On Sunday, Lexus debuts a new campaign, "The Hard Way," spotlighting how the luxury brand goes to great lengths to imbue its vehicles with inner strength. The idea is that in avoiding the easy route, the company engineers better vehicles.
In the launch spot titled "Chain," a crane slowly suspends a Lexus LS in the air from the forward portion of the vehicle's chassis. Then a second, third, fourth and fifth Lexus vehicle is attached to that LS, using only cables and stretch bars and no support other than that car.
At the end of the spot, when the combined weight dangling from that LS is around 17,000 pounds, a $375,000 Lexus LFA rolls onto the scene and parks right beneath the suspended chain of cars. Says the voiceover: "The hard way is how Lexus inspires absolute confidence. The hard way is the pursuit of perfection." The company says the spot eschews special effects or camera tricks.
The campaign will include online, print, mobile and outdoor executions, with supporting video assets on Lexus' YouTube channel. The TV spot will air on network, cable prime and cable sports. It will also air during the NFL playoffs, and college basketball. There will be 14 online videos focusing on different aspects of engineering or manufacturing at Lexus, and on the making of the ad.
"It isn't enough to just say that we pursue perfection; we want to demonstrate the great lengths we go to in our pursuit," said Dave Nordstrom, VP marketing for Lexus, in a prepared statement. "The new broadcast spot allows us to focus on the foundation of our vehicles, the chassis, and show its almost unbelievable strength."
Todd Turner, president of the Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based auto consultancy, says Lexus doesn't have a quality or durability problem, but what it does have now is the perception among consumers that there's a problem because of the recalls this year around sticking accelerators. He says Lexus' situation is similar to that of Audi, which until recently battled a reputation problem that dates back to the mid-1980s.
"Unfortunately, there is going to be question mark over the brand -- not necessarily negative, but a question mark," says Turner. "Their vehicles are safe; they are well-engineered, but they are in a hard spot. It's hard for them to say there's nothing wrong without making people wonder if something's wrong." He says it makes sense for the company to talk about what goes into a Lexus, and how hard the brand works at quality and safety, and it's a continuing theme they will have to keep pushing forward."
Brad Smith, who heads up loyalty research at market research firm R.L. Polk, says Lexus enjoys very high loyalty rates, and that perception of quality plays a major role in that score. "Loyalty is the ultimate indicator of dependability. We have seen that they do very well, particularly among older consumers. We saw Lexus and Toyota loyalty rates bubble up in 2005 and 2006, but then fall through the recession," he says.
He says parameters like vehicle safety and service come into play as a driver of purchase consideration, but don't really generate loyalty. In Polk's recent loyalty awards, Mercedes-Benz won for luxury brands and was No. 2 overall. "But this year, BMW and Lexus were second and third and very, very close to each other, with a 100th of a percentage point separating them," says Smith. Lexus took top honors for loyalty in the mid-sized luxury SUV segment for its RX nameplate.