Toyota touts hybrids on shopping network
LOS ANGELES -- In a first for an automaker, Toyota bought three hours of airtime on the Home Shopping Network on Sunday, Oct. 7, to promote its hybrid vehicle lineup.
The three hour-long live shows were scheduled to air in the middle of National Football League coverage on other networks. But 87 percent of Home Shopping Network's 4.7 million viewers are women, so Toyota Division was confident it would reach its intended audience, said Ed Laukes, head of marketing communications for Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.
The programming featured the Toyota Prius family of vehicles, as well as the hybrid versions of the Camry and Avalon sedans and the Highlander crossover.
"Not only will we take them deep into the hybrid technology and how important it is to the Toyota lineup," Laukes said, "but we will also answer questions like how it gets that mileage and what the dealer experience is like."
The interactive nature of Home Shopping Network programming makes it more than an infomercial. Online and telephone conversations between viewers and Toyota reps were expected to continue long after the programming concluded.
"The way the questions come in online or through people calling gives us the ability to tailor our messaging," Laukes said. "We have product presenters who can describe and demystify hybrids, the exact same thing a salesman does on the showroom floor."
Throughout the program, consumers were urged to contact their nearest dealer.
"We're not selling cars; we're informing people about our products," Laukes said. "Our dealers are our No. 1 asset, and we're not going to get into the middle of that process."
He added: "We look at this like an auto show format, where someone could interact with a product specialist. It just happens on TV. Rather than an infomercial that just gives information, this ability to interact is the secret sauce."
Laukes said the Sunday blitz could lead to more involvement with the network.
"We watched how they go through the process of selling coins, clothing, jewelry and big-screen TVs, and we decided to pilot it," he said.
It helps that Home Shopping Network has precise data tracking that will allow Toyota to gauge how successful the promotion was.
"We can tell if we are engaging with that consumer base, how they liked it, how they reacted, if they liked the format, did we get brand lift," Laukes said. "If we sell a bunch of cars, that's an important part. But if we raise brand opinion with consumers, that's important, too."
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