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Prius ‘Harmony’: What Toyota did differently to expand its audience, brand and sales

July 29, 2009 11 Comments

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I recently worked as a writer on the new Prius ‘Harmony” campaign for Saatchi & Saatchi, LA (led by Mike McKay and Andrew Christou – full list of credits below). While the ads are on television a lot, there are less visible aspects to the campaign that – from a marketing point of view – are equally interesting.

What’s unique is how the fundamental strategic positioning created for the advertising campaign was expanded beyond the car. By doing this Toyota established new relevance for Prius technology and found a much wider audience.

Here are a couple of examples of how it was done.

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Firstly, Toyota took the Prius technology to the streets by installing over-sized solar-energy generating flowers that were inspired by the TV commercials. Currently they’re in Boston but they will be installed in different parts of the world over four months. The flowers carry solar panels and provide free charging power and wi-fi to residents in each city.

The flowers dramatize the power of the Prius solar roof in a way that’s instantly meaningful to potential customers. That experience became a talking point among potential customers around the topic of Prius technology.

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The second example is the branded content piece created by Toyota, Saatchi and GOOD magazine. By creating content that applied the ‘harmony’ concept on a global scale, the brand expanded its purview beyond its own products and customers.

In doing so, the brand became relevant to many, if not all, aspects of a potential customer’s life. Positioned in that context, the Prius became part of a larger cultural movement towards ‘harmony’.

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Such a launch isn’t possible without a creative, confident and enlightened client. Often the greatest challenge to a successful brand or product launch is not the entrenched view of the consumer, but the blinkered view of the client as to the limits of its brand.

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Taking such risks has yielded startling results for Toyota. Amid an historic slump in a contracting industry, orders have exceeded expectations even in the face of new competition from the Honda Insight. Japan has enjoyed 80,000 pre-orders and the Tsutsumi plant has had to reintroduce over-time to keep up with global demand.

Marketers must clearly define a brand and it’s voice but they should never limit its scope. As technology infiltrates all aspect of our lives, product relevance expands and advertising should follow.

When asked about their success, Prius Chief engineer, Mr. Otsuka, said that in terms of hybrids the Prius is ‘ten years ahead’. As stewards of such brands, we should expect the same of our advertising. Here’s a behind-the scenes look at the finished TV commercials.

Credits: Any car launch of this size is a massive collaborative effort. Here are some of the great people involved.

Client: Toyota Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi, Los Angeles ECD: Mike McKay CD: Andrew Christou Integrated Design CD: Ryan Jacobs ACD Copywriter: Simon Mainwaring ACD Art Director: Tito Melega ACD Art Director: Sean Farrell Senior Producer: Jennifer Pearse Production Coordinator: David Weaver Director of Integrated Production/Multimedia: Tanya LeSieur Production Co.: The Sweet Shop Executive Producer: Stephen Dickstein Executive Producer: Susan Rued Anderson Director: Mr. Hide Edit: Bikini Editorial Edit: Avi Oron Telecine: CO3 Telecine: Dave Hussey Special Effects: Perceptual Engineering Special Effects: Fin Design Special Effects: Brickyard VFX Sound Design: Human Mix: Lime Studios Mix: Rohan Young

Solar Flowers Credits: Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi LA Client: Toyota Executive Creative Director: Mike McKay Creative Director: Andrew Christou Integrated Design Creative Director: Ryan Jacobs ACD/Art Director: Kelly Kliebe Art Director: Lindsay Montague Copywriter: Shannon Wilch Copywriter: Chelsea DuBois Copywriter: Elizabeth Alexander Director of Integrated Production/Multimedia: Tanya LeSieur Producer: Britta Couris Art Producer: Kristina Hicks Print Producer: Gloria Olegario Design: Poetic Kinetics Design: Patrick Shearn Design: Cynthia Washburn

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11 responses to “Prius ‘Harmony’: What Toyota did differently to expand its audience, brand and sales”

  1. Steve Poppe says:

    This is such a cool idea. I first heard of this approach from a friend in the tulip business who told me a coffee company had built a flowerscape in Hollard near the airport — really big so it could be seen from the air. I recommended the tactic to AT&T as an idea to welcome fliers into Atlanta during the US Olympic Games a number of years ago. They would have to do have done it the same way as in your video, because I was late with the idea. (Never happened.) In Holland, the picture of the coffee product emerged over time as the flowers bloomed. Vey cool. Great post, thanks.

  2. admin says:

    Thanks Steve. That’s a great idea. They should have done it. Love how the picture emerged as the flowers bloomed. Even better. Thanks for sharing. Simon

  3. geo says:

    Nice blog, Simon.

  4. admin says:

    Thanks George. Appreciate it. Simon

  5. Tony Long says:

    Greetings, and thanks for your thoughts on this. Increasingly, in a world powered by increasingly diffuse points of contact, ideas like this are no longer “the big idea” but are, frankly, “de rigueur.” What this means is, we cannot think only in such confined spaces as magazine pages anymore. Brand expression (nos 3, 4, & 5) work alongside visibility (nos 1, 2 & 7) in a world that does not require a $2MM shoot or a series of full-page-anythings.

    It’s not the budget, it’s the execution and the brains behind the execution that count.

    Thanks again Simon!

  6. Tony Long says:

    Apologies for the dreadful second sentence…I hit submit prematurely, I’m afraid…

  7. admin says:

    Thanks, Tony. And no problem about the spelling – my iphone haz reined myspeling frver.

    Great point above. Outreach to consumers has been fractured into so many mediums and audiences have got more and more specific, so the advertising idea can be ‘smaller’ as long as its also more targeted. That said, simple is always the rule but that implies a difficult to achieve prerequisite – a brand must know who it is. Once it does it can speak simply about who it is and what it thinks (just like us). But until then, any communication is difficult. I think Prius did a great job of knowing itself and therefore had the flexibility and confidence to speak simply in fresh ways.

    Thanks for the great feedback. Simon

  8. Jan says:

    I love these types of clean and smart advertising ideas. A while back I got inspired by seeing some reverse graffiti ads here in the center of Amsterdam and I decided to look into options. In the Netherlands there are not that many examples yet but I did find out about this company called CRUB, they create great environmentally friendly ads. I agree with you though Simon, this campaign by Prius makes sense on a lot of levels. Thank you for sharing!

  9. Jan says:

    I just realized in all quickness that I misspelled the company name, it’s CURB, sorry. For a look at their work check out http://www.mindthecurb.com/our-gallery.asp

  10. Elizabeth says:

    you only have the TV credits listed, please give appropriate credit to those who created the solar flowers as well. You can find them here:
    http://creativity-online.com/work/prius-solar-flower/16634

  11. Thanks so much, Elizabeth. I had no idea where to find out those credits. Thank you so much. Simon

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Simon Mainwaring

Reading Time: 1 minutesSimon Mainwaring is the founder of We First, a leading brand consultancy that provides purpose-driven strategy, content, and training that empowers companies to lead business, shape culture, and better our world.

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