Start Your Impossible: 5 Questions With Toyota VP US Marketing Ed Laukes


Toyota Start Your Impossible

Toyota has put on quite a display of marketing over the last few months, announcing its first global brand platform, “Start Your Impossible,” in October and expanding on the tagline in blowout campaigns for the 2018 Super Bowl (with the “Good Odds” ad) and Winter Olympics.

Those efforts, in turn, are part of casting Toyota in a wider sense as a “mobility,” not just an automotive, brand, with the Mobility For All website showcasing these ideas.

The brand’s efforts ranged from commercials featuring real people doing seemingly impossible things to ads that featured Toyota’s unique approach not only to automotive but to human mobility, to various ways of highlighting Olympic and Paralympic athletes with whom Toyota partners, ranging from snowboarder Amy Purdy [featured in Toyota’s 2015 Super Bowl ad] to PyeongChang skiing sensation Chloe Kim.

A new #StartYourImpossible global spot, “Join the Team,” highlights that “You don’t have to be a big star to have big dreams. But you’ll never make them come true if you don’t take that first step. At Toyota, we believe when we are free to move, anything is possible. So we’re on a mission to make movement better for everyone.”

“This was the first time with a global campaign,” Ed Laukes, Group VP, Marketing,Toyota Motor Sales USA, told brandchannel about Start Your Impossible. “It was a true labor of love for the organization, building a campaign that has an essence that would work in every single corner of the earth.”

Toyota #StartYourImpossible

Laukes elaborated in a Q&A:

Ed, how has your investment in the Winter Olympics pay off?

Ed Laukes - Group VP, Marketing,Toyota Motor Sales, USAIt’s too early to get some solid data back to the reaction to the brand messaging. [But] we learned a lot about people, culture, laws and, we think, the campaign. The reaction within the organization and externally—both what we follow on social media and what we’ve received from an outpouring of people into the call center—and the dealer reaction in their communities, has been completely overwhelming.

I’ve been with the company 29 years and this is the first time we’ve had a campaign 100% without a car in it. We were nervous about that and reaction from the general public and our retailers. They expect us to showcase their products.

How do you feel about lower TV viewership and the disappointing performance of U.S. athletes?

You put the Olympics into the same category as you do any other linear TV space. Now that you have so much digital and so many other ways to view things, the measurement tools that are out there for any type of TV viewership are completely inaccurate and antiquated. The industry will have to figure it out if the want to continue to sell ad space at a premium. They’re getting innovative now; they have to.

I’m not disappointed in the U.S. team. They showcased the United States and represented the United States very well and while we may have missed a couple of medals along the way, I’m very proud of our team, including the U.S. women’s hockey  team beating Canada, and the way they handled it so graciously. It became a highlight reel for us.

And Chloe Kim is a Toyota athlete; when she became a Toyota athlete she wasn’t even old enough to drive. Then after she could drive, we had to change up her vehicle so it was what she wanted, not what her father drove! I was there when she won her gold medal and the crowd went absolutely bonkers! It’s a great human interest story. It’s all good.

With “Start Your Impossible” laying out the mobility vision for Toyota, what do you hope people will think of when they conjure the Toyota brand in, say, five years?

I hope they still think about some of the things they think about right now.  Our positive impact in hybrid technology and fuel cells, for instance. Really at the end of the day it was a pretty easy transition for us. We started as a loom company!

Toyota #StartYourImpossible Mobility For All

So this movement to a mobility company in the future really isn’t a huge stretch for us. Part of our DNA is to say that we help people move and extending that beyond cars and trucks is a pretty easy gravitation for us. It’s a human right to be able to move and it’s our responsibility socially to help people do that as the population ages and things change around the world.

Will we see this positioning manifested more in products going forward? And where does autonomous driving fit in? 

Yes, right now we are testing a lot of different products. Some will come to the marketplace someday, some will be just a prototype based on an idea—similar to when you go to an auto show and see a prototype. Sometimes these are design experiments or technology experiments, and it will be the exact same thing about mobility: things built around an idea and hopefully some will come to market in some form or fashion.

Toyota Start Your Impossible

[Autonomous driving] is a little bit of a stretch. Autonomous driving is in its early stages for many different organizations. One of the first things that has to happen is different levels of autonomy need to be vetted out and explained. [When you talk about mobility] people immediately think about full autonomy. There are a lot of different factors that would say we have to make some decisions as a society in order to make that happen. It will happen over time.

Toyota Start Your Impossible

How are you improving the customer experience, which will be vital to the success of these plans?

It’s the cornerstone of this organization. I started in ’89 with Lexus; I was the first district sales manager in Chicago. The DNA of Toyota and the customer experience translated into Lexus and it was built from the ground up in Lexus. It’s something at Toyota we work on every day, and is put head and shoulders above everything else we do. When we don’t deliver on that experience we work really hard to make sure that expoerience is improved.

When we introduced ToyotaCare a few years ago—no-cost maintenance for the first two years of ownership—that was a big one. We saw a lot of people not bringing cars to their dealership or maintaining their cars. They weren’t in [a cultural] environment where they’ve learned about maintaining cars.

We thought that ToyotaCare would impact that, and it’s had a huge impact as far as people coming back to store and maintaining their cars and having relationships with our dealers, which translates into greater purchase intent.

Toyota Start Your Impossible

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