Camry plan: Once more, with feeling

DETROIT — In a campaign billed by executives as the company’s biggest ever, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. is spending $160 million on an attempt to pump some excitement and emotion into its sensible-shoes image as it launches the latest Camry.

Built around the tag line “Get the feeling” — a bid to connect buyers to Toyota’s “Oh what a feeling” tag line that ran from 1980 to 1985 — the campaign will use national and local TV, national newspaper, radio, outdoor, magazines and innovative Internet deals with America Online and MSN.

The scale and focus of the campaign underscore Toyota’s concern with the aging of its customer base. The automaker, which typically is associated with such prime over-40 priorities as durability and value, even has considered a separate sales channel to woo younger buyers.

“We did research over the last 12 months on where our brand is and where it can go,” said Steve Sturm, vice president of marketing for Toyota Division.

“We found that consumers love our products but want to get more emotionally involved with them. We looked at bringing back the ‘Oh what a feeling’ tag line, but people told us it needed to be more relevant to today.”

The company began unleashing the massive, multimedia push Monday, Aug. 20, when it aired five-

second teasers for the Camry on NBC, Fox and core cable networks as well as Delta Airlines and United Airlines in-flight programming. The full TV assault begins Monday, Sept. 3, followed by the print launch Sept. 7.

‘Get the feeling’

“Get the feeling” will be used in all Toyota brand advertising and retail messages. Although Toyota considered a proposal to market cars, trucks, youth and sport-utility products according to category, Sturm said the division’s first priority is to establish the new tag line in people’s minds and to launch the Camry, the nation’s best-selling car for four straight years through 2000.

For instance, he said, Camry ads will use the phrase “You’re going to want one” and will show consumers captivated by the new sedan’s styling.

“What we want to do is establish one feel, one campaign line and one voice to Toyota; then we’ll evolve it to the next level,” he said.

The one voice will be actor Jeff Goldblum, who will provide voice-overs for the national TV and radio ads.

Sturm said Goldblum will not appear on the ads, and he will not make appearances during Toyota sales events or in retail ads.

The print schedule includes 14 multi- or single-page ads for the Camry with a lifestyle theme. A teaser campaign broke Friday, Aug. 24, in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today. Full-page spreads will appear in those newspapers on Sept. 7.

Single- and multi-page ads for the Camry also will appear in September and October issues of In Style, Vanity Fair, Sunset, Bon Appetit and Conde Nast Traveler. Camry inserts will be placed in such automotive publications as AutoWeek, Automobile, Car and Driver and Motor Trend.

Web promotion

Toyota also is buying a major Internet presence in a determined push to reach a younger audience. It will run Camry promotions on America Online’s homepage through November and has signed up to be a sponsor of AOL’s “Back Stage Pass” music site.

And, as a result of a merchandising deal, people who buy a Camry before Dec. 1 will receive six months free AOL service.

Toyota also will stream 15-second Camry spots on the Microsoft CarPoint car-buying site beginning in October.

Camry spots also will be featured in Microsoft’s MSN.com home page beginning in October.

Anyone downloading the Windows Media Player from Windows XP will see a 15-second Camry spot as the software is loading.

“We figure that 75 percent of the people who go online using AOL or MSN.com will see advertising on Camry,” Sturm said.

He said the marketing agreement with Microsoft is the first between an advertiser and the software giant.

Wanted: Excitement

Buzz Rodland, chairman of the Toyota National Dealer Council, said a brand campaign has been sorely missed in the past few years as Toyota rapidly expanded its product lineup.

“We needed a string to pull all the bottles together,” said Rodland, who owns Rodland Toyota in Everett, Wash.

“Dealers felt we had equity in the word ‘feeling’ because of the old advertising line. It’s not only a catchall phrase; it speaks about what we’re doing with the buying process.”

Todd Turner, head of Car Concepts, a marketing consulting firm in Thousand Oaks, Calif., said Toyota urgently needs to add some excitement to its brand identity.

“Toyota was headed into the Volvo trap” of losing its identity to one attribute, said Turner. “If you buy a car because it’s good for you, then you’re looked at as a person who doesn’t take risks.”

You can reach Laura Clark Geist at autonews@crain.com

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