Toyota's "Let's Go Places" Takes Me To The Wrong Place

I am buying a car and I am excited. After years confined to the underpaved thoroughfares of urbania, I have a place to put a car - two places, actually. Neither demands a monthly outlay of $400 to Parking Inc. or ninja-like alacrity in pouncing on just-vacated slices of curbside real estate. Thus I am managing my garage with great and furious zeal. My oily rags do not impede the safe storage of acoustic or electric leaf-dispersal implements.

But I'm having a harder time finding the right car to occupy it, and the current batch of online brand videos aren't offering much assistance. They're all more or less the same: We see a fastidiously shiny machine whooshing to and fro, a few shots of the interior (for reasons I can't understand, many linger fetishistically on the gear shift) and a too-tight close-up on the exterior curveage. Then the occupants of the front seats shoot each other a knowing glance ("later, let's get freaky and watch some Mike & Molly off the DVR"), and we're done.

That's why Toyota's "Let's Go Places" brand campaign intrigued me. As opposed to the legions of clips that rhapsodize over individual models and features, "Let's Go Places" attempts to sell viewers on the entire Toyota fleet. We see big Toyotas, small Toyotas, Toyota trucks, all of 'em, cross-cut in a way to suggest that they're peers in practicality, ingenuity and appeal. This suggestion is echoed by the humans who populate the clip, a race-, age- and gender-diverse lot who participate in all kinds of super-cool activities - prom-attending, guitar-strumming and swim-racing - that, somewhat elliptically, affirm the roominess of Toyota back seats.

Unfortunately, those images are accompanied by a voiceover that lays waste to the whole darn operation. To hear the clip tell it, Toyotas aren't cars so much as they are mobile genius cubes, ones in which ideas blossom like prepubescent tweens.

I should've been tipped off by the site copy, which reads in part, "Let's be bold. Ambitious. Even unconventional. Because that's where big ideas come from. Ideas that not only take you places you can find on a map, but also ones you can find in your heart." Even after having ingested that little miracle of hokum, I still did a spit-take when I heard the following phrase: "Inspiration doesn't favor those who sit still - it dances with the daring." This doesn't spark my imagination about yet-to-come adventures on the open road; rather, it hits me like an outtake from the poor-wittle-wonely-Bwuce-Wayne scenes in the current Batman trilogy.

"Let's Go Places" really, really, really wants me to feel something. It wants me to associate Toyota with joy, with spirit, with freedom. But as a prospective buyer, I'm less interested with forging an emotional bond than I am with checking out the tinted moon roof.

I might still buy a Toyota, because Toyotas never break (right or wrong, I blame reflex-impaired drivers and slow-to-react crisis PR folks for the acceleration/braking fiasco of Aught-Nine). But heavens, "Let's Go Places" has the precise opposite effect on me that it's supposed to. There's nothing loud, brash or brazen about "Let's Go Places." I wish that there were.

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3 comments about "Toyota's "Let's Go Places" Takes Me To The Wrong Place".
  1. Erin Read from Creating Results , January 10, 2013 at 5:05 p.m.
    Larry, well said! Toyota aimed to forge an emotional bond but forgot the relevant storytelling that would do just that. As a boomer marketing pro, I had further issues with their Avalon ad, which is supposed to be targeted at boomers. The copy — “Let’s take every drop of courage. Every ounce of inspiration. Every bit of determination. And go where we’ve never gone before.” — could just as easily apply to an adventure travel company or re-careering. And I can't see how blah photos of black ink and young people will inspire 50+ers. To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, "Oh, the places they could have gone!"
  2. Sari Signorelli from Syracuse University , January 11, 2013 at 8:40 a.m.
    Subaru always tells a story that always grabs me. Here's one sample, but there are several http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vu5R8F-dZk4 Their commercials are consistent but stay fresh and on message. Most importantly--it connects memorably to the brand. How many times have you done the water-cooler chat about the great commercial but had no memory of the brand.
  3. Dmitry Sinelov from GW Hoffman , January 11, 2013 at 3:41 p.m.
    It's all relevant and justified except for one little detail applicable to both brands mentioned - Toyota and Subaru - they look soooo boring at best and simply ugly at the other end. Nothing in their esthetics inspires or sparks passion. OK, I might be asking too much, please forgive me...