Keep It Real, Toyota

February 4, 2010 | blog | By Mike Sullivan

toyota crashMost of us tend to assign all sorts of unflattering qualities to the generations that come behind ours. They don’t work as hard, don’t appreciate what they have, whine too much, and are generally making a mess of things. Having been born late in 1964, I’m poised precariously on the thin line dividing Boomers and Generation X. I feel them both. And as a kid from Detroit growing up in the 70s and 80s, I bore sad witness to the slow, steady demise of this country’s great auto industry. It seemed to me, at the time, that Generation X was blithely abandoning the very industry that built this great country. I was shocked when I moved to Texas in 1983 and was hit with the reality that not everybody drove a domestic vehicle. In the years since then foreign automakers have made breathtaking progress at the expense of our struggling American car companies. The coup de grace for me was the day my father—a fifth generation Detroiter—traded in his Cadillac for a Toyota. It seemed he, too, had finally bought into the mystique so well crafted by the venerable Japanese brand over the years. And this despite the very real strides in quality and performance that, according to industry pundits, put the domestic car companies on par with the finest in the world—financial issues notwithstanding.

But, one thing I know as a marketing guy is that 30- and 40-something Generation X’ers—those who make up the soul of the car buying public today—won’t suffer inauthentic overtures from the companies they keep. For the most part, Toyota has played their misfortunate hand well in this respect. No matter the financial cost, the company will need to continue to be completely forthright and above board with the way it handles its brand crisis. They need to tell their customers everything, and do the right things at every turn. Anything short of that will surely spell the demise of a great car brand—something that is just as unthinkable today as the decline of GM was when I was a kid growing up in the Motor City.

Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


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