|March 2, 2010|
|Toyota Grabs Olympic Fool's Gold|
|By Kevin McCauley|
|Toyota grabbed fool's gold for the Olympic Games as the embattled Japanese automaker's ads -- either asking for forgiveness or laughing about the “swagger wagon” Sienna minivan -- seemed to have more air time than the actual action in Vancouver. |
It was pure and simple overkill. After 17 days of Olympic programming, one would have logically assumed that Toyota had already put its troubles behind it.
The automaker's "Restore" ad was especially evident. In that spot, Toyota differentiates between "good" and "great" companies. The first fixes its mistakes, while the second “"learns from them."
Left unsaid--what defines an "excellent" company. Does that mean no unexpected acceleration or faulty brake pedals?
Toyota says it is repairing 50K of its recalled cars each day because it wants to restore people’s faith in a company that "has been making safe and reliable cars for more than 50 years." At that repair rate, Toyota technicians will be busy for at least 170 days.
Toyota's shot at redemption was just too much. Olympic viewers became numb to the ads.
There also is a disconnect between the earnest restore theme and hard-sell sales pitches offering zero financing for 60 months of Corolla as a "way of saying thanks." Toyota's hard charge to knock off General Motors from the No. 1 perch contributed to its safety problem, according to Congressional testimony of its president Akio Toyoda.
Forget about thanks, people just want to drive a Toyota that stops. [Note to Toyota's crackerjack marketing team: kill the "moving forward" tagline immediately. It reminds everyone of the unintended acceleration problem. You might as well replace moving forward with "Usually stops when you want it too."]
Current numbers on the odwyerpr.com poll show that Toyota hasn't gained much traction. Forty-one percent of odwyerpr.com respondents said no to the question, "Would you buy a Toyota for your college-age daughter?" Thirty-eight percent said “depends on the deal” and 22 percent responded yes. [An O’Dwyer colleague suggested “depends on daughter” as a response, but that unfortunately was dropped from the poll.]
Toyota can't advertise its way out of its crisis. Good old PR is the way to go.
Meanwhile, Toyota competitor, Hyundai, is experiencing a bit of culture shock. The Korean company is recalling its spanking new Tucson SUV from the market. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that when a driver weighs 240 pounds or more, the passenger airbag won’t activate if a child is riding shotgun.
Hyundai apparently underestimated the heftiness of Americans. Two hundred and forty pounds is a Korean and a half.
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