Scion’s exhibit at the New York International Auto show was modest and, during press days, there wasn't much activity there, though public days will certainly be different. It’s been that way for a while. If you haven't been thinking about the FR-S, xB, iQ, tC, xD of late, even if you're, say, an auto journalist, you can't really be blamed.
Scion has been driving across a bit of a product desert since the launch of the iQ and FR-S in 2012. In today's market, where automaker's are shortening product cycles and increasing their launch cadences, it's a lot to ask of a brand to stay in the public mind during a dry spell.
"It's no secret Toyota has had to prioritize, and that impacts product cadence," says Doug Murtha, VP of Scion. He tells Marketing Daily that things will ramp up next year. The automaker will unveil three new models at the Los Angeles Auto Show this fall that will roll out over the next 24-months. Murtha says Toyota has gotten more focus. "We had to get in line and take a back seat to other, higher volume products."
Scion's lifecycle management strategy — keeping interest up with smaller-volume products — has focused on its Release Series of factory customized cars. Traditionally, those cars have been eye candy that would be at home at a Hot Import Nights event. Murtha says the Release Series is getting toned down to match where consumers are today, where the focus is more on technology. The new xB Release Series car has wireless charging and a lighting package that does things like project the Scion badge on the street next to the car and floor mats.
"Eleven years have passed [since Scion’s launch], and there have been changes in our target buyer. When we launched, we played up the car as a visual canvas and promoted very heavily to the tuner market. What we have found is that consumers still have a strong interest in personalization but not over the top; consumers now are more practical and pragmatic."
On the marketing front, the division is still focusing on the no-negotiation Pure Price Concept, where haggling is eliminated and the price is set. Scion has also changed marketing strategy so that regions handle grass roots activity, a big change from prior years where grass roots and guerrilla programs were centralized. "We are moving some funds to regional offices where they can do local activation; nationally we are doing more in the digital arena. And even there we are taking a different approach." The brand is handled by long-time AOR San Francisco-based Attik.
That includes partnerships with popular Web series like Rooster Teeth and the Slo-Mo Guys, where two British dudes shoot ultra-slow-motion video of things like a gun fired underwater, and an exploding water balloon. Scion partnered with them to do a video filming of an FR-S driving through a puddle. "In one week we got 3.5 million views," says Murtha, adding that it's a balancing act for some of the series, "because some haven't been commercialize; they need to integrate the product so it doesn't come across as commercial.” Scion doesn't get mentioned until a static page at the end where you can watch more videos or go to Scion's site to learn more about the car.
"Overall, our opportunity now is brand awareness. So there is still a role in traditional advertising and we are still funding TV, and going more prime-time. But nobody tripled our ad budget so we have done it efficiently as possible." He says last year Scion saw an eight-point jump in brand awareness among under-35 consumers.