Toyota’s “Más Que Un Auto” Champaign
Section I. General information
· Company/organization: Toyota Motor Sales
· Advertising agency: Conill Advertising
· Target: Hispanic market
Section II. Campaign background
*A piece of advice for anyone who’s been number one in their category for an entire decade: wear a flak jacket. After ten years as the number-one automotive brand in the Hispanic market, Toyota was under immense competitive pressure. Nissan, in particular, was mounting a serious assault on Toyota’s leadership, achieving 19% market growth from 2013 to 2014. Toyota has long recognized the Hispanic market as a linchpin of the brand’s overall success, and they’ve been diligent in giving Hispanic consumers recognition for their importance. To lose the number one spot would weaken the brand considerably. Asked to help fortify Toyota against the growing competitive threat, the agency recommended a program to celebrate Hispanic consumers for helping Toyota achieve the milestone of ten years in the top spot, not just to say thanks for their role in Toyota’s story but also to help consumers tell great stories of their own.
The brief from Toyota was twofold: deepen the bond between the brand and Hispanics, and strengthen buyers’ loyalty – emphasizing both culture and commerce, if you will. In the short term, the goal was to see the campaign catch on as a pop-culture phenomenon, but in the long term they wanted to cement Toyota’s place as the category leader and inoculate owners against the influence of competitive brands.The first challenge faced came from a brand perspective. The agency had to create a campaign that aligned with the culture and spirit of Toyota. That meant finding a way not to boast about being the leader but rather to show gratitude to the people who helped them reach and maintain that position. The strategy the team developed was to “pay tribute to the power of togetherness,” acknowledging that, together, Toyota and Hispanics were able to achieve this milestone.
The dog-eat-dog competition of the automotive market presented a second formidable challenge. With Nissan and other brands clawing their way to market growth, customer retention is harder than ever. Any campaign or program developed to mark Toyota’s ten-year milestone had to put customers at the forefront and celebrate them, not the brand.
Section III. Campaign development
The planning team’s key insight was that, to Hispanic consumers, their cars – especially their Toyotas – are more than mere transportation. To Hispanics, their car represents something big in their lives – a milestone, an achievement. Research revealed Hispanic owners had an extraordinary love for their Toyotas. They saw their vehicle as an extension of themselves, often personifying their car or truck and treating it as a virtual member of the family.
So Toyota gave customers the chance to do what they were already doing – name their Toyotas, except in an even more proud, public, and decidedly fun way. Every car’s name has a story. Toyota wanted to give owners a chance to share theirs. With this, they wanted to seal the bond between car and owner, and take them from rational to emotional.
After developing the strategy, the planning team played a crucial role in keeping the other teams focused on what this campaign was all about – thanking Hispanic customers for keeping Toyota at the top for ten consecutive years. The consumer was at the center of all steps: strategic, creative, and media. For example, in working with the media planners, the strategists emphasized that placement was hyper-targeted to reach the most potentially responsive consumers through a range of channels: addressable TV, cinema, digital, social, direct mail, and events. Throughout the life of the campaign, media plans were closely examined and fine-tuned to capitalize on the channels delivering the highest customer return.
The team already knew that Hispanics had a strong connection with their cars and that naming them was a big part of the relationship. The agency also knew that customized badges were a compelling way to celebrate that relationship. The question was on the logistics front: How would consumers get their badges in an easy, seamless way?
The Conill team turned to the insight that Hispanics are early technology adopters, especially over-indexing in mobile usage. Yet, they also knew that consumers wouldn’t have patience for a complicated or overly intrusive ordering process; the platform was the key to success. Putting those insights together, Conill partnered with a tech team to develop a network hub that was intuitive from start to finish. The consumer simply needed to visit masqueunauto.comLinks to an external site. and enter their address and the name of their Toyota to submit an order. A week later, a shiny, customized badge, with the same look and feel as the vehicle’s original factory badges, arrived in the mail, ready to be placed on their car. Toyota asked for only one thing in exchange: to know the love stories behind those names.
Immediately, orders started pouring in by the thousands, and the social media channels got flooded with pictures of Toyotas showing their unique names and stories. Some names were fierce, such as Diablo, Blacula, El Torito (the Little Bull), others romantic, like Luna Azul [Blue Moon] and Gaviota (Seagull). Some sounded like a family pet – for example, Buddy, Peepo, and Wilbert. Some others reflected loyalties and interests (Adventuremobile). Others were just pure emotion, such as Heyhey. One badge, Rori Boy, even graces the backside of a NASCAR racing machine.
While the campaign was aimed at Hispanic Toyota owners, the appeal stretched far beyond the intended target, from non-Hispanics in the US all the way to the UK, Mexico, and Japan. It seems that the emotional bond between owners and their Toyotas knows no ethnic boundary.
Section IV. Effect of the campaign
From its soft launch on “National Name Your Car Day,” October 2, 2014, through its six-month run in media channels, such as online, cinema, addressable TV, direct marketing, and events, the “Más que un Auto” campaign blew away Toyota’s highest expectations – and it swamped the badge makers for a little while. Demand was so great they had to increase the initial materials inventory by 300%. When they informed some customers of “slight” delays in the badges getting out, handwritten letters from car owners began arriving at Toyota’s customer service center with stories of why their cars deserved a badge. Toyota didn’t expect this type of response from customers, but they certainly welcomed it. And they noted that Toyota owners didn’t just name their cars but also ascribed virtue to their vehicles.
Toyota would have been delighted with 25,000 badge orders. They sent out 100,000. During the six-month program, sentiment for the Toyota brand among target consumers reached the seemingly impossible 100% positive.
Figure 6.1.2 “Más que un Auto” Toyota TV ad – storyboard
Social media proved to be perhaps the brightest of all the bright spots, with 20.8 million earned impressions. This eclipsed the number of paid impressions by five times. Further, the campaign achieved a total of 5.5 million engagements, and over 98 million impressions across all media, exceeding campaign goals and every established benchmark within social media channels:
· Four times the benchmark for Facebook engagement rate (9% versus 2.2% initial goal)
· Two times the benchmark for Twitter engagement rate (3.06% versus 1.25% initial goal)
To date, “Más que un Auto” has produced the highest user-generated content in the history of the Toyota brand in the US – the entire market, not just the Hispanic segment. More importantly, when the post-campaign sales rankings came in Toyota maintained the number one rank among Hispanics for the eleventh year in a row, further solidifying its spot at the top despite the competitive pressure. Post-campaign Toyota held 16.8% of the market, with the closest runner-up Nissan at 12.3%.
What started as a “campaign” has become much more than that – it has continued as a platform for the brand to keep connecting with Hispanic consumers. Next up: Toyota will publish the “Book of Names,” a special publication that immortalizes the names people have given to their vehicles.
Owning the leadership position is more fun when you get to share it with someone else, and that’s what “Más que un Auto” was all about.
—Chris Traina, Conill Chief Communication Officer