Why did Toyota ignore successful Old Spice?

by Urs E. Gattiker on 2011/08/10 · 12 comments 12,058 views

in b why benchmark failures,d business Fortune 500,e marketing 101 social media trendwatch

Some time ago we discussed how Toyota committed brand and reputation suicide. Now they are trying to rebuild their global image through various means.

Article source – Why did Toyota ignore successful Old Spice?

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Below are just some of Toyota’s recent marketing efforts, including TV advertising and social media stunts. I use aftershave brand Old Spice to illustrate better methods and end with three lessons to consider before embarking on any nerd marketing campaign.

Incidentally, if you know of another great example, please add it to the comments section belowI love to hear from you!


Toyota has launched an ad campaign that goes something like this:

SAVE THE CAR – Call to Action to Creators from Toyota – Give the Car Life Joy!

Toyota loves cars. But lately we feel people’s love for cars has weakened and hear voices like “We don’t need cars!” Quite honestly, we are in a crunch. What attracts people back to automobiles? Where can we find it?

We want to work with creative people who make us win over new groups around the world. Talents x Cars. That is the concept we have.

We are looking for Car Saviors spreading the novel automotive charms to many people.

Read more with images of the campaign: Toyota raves in mad social campaign, save the car (and us)! The contest appears on Japan’s largest social game platforms, including DeNA (Mobage), Gree, Mixi, NHN Japan (Hangame) and Yahoo! Japan.


As if Japanese consumers’ confusion about Toyota’s nerd marketing campaign were not enough, the company borrowed the theme to start a slightly different campaign in the US.

Watch the video… does it reach you? Will you remember which Toyota model it promotes after you watch and buy that car now?
YouTube Preview Image

I must question whether this message will reach and be understood by US consumers. Even if the company is targeting a sub-group of those consumers, which one is it?

Using features virtual idol Miku Hatsune, who has a connection to motorsports, seems smart. Unfortunately, the character is unknown to all but a few in the US.

Read more and start wondering: You are doing it wrong: Toyota’s nerd marketing sure is awkward


Toyota Australia also went weird, but instead of using virtual game characters, it borrowed from the musical Cats, as well as people’s affinity for the animals.

But using cats for an Australian ad campaign is risky, given their problems with the feral kind. While predation from coyotes confines them to more urban areas, thereby making feral cats no threat to US ecosystems, things are vastly different in Australia, where feral cats threaten several bird and island species.

YouTube Preview Image

The commercial is quirky, but I fail to connect with it. Does this video make you want to purchase a Toyota?

More resources – advertising failures in social media
ComMetrics weekly review: Toyota to Razorfish via PRSA
4 roads to success? Microsoft, NBC, Toyota and Swiss PostBus

Bottom line and take-aways

A while back, we used Old Spice as an example of how a consumer brand can leverage social media and humor, and discussed this in our Social Media Monitoring group on Xing: Old Spice crew produces 87 short comedic YouTube videos.

Apparently these were done in 11 hours, meaning each video took about seven minutes to put together, but even if it flies for Old Spice in the US, it falls flat in Europe. Watch a ‘funny’ clip here:

YouTube Preview Image

By the way, the above video from Old Spice’s ambassador is in response to a viewer’s comment on Yahoo. I would say great for customer engagement. Nevertheless, the humor is lost on most outside the US, but this is not a problem for Old Spice, since from the start they sought only to reach their US clients.

Tip: Find out more about the tips and tricks for social media and more effective marketing we have provided on this blog by including the words CyTRAP and ComMetrics in your search.

Old Spice can teach all of us, including Toyota, three lessons:

1. What works here fails elsewhere: Forget transferring characters or humor across borders. What the French love may be the opposite in Quebec (Canada), just as what sells in Japan may crash and burn spectacularly in Korea.

2. We call it football, they call it soccer: If you want to reach out to cycling enthusiasts, a commercial related to the Tour de France that promotes Toyota might work in several countries, assuming it is properly dubbed. But you must ensure that even the text is adjusted for different markets.

When Americans say ‘quite’, they mean ‘very’, and ‘interesting’ implies they want to hear more. In England, ‘quite’ means ‘not at all’, ‘interesting’ equals ‘I can’t think of anything nice to say’, and calling something ‘quite interesting’ indicates the speaker is desperately searching for the nearest exit.

3. Being different usually fails: Obviously, if Toyota had tested their ads with target audiences beforehand, they would have soon discovered the commercials would flop. Why they failed to follow through with this basic ‘prototype’ test remains a mystery.

Even if you follow these tips, Ford provides an example of how to waste your marketing money on Super Bowl ads, videos and social networks.

Image - ComMetrics Blog Footprint.Don’t forget! Benchmark your social media efforts including TV commercials – unless you measure for impact, your metrics are just another exercise in navel-gazing.

Disagree? Sure. Leave a comment! I look forward to reading your thoughts below.

  • http://twitter.com/birdbathbuzz/status/101088900088475648 Chris Isaac

    Why did Toyota ignore successful Old Spice? http://ow.ly/1eaLGU

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  • http://twitter.com/wefdavos/status/101159716327129090 World Economic Forum

    #tips2follow – Why did Toyota ignore successful Old Spice?: Toyota is trying to rebuild its bra… http://bit.ly/pTk2CF – #metrics2watch

  • http://twitter.com/devseo/status/101356295868780544 Alex Hall

    Why did Toyota ignore successful Old Spice? – http://su.pr/2XuVNZ

  • http://twitter.com/qc_seo/status/104281487301550080 Quality Content SEO

    Why did Toyota ignore successful Old Spice? http://ow.ly/66K8V

  • http://twitter.com/tomooau/status/104755460351082496 Tom Ootes

    thought provoking – but easily understandable article from US #Marketing #Advertising http://t.co/6tpeRfz

  • http://twitter.com/devseo/status/105921512518860800 Alex Hall

    Why did Toyota ignore successful Old Spice? – http://t.co/rJj7UCP

  • http://twitter.com/devseo/status/110063352109203456 Alex Hall

    #socialmedia Why did Toyota ignore successful Old Spice? – http://t.co/Uanjfkc

  • http://twitter.com/devseo/status/110984984646524928 Alex Hall

    Why did Toyota ignore successful Old Spice? – http://t.co/Uanjfkc

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