How To Gain Your Power Back. The Toyota Advertising Challange

Key historical players that are crucial to the sustainable growth of the automotive industry are Toyota, Honda, and Volkswagen. With each company estimated worth in the billions they are considered to be in the ranking of the top twelve car companies. However,it’s Toyota who  produced the top selling hybrid model in history: the Prius.Toyota has always been a forerunner in the sustainability game within the car industry; it released the Prius 20 years ago, which revolutionized the car industry and brought sustainability within it to the conversation. The Prius “was the world’s first mass-produced petrol-electric hybrid vehicle” (Toyota 2015). The Prius made the possibility of more sustainable cars a reality. 

How hybrid vehicles are perceived 

Hybrid or electric cars are perceived as too expensive, as are most products that are considered sustainable. Even though Toyota released the Prius, which is considered a less expensive car, it is generally considered “uncool” to own one. 

Companies such as Tesla are beginning to alter this perception. Even with an expensive price tag the car is yearned for due to the sleek and sexy design. This starts the process of making sustainability a trend which is a key component in altering the public’s perception on the car industry and where they decide to invest their money.

READ ALSO: Cars’ Shocking Future. It’s All About Green

Toyota sustainable advertising

On Earth Day in 2019, Toyota released a campaign that collaborated with Micheal Shainblum,  a landscape, timelapse and aerial photographer based in San Francisco, California. Michael first made a name for himself through his unique creativity and the ability to capture scenes and moments in his distinct style of surreal, visual story telling.

The ‘Small differences make Big difference’ campaign encourages people to get outside and appreciate the world enough to protect it, set to the backdrop of beautiful destinations the photographer has traveled to with his Toyota. The caption on the post was “Today is Earth Day. Small difference makes a big change. Toyota will continue the environmental movement for the Earth” (Toyota Motor Europe 2019).

The Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050 is a set of six challenges Toyota has set for itself to work towards furthering its sustainability efforts. The Toyota website describes the challenges : “announced in 2015, comprises six separate ‘challenges’ that cover every aspect of our business, our exploration of new products and technologies, and our role as an enabler for individuals and communities to learn about and improve the natural world around them” (Toyota Motor Europe 2019).

The campaign’s strengths are that it is putting in effort into taking the necessary steps towards being more and more sustainable, but the weaknesses are that it doesn’t really advertise how passionate Toyota is about what they are doing; the consumer has to do some digging to see what the Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050 actually is and why it is important to keep doing better, year after year.

In 2020 Toyota confirms its commitment to the 2050 challenge but they renounced (maybe amid covid19 pandemic) to advertise their message. Instead they announced on their webiste that next year, they will begin constructing Woven City, a prototype city of the future powered by clean energy produced through hydrogen fuel cells, located at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan. They also affirmed that in 2019 they switched to 100% renewable electricity to run their operations, “leading to significant progress towards the Environmental Challenge 2050”.

What People Should Know About Toyota’s Sustainability

Toyota claims to be a brand that commits to sustainable development while also aiming for superior quality. As pioneers in the hybrid car niche, Toyota faced and still face issues of performance and safety which reflects upon the overall credibility and quality of the brand. With this, the Prius has been recalled quite a few times. In 2018 one million hybrid cars were recalled due to a potential fire risk. This recall damaged Toyota’s brand claim by being perceived as less credible in the eyes of the consumer. This led to an open space in the growingly competitive green market. However, what is most tragic about this situation is the impact on the green industry as a whole. It gives those skeptical about climate change a reason to separate themselves from their wallets due to their proven conception that green is a marketing “scam.” 

In a 2008 article by Wired Magazine it was revealed that making a Prius contributes more carbon to the atmosphere then in the making of a Hummer. This is due to the 30 pounds of nickel in the cars battery which has a great environmental cost. Once the car is on the road for a prolonged amount of time the superior fuel economy will pay off, but the production of the vehicle is suspected to be far from sustainable. from then on this is a kind of regular controversial conversation about how green are green vehicles 

While Toyota does have issues, they do have good intentions in some respects. For example, they took on a role as an environmentalist leader by creating a set of green guidelines for the 500 suppliers that provide materials for the automaker. With this they are staying true to their brand claim by setting an environmental commitment beyond its own processes and trying to create a sustainable supply chain. 

What Toyota Could Do To Better Advertise 

Because other companies are beginning to have sustainability on their radar, Toyota is not often reported on because they aren’t necessarily the most relevant or groundbreaking car company sustainability-wise anymore. When the Prius came out, it was revolutionary so media outlets were constantly reporting on environmental pioneer Toyota in the early 2000s. But now, in 2020, Toyota’s title of environmental car forerunner has been taken over by other car companies, such as Tesla, especially as Tesla works towards moving into a more affordable price bracket, Audi and even Porche which are more and more engaging in their marketing approach.

READ ALSO: Cars’ Shocking Future. It’s All About Green

It’s time to lead from behind and be at the forefront in advertising, exactly as for their top luxury brand, Lexus (do you remember LStudio?, unfortunately they stopped their operations 2 years ago), which is joining the ever-expanding list of all-electric vehicles in 2020 with the UX300e

A 500 all’ora sulla Luna, il concept a zero gravità di Lexus
“Zero Gravity”, concept design ED2 Lexus, Karl Dujardin

They should stress their ‘affordable innovation’ but both focusing on their “green” behavior AND renewing their appeal. So that people would stop jokes like : Q:What is the smallest part of an Toyota? A: The owners brain (source: http://www.jokes4us.com/ )

Photo credits: Wallpaper

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Author: elena grinta

I have been dealing with communication for 20 years, I have worked in marketing for large international and Italian companies and I know the mechanisms of advertising persuasion. I decided to invest my know-how and my skills to use the available resources of companies (budgets but also human capital) in positive transformation. Because to students from all over the world I teach at Purpose Brands in Catholic University I wish to give more and more examples of virtuous companies that have invested for the future, of everyone (and there are already many!). Because if we watch, without acting, without taking responsibility, we have no excuse.