October 7, 2010

Oh, what a feeling (to work in Toyota’s PR department)!

Toyota relies on brand legacy during times of trouble

Talk about a summer of discontent. It seems that almost every week, another Toyota vehicle recall is announced. And it feels like no make or model year has dodged (pardon the pun) the recall bullet.

For instance, in April 2010, 50,000 Toyota Sequoias were recalled to reprogram the stability control system. In July, more than 400,000 Avalons and LX-470s got the hook for faulty steering column components. The latest recall involves a potential stalling problem affecting 1.3 million Corollas and Matrix cars. (I love it when a company spokesperson states the recall repairs will be performed “at no cost to consumers.” Oh, the generosity!)

So, what can a self-respecting auto company like Toyota do to combat all the bad press? It appears their strategy is to tap heavily into the company’s brand equity bank. That’s why freshly minted Toyota branding TV spots are popping up everywhere. Most center on quality-oriented themes like “dependability” and “longevity.” One features a rather smitten end user with 300,000+ miles on his trusty Toyota coupe. And why not? For decades, Ford and GM have relied on vintage Mustang and Camaro owners to serve as spokes-cheerleaders in their advertising campaigns.

Hey, when quality control gets shaky with your current offerings, there’s no harm in hitting the brand legacy trail. The inference seems to be, “We have a long history of building quality, trouble-free cars. Why would you think our current products would be any different?” Umm, maybe because they’re all being recalled? Just a thought.