PARIS -- When it comes to social marketing, Lexus has been slow out of the gate. As recently as this year, the brand did not even have an active Twitter account.
But Lexus has begun to catch up, making social marketing a main focus for the February launch of the CT 200h hatchback.
"The luxury market is growing faster than the mass market," Mark Templin, Lexus Division general manager, said at the vehicle's press preview here. "Generation X and Y want more luxury goods, so we're going to see a pretty substantial shift in our marketing strategy."
Lexus intenders were allowed to drive prototypes of the CT 200h this year, even before members of the automotive press. Lexus used social media to inform intenders of secret test-drive events in New York, Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles.
Lexus also featured an online spy caper called "Dark Ride" that gave details about the CT 200h as part of an interactive, Web-based movie.
And Lexus conducted a series of star-studded online "green debates" that drew a couple of hundred attendees at the events and generated tens of millions of impressions from people viewing them online.
This month Lexus also unveiled an advertising campaign called "Innovation" that outlines the brand's areas of technical leadership, such as creating the world's largest driving simulator. Half of the media buy will be for broadcast TV and the other half YouTube or iPad apps, said Dave Nordstrom, Lexus vice president of marketing.
"We will have traditional media, but it will be more viral as we head toward the February launch," Nordstrom said.
"People today want to communicate their values. It's more about a relationship than a broadcast. People are more about relating to a brand than making the statement that 'I've arrived.' "
Executives wouldn't say how much Lexus is spending on social media, and the brand is not walking away from traditional media.
But even older Lexus buyers are embracing social media, said Brian Bolain, the brand's national manager of marketing strategy.
"Our older buyers have gotten over their fear of new technology," Bolain said. "Before, online would have been a fractional effort, and we would have wanted to do a wider marketing swath -- meaning television. Now it's much less of a hammer."