Jim Farley, Toyota Division's vice president of marketing, is on the fast track. Farley, 44, successfully launched Toyota's Scion youth brand in the United States, bettering its initial sales and demographic targets. Now he has the much broader role of overseeing U.S. marketing for the Toyota brand.
At last month's Frankfurt auto show, Farley spoke with Automotive News' Los Angeles Bureau Chief, Mark Rechtin, about where Toyota's marketing is headed.
Isn't a hybrid marketing campaign hypocritical when you sell more big trucks than you do hybrids?
Consumers are smart. They understand Toyota makes a lot of different vehicles. Hybrid Synergy Drive is not a conflict with us building Sequoia or Tundra. It's the reality of the car business.
What are the lessons you learned at Scion that you are carrying over to Toyota?
We learned at Scion how to conquest people who could care less about our brand or product. That part we got right. Toyota's awareness as a brand is quite high, so any new Toyota is going to have a lot of natural traffic. Smaller brands don't have that luxury.
The part of the purchase funnel where Toyota struggles is consideration. The methodology of doing that is very different for a Scion than it would be for a Toyota Tundra.
But a Tundra (promotion) at a construction site is no different than doing spring break for Scion or a country-western talent show for Sequoia. You have to make the customer an advocate for you, to create word of mouth.
Toyota deserves to be a contemporary brand. Scion has allowed us to expand in the marketing world, to put a contemporary bow on it. Toyota products are seen as Brooks Brothers, but with more emotional styling, Toyota could be something more than just Brooks Brothers.
Our Hybrid Synergy Drive is our first step forward, our first big initiative. There are a few other things up our sleeve to make the Toyota brand more modern. So stay tuned.
It has to be a little weird to go from a $5 million ad budget to a $1 billion budget.
Or more. Day in, day out, it's a completely different world. Scion was about idea generation, operational ideas.
At Toyota, the work flow just comes out from the cumulative amount of media we buy, as well as the auto shows and dealer shows, and there is always a car to launch. It's more about getting the quantity and quality right.
At Scion, it was all about the quality of communications and events, who came to the events, and what we did at the events.
At Toyota, it's much more difficult to have that. It's just not practical to look at it that narrowly.
There is talk of taking the Camry to 500,000 units. How do you market the best-selling car in America to be even better-selling?
The mid-sized sedan segment is down this year. There is interest in a lot of other product propositions in the same price zone.
You see personality vehicles like Mini, and there are small SUVs, too. Mid-sized sedans have to work harder to maintain their presence.
It's not realistic to expect us to sell 500,000 Camrys, and it's not what we'd want to do as a company. To continue to have Camry be the best-seller, we have to make its personality a lot stronger. Consumers are rewarding manufacturers willing to engage in intelligent risk-taking in terms of the personality of their products.
Consumers also are penalizing those who walk away from stronger personalities in favor of being cautious. The next Camry will be more sporty, plus there will be a huge additive and uplift and image with the Hybrid Synergy Drive version.
Having a hybrid Camry says so much about Toyota - to put its most advanced powertrain in the best-selling car in America, when we have the Prius already.
We want to make Camry have multiple personalities within the same family. BMW has all kinds of different versions of the 3 series. It's about time that concept came to mid-sized sedans.
What is your opinion of product placement in straight editorial pieces, such as what Lexus is proposing?
It's a tricky concept, because there already is so much advertorial out there. Media companies are looking for more ways to generate income. That means more advertorial opportunities, but this is living right on that fine line. I know these are great opportunities (but) I acknowledge the complicated media world we live in.
For the launch of the FJ Cruiser, we are working with lifestyle magazines on fun projects that are win-win for everyone. But I would never, as a marketer, want to compromise the credibility of any of our media partners.
That's what it comes down to. It is good judgment not to hurt the credibility of the writer or journalist or media source. It's not in our best interest because that's one less thing the public can trust.
Consumers are looking for an independent voice, a sanctuary of credibility. That fine line will be investigated more and more. I hope it never gets to the point where there is not an independent source. As much as it frustrates me to read an article I don't agree with, it is more important to have that credibility because Toyota still wins in that environment.
What about sponsoring an entire magazine? Is it different for Target to buy all the advertising in (an issue of) The New Yorker, compared to the Chrysler group having just Chrysler cars featured alongside Chrysler ads in a dedicated issue of Automobile?
Did it affect the editorial content? If it's a large presence without any effect on editorial, if it's a co-branding opportunity, what's wrong with that? But if the consumer opens the book and says, "Hmm " then it's a problem.
It happens all the time, where certain publishers come to us and ask if we want to do it. These publishers are under profit pressure, and we are put in the situation of saying, how far do we want to go with it?
I am a big believer in print, because it has a specific psychographic audience. But it's important to keep that credibility intact. It's getting muddier every day because of the profit picture, and with all the automotive brands motivated for conquest.
Toyota made an advertising splash talking about all its vehicles that get more than 30 miles per gallon. Are you planning on resurrecting that, especially with gas prices hovering near $3 a gallon?
The thing we found out with the 30 miles per gallon campaign was that everyone already knows it. Traffic was so strong we had less than a 10-day supply of Corollas.
What we are doing now is a launch-level campaign. We want to make Hybrid Synergy Drive the Intel chip of cars. We want it to be a badge of honor.
We're at the point with hybrid vehicles where we are done selling to opinion leaders. Now we are selling to mainstream customers.
Mostly we're going to focus on the environment, miles per gallon, social responsibility and people making a choice.
People are surprised, finding out the performance elements of Hybrid Synergy Drive. They are finding it's not just about getting 40 miles per gallon. The campaign will have legs to include Camry Hybrid, and the implication of more to come.
How is Toyota furthering its Hispanic advertising?
It's wonderful. I smile because our Hispanic advertising is getting so competent that we are thinking of putting (the ads) in English and running them in the general market. The buyer base is so bilingual that it's coming full circle.
The message in Hispanic ads tends to be very emotional and cultural. We already have Tundra and 4Runner spots in both languages. The consumer base for Tundra is bilingual, since they work in construction or housing, and that's a bilingual world. And the 4Runner is upscale. Hispanic culture is starting to become well known among general market consumers.
That's the thing about Tundra. They'll look at you differently than if you drive a Ford or Chevy. Toyota has this bulletproof reputation, but it's purely image. And they know the capability is there. But we still have to convince the Hispanic consumer that he is thoughtful, tough and creative enough to buy a Tundra. We don't have to prove the capability side to the Hispanic buyer.
Where do you stand on advertising on TV vs. print vs. outdoor vs. the Web?
It is continuing the shift to multimedia. We're seeing more cellular phone ads, more interactive, more sharing of content. Television is still a vast majority of our budget. We want to work more with network, but the process could be better. Is it better to have the up-fronts? Yeah, because the savings are substantial and it also forces the company to decide what we want to do.
But absolutely, we will see a continued divergence of funds in different media. Because awareness and intentions are so high, people need to discover us individually. We are doing more events like we do with Bass Pro Shops, as well as cell phone ads and cable (TV) deals. We want to do more things like our relationship with the NBA, rather than just buying time during the games.