For Avalon, Toyota Reaches To Younger Boomers

Avalon-BToyota's Torrance, Calif.-based U.S. sales arm is hoping, with a more emotional positioning, to appeal to younger baby boomers (40- to-60-year-olds) with a just-launched campaign for its large sedan, the Avalon. 

And the new version of the car, which Toyota first showed in New York last April, also evinces Toyota's effort to change its game in terms of vehicle design -- especially important now that quality represents table-stakes and almost every automaker has raised that game. The new effort for the car, which was designed at Toyota's Calty studio in SoCal, and its design studio in Michigan, puts the reliability and quality message on the back burner and leads with an emotional appeal. The focus: how designers and engineers pulled the Avalon -- whose look evinces Toyota's new design -- out of the void.       



The campaign, via Saatchi & Saatchi L.A., includes two TV ads, one of which shows the Avalon emerging from an inky vapor -- intended as a metaphor for the design “formula” -- as the camera caresses the car’s design elements. The ads are on network and cable television shows such as "Top Chef," "Rizzoli & Isles," "Royal Pains" and "Modern Family." The marketing campaign also delivers on the new “Let’s Go Places” brand theme launched in the fourth quarter.

The major focus is on digital, with Web films on YouTube and, plus partnerships with Pandora, Hulu, Trip Advisor, CNET and Food Network. Scalability is part of the digital strategy, with the campaign optimized for Web, mobile and tablets like Kindle Fire, iPad and iPhone platforms. Another critical component is search-engine optimization to make it easy for consumers to go from big-screen message to little-screen engagement, per Colin Morisako, advertising and planning manager for Toyota.

Awareness is a major issue for the car. Morisako tells Marketing Daily that about 50% of the target demo knows Avalon. "It's a target we have never spoken to," he says, adding that the screen-agnostic digital strategy is intended to help cure that. "We studied the media habits of this target, and found they are very receptive to advertising on second screens; they are watching TV with their tablets in their laps, and whatever intrigues them sends them online to learn more." 

Current owners are around 67 years old, the oldest demographic in Toyota's lineup. "What has excited me about this is that it speaks to me, and I'm in the wheelhouse for this campaign," says Morisako. He says the brand did a handraiser program last year and got more than 100,000 people interested, and the average age was in the 50s. "We are generating interest with the right people."

Morisako explains that demographic research also had a social anthropology vector that found that young boomers switch screens as fast as younger consumers. "We sat with folks in their homes and were able to see how they interacted with their televisions: when they are captivated by a spot they go immediately online and research it. So we want to make that process easy." 

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