Auto Marketing: It’s All About Mind-Set

Apr 11, 2005  •  Post A Comment

By Jill Anne Ciminillo

Special to TelevisionWeek

Scion, the newest marque of Toyota Motor Co., has a marketing plan that is as unconventional as its vehicles.

Rather than focusing on the product, the brand focuses on image and mind-set. Dawn Ahmed, national marketing communications manager for Scion, said the marketing approach is designed to connect with Generation Y (people born between 1980 and 1994), Scion’s target consumer and the second-largest generation after the baby boomers.

In terms of a television campaign, Scion has opted for a limited yet targeted approach that speaks directly to the audience.

Because Gen Y makes up such a large demographic, its members are being marketed to as never before. This leaves the young generation with a lot of information to sift through.

“Discovery is very important to them,” Ms. Ahmed said. “They want to find you.”

Ms. Ahmed said marketing to Gen Y on late-night TV and cable, with cable carrying most of the weight, is one way to help consumers “find” Scion. Scion has bought ad time on 14 cable networks, including MTV, ESPN, Comedy Central, Spike TV, Cartoon Network and the International Channel, she said.

According to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR, Scion spent $13.3 million on cable advertising in 2004-more than 50 percent of its total TV ad dollars.

“Cable allows us to not only target a younger demographic very effectively, but also a male demographic as well as a mind-set,” Ms. Ahmed said. “We have more opportunity within the cable space to be very focused in our buys.”

TV Just Part of Picture

However, Simon Needham, group creative director for ATTIK-the agency in charge of Scion’s ad strategy and creative direction-said television is just one of the ways Scion markets to Gen Y.

On behalf of the Scion brand, Toyota spent just under $25 million on television buys in 2004, the first full year for Scion sales, according to CMR. That’s more than it spent on any of the other traditional media, but it is still a small fraction of the $651 million that big brother Toyota spent on its marquee TV buys.

Through focus groups and man-on-the-street interviews, Scion discovered that “heard from a friend” and “saw on street” were common methods of learning about the brand, and that was as high as having seen or heard advertisements in mass media, according to Scion executives.

Thus, Scion uses a form of guerrilla marketing that places the vehicles smack-dab in the middle of where its target audience hangs out, and Ms. Ahmed said events and promotions play a key role in the marketing strategy.

Because the Gen Y buzzword is “discovery,” Scion’s nontraditional grass-roots efforts focus on events and promotions, specifically aligning the brand with music and the tuner culture that lives to customize cars. Nightclubs, tuner events and art fairs all are places Scion might position a vehicle to be discovered.

Translating that back to a TV buy, Ms. Ahmed said that key draws in terms of programming include hip-hop, customization shows such as “Pimp My Ride,” anime programming, comedy and sports.

Playing to Strengths

Scion commercials play to these strengths. They are action-packed with urban hip-hop music in the background. Some use live action, while others look like a video game.

“It’s almost like you don’t sell to [Gen Y],” Mr. Needham said. “You present them with content and allow them to make the decision on whether they want to go forward.”

As Scion launches a new ad campaign during April with two new TV spots, music and computer-generated animation will play a central role, Ms. Ahmed said. Viewers will discover something new every time they watch the spot, Ms. Ahmed said.

Ming-Jou Chen of Toyota/Scion product communications said this unique approach has been successful.

“Median age is around 35; we’re over 50 percent male, and more than 80 percent of buyers are new to Toyota,” she said.

Not to mention that Scion sold 99,259 vehicles in 2004. Ms. Chen said Scion’s goal was 75,000.

Going beyond the numbers, Mr. Needham measures success a little differently. In the two years since the campaign launched, ATTIK has conducted qualitative interviews regarding the Scion brand, and 95 percent of the respondents said Scion was “urban” and “cool.”

“Those are the words we wanted to hear,” Mr. Needham said. “If you take sales out of it, what we’re doing is what everyone thinks.”