When Erich Funke, Saatchi & Saatchi’s creative director, sat down with Executive Director Chuck Maguy to work on the Tundra campaign, they needed a hook to attract truckers who were already married to Ford and Chevy.
Working with Kim McCullough, corporate manager for communications for Toyota and TelevisionWeek’s Automotive Marketer of the Year, the Saatchi & Saatchi team brainstormed its way to the central question: How could they market the 2007 Tundra as “a three-quarter-ton truck in the body of a half-ton vehicle”?
To answer that question, Mr. Maguy said, they looked to the streets.
“The Toyota people’s sales objective was to capture part of a market where domestics did five times the volume,” Mr. Maguy said. “Toyota set out to get a stronghold in the market. They spent seven or eight years in the field to find out what consumers need.”
It might have seemed, at first glance, that what truckers needed was what they already had: trucks that were “like a rock” and “built Ford-tough.” Even the No. 3 Dodge Ram had an old “outwork, outhustle” promo that many truckers remembered.
By July 2007, that “outhustle” ethic appeared to have been usurped by Toyota, as sales of Ram units had dropped by 6,716 units, according to R.L. Polk & Co. charts, while Tundra sales were surging.
To Saatchi, the first priority had been clear: Prove to diehard American truckers that a Japanese import could meet their trucking needs—and still give them street cred with their drinking buddies.
That ability for potential buyers to “win the barstool debate” made a huge impact on the Tundra campaign, Mr. Maguy said. The agency went to work with Ms. McCullough and her staff at Toyota to “give the person who buys a Tundra the ammunition” to fend off comments from Ford and Chevy owners who thought Toyota couldn’t make a decent truck.
They also had to fight the memory battle: Truckers have long memories, and many remembered that the early-model Tundras were “overbuilt and overengineered.”
First up: The agency ran 15-second teaser spots showing ring gears, brake calipers and other components of the new Tundra that could outperform the competition, designed to make owners of domestics question the muscle of their full-size trucks.
Then there were the Super Bowl spots, which showcased the Tundra performing full-on, death-defying stunts, all done without resorting to cinematic trickery. There were no CGI-enhanced spots that might turn off potential customers; the ads, like the trucks, were aimed at making a down-to-earth pitch that would bring in down-to-earth buyers.
Next step: Toyota and Saatchi & Saatchi, along with Conill, took the truck to the people. Conill booked the marketing effort mainly at entertainment events aimed at the Hispanic market; Saatchi & Saatchi took it to the lumber yards and farm equipment and fishing supply stores.
These Ride & Drive tours allowed potential buyers to see and feel the revamped Tundra. The marketers also went to the dealerships, where every employee was trained to answer questions about the truck—even the receptionists, who had to field calls after exhibitions at local businesses.
Toyota also went to NASCAR, showing the Tundra on-site at races while sponsoring teams in the Nextel Cup (now Sprint Cup), Busch Series (now Nationwide Series) and Craftsman Truck Series.
At the same time, the Tundra became the official truck of BASS—Bass Anglers Sportsmen Society—appearing on ESPN’s bass fishing broadcasts and supporting catch-and-release programs.
Targeting the country music crowd seemed inevitable, and the Tundra became the title sponsor for the Brooks & Dunn Long Haul tour, with more on-site displays and concert promotions.
Tundra’s sales tripled for domestic pickup replacements between the product launch and August 2007, according to J.D. Power & Associates. But the campaign is ongoing, Mr. Maguy said, and overcoming the ghosts of Tundras past is still sometimes an issue.
“We’re still in the phase of establishing our credentials as a real truck in [some of] these truckers’ minds,” he said. “We’re still evolving. We’re still striving to establish the Tundra as a benchmark in the industry.” He added the grass-roots events have gone a long way toward reaching that goal.
“You can sit in the [cab],” he said, “and experience the detail Toyota has gone to. You can see the sealant in the bed, so it doesn’t leak. They spent years thinking these things through.
“They increased their headroom,” he said of the full-size truck. “You can keep your hard hat on or wear your cowboy hat and sit in the front seat.”
To a cowboy, a country music lover or a farmer looking for a replacement truck, that might make a big difference.