broke a new ad campaign, "Every Toyota has a story." The ad extends to both advertising and Facebook.

The buzz in the ad industry for the past few years has been focused on the importance of advertisers creating an emotional link between their brand and target. Storytelling is repeatedly offered up as a way to create a meaningful two-way personal dialogue with consumers. But, here's the catch - consumers have to want to be a part of the conversation and they have to find the storyteller (the brand) to be credible and trustworthy.

No doubt, Toyota had that kind of relationship with its owners for years, but here's the question: Has Toyota's ability to engage consumers in a meaningful two-way conversation been at all diminished by the bevvy of recalls that have plagued the company in the last few years?

Let's take a look at the history of Toyota's recalls just since January 2009:

1/09: 1.3 million vehicles recalled for seat belt and exhaust system problems
8/09: 690,000 cars recalled because of faulty window switches
9/09: 3.8 million cars recalled due to floor mats trapping acceleration pedals
1/10: 2.3 million more vehicles are recalled because of sticking pedals
1/10: Stop selling eight vehicle models due to sticking pedals
1/10: 1.1 million vehicles recalled due to pedal-entrapment issues
2/10: 437,000 hybrid models recalled due to faulty breaks
8/10: 1.1 million Corollas and Matrix cars recalled due to computer issues
8/10: 1.1 million compact cars are recalled due to engine problems

My math adds all those recalls up to 9.5 million vehicles worldwide in just 19 months.

So, the $9.5 million question is: Will this new ad campaign positively engage consumers at an emotional level?

My gut tells me that the Toyota brand has certainly been damaged in the area of quality, but I think long-time Toyota users will forgive and forget. Toyota has been a reliable vehicle for years and they will likely cut them some slack in the near term.

I think the biggest concern for Toyota are the younger, first-time Toyota buyers. When you don't have a history to draw from, why bother to pledge your allegiance to a brand that hasn't been able to get it right for the past few years?

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