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Zeus Tries to Conjure What Scion Lacks: Buyers

Posted by Dale Buss on June 27, 2011 06:30 PM

Launched more than a decade ago as Toyota’s answer to the question, “How do you appeal to new customers as your baby boomer fans age?,” Scion  has been a big disappointment. Sales of the youth-oriented marque with the limited vehicle lineup peaked in 2006 at 173,000 cars and then dropped off to just 45,000 last year.

Part of the problem has been the company’s lack of marketing conviction behind Scion. Toyota spent only $20 million in measured media last year on Scion compared with $888 million on Toyota and $211 on Lexus, AdAge said. Another problem is that the youth market hasn’t had a lot of pocket change over the last few years to spend on new vehicles; good thing their parents’ health policies can cover them until they’re 26 years old now.

Scion’s new Zeus-themed viral video campaign might not be much help in that department.

The online-only ads are mildly humorous, featuring a Greek god who can’t use his omnipotence to figure out a coffee maker or woo an actress. While the Zeus character is caddish and oddly attired, just like Ford’s Focus Doug "spokespuppet" character, for example, Doug’s humor is sharper — and the Ford online-only spots do way more to promote the actual vehicle and its features. The tC barely shows up, if at all, in most of the Zeus spots, far outshone by the god’s beard.

In the kick-off viral ad, Zeus does change the color of a Scion tC to a “high-voltage” bright yellow. Scion is selling only 2,200 of the special-version tCs, with each one featuring a customized body kit, push-button ignition, glossy black-alloy rims and other design accents “inspired” by Zeus. Scion is also sponsoring an interactive game this month for The Onion's new iPad edition.

Scion made a good directional decision in aiming this campaign at Americans up to 34 years old, a decade beyond its previous 18-to-24-year-old target. They tend to have more money than today’s tapped-out youth. And they may be old enough to actually have been taught the Zeus of Greek mythology in school.

It’s going to take more than a few Hollywood lightning bolts to pull Scion out of its swoon. Zeus has a Herculean task before him.

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