Posted by Dale Buss on September 27, 2011 10:00 AM
Toyota achieved a sort of pinnacle in the U.S. market by creating reliable, high-quality, fuel-economic products. But the brand's superiority in each of those areas has been eroded over the last three years by Toyota's own mistakes and by improving competition.
Now that Toyota seems to have put the drag of its 2010 safety recall and this year's earthquake in its rear-view mirror, it will be interesting to see how the company positions the brand in its attempt to recover U.S. market share. The early returns: The new Toyota isn't the old Toyota.
Take the 2011 campaign for the Toyota Venza, a fair-to-middling cross-over utility vehicle that the brand introduced a couple of years ago, but which hasn't been a headline nameplate for the automaker — yet.
The Venza spots (watch more below) are very clever and, well, un-Toyota-like because they rely on personality and humor. The basic schtick is that, while twenty-somethings are depicted "communicating" on Facebook and wondering why their boomer parents don't "live life" to the fullest like they do, the 'rents are depicted off having the time of their lives (in, of course, their Venza).
Expect more of the unexpected from Toyota in an early digital-and social-media campaign for the new version of its Yaris subcompact due out in the next several weeks. The campaign focuses on the vehicle's "essence" as a car, a simple means of transport, rather than as a rolling platform for iPod content as so many small cars now are positioned. (Online videos for the Yaris campaign feature a deadpan turn by comedian Michael Showalter spoofing the model's special features.)
There's more to come from Toyota that will help it break out of its old perceptual box, as well. Toyota long has been known for relatively stodgy styling (except when it comes to the Prius). But the design of the brand's vehicles will get more and more aggressive, company executives told Automotive News Europe, a trend that was expressed in Toyota's vehicles on display at the Frankfurt Auto Show.
Toyota may yet again achieve the dominance in the U.S. market that it enjoyed until three years ago. But it won't be built the same way.