Well, maybe it's not such a big deal, but it definitely presented an opportunity to do some crowd-sourcing, grassroots, consumer input marketing. And so last month, the Torrance, Calif.-based Toyota Motor Sales launched "Prius Goes Plural," an effort, via Saatchi LA that asked the public to help dream up the right plural proper noun for Prius.
The company set up an online voting station with five options -- Prius, Priuses, Prii, Prien and Prium -- with the one getting the majority of votes winning. At the Detroit Auto Show, street teams handed out T-shirts that had the five variations to 250 people. The shirts had a $20 Amazon MP3 credit attached. But to redeem the credit, recipients had to post a picture of themselves wearing the T-shirt to Facebook and tag both themselves and the Toyota Prius in the photo.
The Web site for the Toyota Prius Projects, a series of offbeat grassroots events that Toyota has been running in the U.S. and augmenting with video documentaries of each event (the last one had a group of knitting fanatics in Texas knitting a cozy for a Prius) also got involved. The site has an animated music video about plural words.
Also last month, Toyota launched a series of Web videos on YouTube, Facebook, Toyota.com and the Toyota Prius Projects site that features a "notable expert" talking about etymology and the plural of Prius. The videos are hosted by James Lipton, who hosted the "Inside the Actors Studio" program.
Now it seems Toyota can close the book on plurals. As the Chicago Auto Show closes up shop, Toyota has finished counting votes and says it has a winner. What's the plural of Prius? Prii.
The automaker says 25% of the votes were for the faux word. Well, not saux faux. Evidently, Dictionary.com has updated its entry for the word 'Prius' to show that the plural is Prii.
In fact, Toyota says that Jay Schwartz, the head of content for Dictionary.com, was on hand at the Chicago Auto Show to lend his imprimatur to the new word.
Toyota says that more than 1.8 million people voted during the six-week campaign. A close second choice was keeping the plural the same as the singular -- one Prius, two Prius -- with 24% of the votes. The company has a video of the "unveiling" of the winning word on the Prius Projects Web site.
"Community has always been a big part of the Prius brand, so it was only fitting that we invite the online communities to participate in the plural discussion," said Colin Morisako, advertising manager for Toyota, in a statement.