LOS ANGELES -- Advertising of dealers' parts and service need not be dull -- or done by the parts department or the regional dealer ad association on a shoestring budget.
Eighteen months ago, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. placed all marketing of parts, service and accessories under the company's marketing arm, the same group that handles new-vehicle marketing. The move has reaped huge dividends, the company says.
The resulting promotional campaigns have been higher in quality, and the unified national efforts have resulted in much higher returns on investment, said Jack Hollis, Toyota Division vice president of marketing.
"A significant part of our business -- and a significant driver of customer loyalty -- is parts and service," Hollis said. "We wanted to unify the messages between the front and back ends of the business."
Although Toyota includes two years of maintenance in the price of new vehicles under the ToyotaCare program, dealers still endure steady leakage of parts and service customers to independent repair shops.
Toyota's current national advertising theme -- under the slogan "Keep your Toyota a Toyota" -- is an attempt to show why it's important for owners to keep going to a Toyota dealership. The commercial compares going to an independent repair shop to hiring a random doctor, accountant or plumber, with the expected bad results.
Saatchi LA, the Toyota brand's main ad agency, is doing the creative work for the Toyota service advertising.
A couple of new-car marketing characters have joined advertising for the back shop. In mainstream campaigns, "Jan the Receptionist" is directing customers to the service drive, now rebranded as Toyota Service Centers. Pro football broadcasts now have "Coach T" making cringe-worthy appearances in the Toyota service bay.
Toyota also has posted "Maintenance Made Interesting" videos on YouTube that places the narrator in ridiculous situations while explaining the benefits of tire rotation or changing brake pads.
Brian Sciumbato, Toyota's corporate manager of service, parts and accessory marketing, said previous Toyota back-shop campaigns were mostly limited to sponsorships of radio traffic reports. The results were poor: An internal survey showed only 17 percent of 18,000 active radio listeners recalled Toyota's spots, and fewer still were motivated to go to a dealership as a result.
Now the campaigns are tied to search engines and "engagement events" such as motorsports and the Specialty Equipment Market Association convention.
In the first year under the new marketing setup, Toyota registered 200 million consumer impressions, resulting in 40 times more leads for its dealership service drives. Clicks to Toyota's owners' Web site are up dramatically, as is the number of owners who searched for something specific or made a service appointment on the site.
In October, Toyota launched its first nationwide tire sale under a "buy three, get one free" tag line through TV, Pandora Internet radio service and print. It resulted in a 45 percent year-over-year increase in business, with 279,000 tires sold, Sciumbato said. Some savvy dealers in Denver, Kansas City and Cincinnati linked the promotion to a prewinter snow-tire sale, and their business doubled.
At the National Automobile Dealers Association convention, Toyota launched a national program to boost sales of parts. Dealerships are encouraged to place stock and accessorized vehicles next to each other on the showroom floor. A tiny curtained theater shows videos of how cars can be souped up with Toyota and Toyota Racing Development branded accessories.
A pilot accessories program in San Francisco put a big promotion on a $49 Prius cargo tray that keeps gear from rolling around in the hatchback. The campaign pushed cargo tray penetration from nearly zero to installation in one of every five new Priuses sold.
"This is the first time we're getting into accessory marketing," Sciumbato said. "This is a huge opportunity for growth and to create consumer awareness."