Special Report: Brand Building Through TV: TV helped Toyota differentiate

Of all mass media advertising, television is arguably the most intrusive, the most memorable, and the most responsible for helping build a brand's personality. Yet many marketers have been moving money to below-the-line activities at the expense of tv. In this...

Of all mass media advertising, television is arguably the most intrusive, the most memorable, and the most responsible for helping build a brand’s personality. Yet many marketers have been moving money to below-the-line activities at the expense of tv. In this special report, we review three campaigns in which television has played a crucial role in establishing or improving the image of a bank, a beer and a car.

Two years ago, the relative strength of the Japanse yen made cars imported from that country more expensive than their North American counterparts, so, to avoid an unwinnable price competition, companies began to look for new ways to maintain their sales.

Toyota Canada, for one, saw this turn of events as a good time to improve its already strong brand image.

‘We, along with all of the other Japanese imports, knew that we had to do something to offset that price disparity,’ says Jim Feeney, account director at Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising, Toyota’s agency.

‘We decided it was time to make a stronger statement about what Toyota really is all about, to further elevate the image of Toyota,’ Feeney says.

Saatchi and Toyota quickly recognized that a strong television campaign, if properly handled, could help the car maker differentiate itself from its competitors.

According to Toyota, since the fall of 1993, the Toyota ‘It’s more than just a car’ campaign has indeed strengthened the image of the brand by using stylistic, imaginative creative to promote the entire Toyota family, and attach to it a stronger impression of quality and excitement.

Before this campaign, Toyota had been rather traditional in its tv advertising, concentrating more on single products and addressing their particular features, benefits, and sometimes, the price point.

There was nothing that really said that much about Toyota.

Toyota and Saatchi tested the campaign before launching it, and found people were comfortable with the umbrella approach and tagline.

‘They felt they could fill in the blanks themselves,’ Feeney says. ‘And, they came up with some very positive and interesting things.’

According to Feeney, some of the things participants felt about Toyota after seeing the commercials included, ‘it’s part of the family,’ ‘it’s comfort,’ and ‘it’s security.’

He says what the participants bought into was that ‘here is a manufacturer confident enough that it can go out and make a statement like that without forcing on people what to think.’

Five different commercials, all stylish, with heavily saturated colors, accomplish different branding objectives.

The 60-second brand establishing commercial, called ‘Anthem,’ with its absorbing visuals and stirring music, projects an uplifting image of the entire Toyota family of vehicles.

The other four commercials cover specific topics, the first of which is a family-oriented spot which addresses issues of affordability and safety in the Tercel, Corolla, and Camry models.

A high-energy performance-oriented commercial concentrates on driving home the idea of behind-the-wheel excitement.

A truck spot communicates durability, toughness and style.

The fifth spot, run on specialty service MuchMusic, targets young people who probably still cannot afford a car, but Toyota hopes the attention will plant tiny seeds of interest that will grow into a mighty purchase one day.

All of the commercials incorporate words superimposed over the visuals, called ‘wordstreaming,’ a technique that, because of its popularity, will see its way into new spots this year.

‘We want to create a more contemporary image for Toyota,’ Feeney says. ‘You can see that in the shooting style and the art direction.’

The commercials usually run during what Toyota considers quality programming with high viewership such as Home Improvement, and special sports events.

They also run during primetime soaps Melrose Place and Models, Inc., which attract large numbers of young people.

‘We execute a solid base buy through the year targeted mostly to the 25-54 age category,’ Feeney says.

He hopes that at a time when most other vehicle advertising is based on testimonials, or is product-specific, the brand-oriented commercials by Toyota stand out.

‘When you look at the cars on the road, some of the differentiating factors are not that large,’ Feeney says. ‘You can spend a lot of time comparing nuts and bolts.

‘Unless you have a superlative point of difference, it is tough to get people’s attention,’ he says.

Although the tv creative is supported by a related print campaign, there was no doubt at Toyota that tv was to be the primary vehicle for the brand-building initiative.

The marketing team felt the sights and sounds of a well-executed tv commercial communicate emotion far better than any other medium.

‘There’s nothing like [television] for using techniques to bring different feelings to [advertising,]‘ Feeney says.

‘While there is a certain thread that runs through everything we do, there’s nothing else that does the job as well as television,’ he says.

The results of all this brand promotion is resoundingly positive, according to Joe McDonagh, senior vice-president, director of creative services at Saatchi.

‘It’s done very well,’ McDonagh says. ‘It’s really moved the perception of the brand.’

‘The importance [of tv advertising] is that you stand out from the clutter, and, of course, hold people’s attention,’ says Feeney.

‘The creative impact is extremely important, and I think anyone looking to television has to keep that at the forefront of their mind.’