Posts Tagged ‘Toyota’

The Power of Massive Hype

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

The Wall Street Journal today is reporting that the vast majority of Toyota accidents were the result of…driver error. Not sticky brake pedals:

The U.S. Department of Transportation has analyzed dozens of data recorders from Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles involved in accidents blamed on sudden acceleration and found that the throttles were wide open and the brakes weren’t engaged at the time of the crash, people familiar with the findings said.

The early results suggest that some drivers who said their Toyotas and Lexuses surged out of control were mistakenly flooring the accelerator when they intended to jam on the brakes.

What’s even more fascinating is how the grievance count suddenly shot up once people heard about the problem. Actually, we didn’t just hear about it, but were barraged by a non-stop, relentless news cycle involving electronic media, print and online media outlet and social media buzz.  Did the hype – not problems with Toyota – lead to the jump in complaints?  I’d say that looks like a pretty safe assumption.

toyota grievences

A similar case of hype leading to mass hysteria is the latest (albeit flawed) Apple iPhone.  While it’s a nice device, there is very little that’s truly new or groundbreaking. If you already have an iPhone or an Android device, there’s not much reason to run right out and buy one.  The rational response would be to hold off until your natural upgrade cycle comes around.

The irrational response, fueled by months of breathless expectation by media and bloggers, along with Steve Jobs’ showmanship at launch, resulted in the thousands upon thousands of people waiting in line to drop down their hard-earned money on a device virtually the same as what they already have. Say what? My take, is the hype created a form of temporary insanity on a mass level, perhaps akin to the way mobs work.

Another example is designer handbags among teenage girls. Although somewhat tempered of late by the recession, my daughter went through a phase where she simply had to have expensive purses.  Working a minimum wage job, she would save pennies to get the latest Dooney & Bourke offering. I would see her purses and just couldn’t understand why she along with many other teenage girls would pay so much for what amounted to a fancy label. Hype and peer pressure are the only explanations.

As a PR person, I’m aware of the influence of hype and therefore largely resistant to its influence.  I counseled friends to buy Toyotas when the sales crashed earlier this year, and tend to avoid overhyped, overpriced Apple products.

But I am fascinated by the incredible power of hype to shape people’s behavior.

To no small degree, this is what marketing, advertising and PR people dream about and strategize endlessly to achieve. Get enough hype, and you have just hit the lottery.  So what’s the magic formula?  Still working on that one, but I’ll let you know once I figure it out.

The Swagger Wagon

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Well, despite the fact that Toyota is a case study for how not to handle a crisis situation…they’ve sure come up with a catchy new YouTube campaign for their new minivan. I’ve seen this video posted all over Facebook and sent numerous times over email. It seems to be a YouTube sensation with 3,347,969 views, you can also find the commercials featuring this same couple, the “Meet the Parents” commercial has 774,232 views!

This campaign has definitely taken on a life of its own, even in light of Toyota’s recent troubles. With safety obviously being one of the number one concerns with their cars, you can bet it’s even more of a factor in marketing their minivan. Instead of focusing on the safety, however, they’ve been able to capture a “coolness” factor which personalizes this car to their target market and perhaps is helping people to forget about the whole sticky gas pedal issue.

I guess laughter really is the best medicine…well played Toyota!

Why All the Fuss About Brand?

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

Brand name, brand experience, brand awareness, brand recognition, brand image, brand franchise, and brand identity…just to name a few. Thanks Wikipedia. Here’s the definition of brand that I like:

The word brand has continued to evolve to encompass identity – in effect the personality of a product, company or service.

Is there a more misunderstood or overused term in marketing than “brand?” I hear the term in planning sessions and see it all over the news, but how can something that is intangible cause such a stir in the corporate world?

In a recent CNET article about the world’s strongest brands, the top tech companies recognized included industry heavyweights Google, IBM and Apple. In fact, Google was the winner for the fourth straight year. Sort of funny when you think about it since IBM and Apple have actual products you can touch whereas Google is really just an online tool, albeit one that has effectively taken over the Web.

Here is the top 10 ranking of global brands in 2010 by research firm Millward Brown Optimor in its fifth annual “BrandZ Top 100 report“.

Top 100 Global Brands

So as we talk about building brand, really, what does brand mean to you? To me Kleenex is a brand—do you ask someone for a tissue or a Kleenex when you’re about to sneeze? The name has effectively taken the place of the product line. I always have considered Sony a strong brand because it stands for quality products. I used to feel that way about Toyota but that’s another story.

A common attribute of brand in advertising that I see is the ability to identify with the product and want to emulate it on some level, like the Michael Jordan commercials with Gatorade (“Be like Mike”) or the Air Jordan shoes.

So in today’s day and age why is brand so important?

Because it’s all about building trust and strengthening brand loyalty. With so many choices available to consumers and companies, as well as so many mediums (radio, TV, social media, etc.) to reach target customers, companies are striving to keep their customers. It’s common knowledge that it costs less to maintain a customer relationship than to secure a new customer.

My feeling is that we’ve seen an uptick in the growth in usage of the term “brand” due to the rise of social media. Tools such as Facebook and MySpace not only give companies a way to reach their customers, but it creates a two-way dialogue that lets the customer engage with the company on an entirely different level. I’ve read about many smart companies that have added an element of customer service via Twitter. Sounds pretty smart to me.

So how can companies strive to instill more “personality” in their brand? What are some unique ways that companies are doing this?

Look in Your Rearview Mirror…Old and Stodgy Might Be Gaining on You

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

When you hear the names Proctor & Gamble and BlueCross BlueShield what images come to mind? Conservative? Old school? Bureaucratic? I think it’s safe to say that these two companies, fairly or unfairly, aren’t exactly known for being progressive or nimble. Yet both of these well-known American brands have recently implemented programs that might surprise you.

laptop P&G is letting several hundred of its workers use their own laptops as part of a workplace experiment.

This pilot program is based on a simple idea: many of P&G’s younger employees would rather use their own laptops than corporate-issued systems.

Blue Cross Logo BlueCross BlueShield plans to introduce online care this year, a service that allows patients to connect with a physician on-demand 24 hours a day using webcams for video links, or secure text messages or telephone conversations.

Toyota Badge I find that the word “brand” is thrown around quite loosely nowadays. Establishing brand takes careful planning, time and smart execution. Yet all the hard work in the world can be thrown by the wayside by a simple misstep – think Toyota could have handled that little gas pedal/floor mat issue any better?

If someone were to ask me what companies come to mind when I hear the words progressive, nimble, risk taking, I don’t think of P&G or BlueCross BlueShield. Yet both of these companies, albeit for different reasons, have adopted new technologies and policies which have helped to strengthen their already strong brands. By implementing these two new programs I believe that both companies are doing a good job of reinforcing their already strong brands by leveraging technology to adapt with the times.

Vision signBy using new technologies and new methods of communicating with their employees and customers, both P&G and BlueCross BlueShield have shown that they have the guts (in a rough economy) to evolve their own brand strategies and take chances.

Are there other conservative, old school companies out there that are showing a willingness to adapt to the modern times?

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