Toyota's revision of its large sedan has jolted the formerly moribund nameplate back to life. The automaker has also given the car, which had been left in the back 40, a new range of prospects: both mass-0market consumers looking to move up, and some left-brained luxury owners looking to get a solid car with the feel and amenities of some premium brands (although perhaps not the cachet).
The big challenge for Toyota is taking a nameplate whose last generation is probably associated in people's minds as just this side of the limo fleet and getting the message out that this isn’t your grandpa’s Avalon.
Toyota is going that way with a new diversity-market campaign that launched this week featuring actor Idris Elba, a Golden Globe winner, who has been in movies like "Promethius" and "Thor."
The effort, via Toyota's diversity agency of 12 years Burrell, is a mix of entertainment and advertising, with Elba playing a secret agent escaping an old nemesis in -- what else? -- an Avalon. With the theme, "Only the Name Remains," the campaign runs across broadcast, digital and print platforms.
The last spot ends in…a cliffhanger. The mystery directs consumers online to get the final installment.
David Chung, national manager, targeted advertising and strategy for Toyota, said in a release that the effort is intended to align with Toyota's new campaign "Let's Go Places."
The effort will have experiential components including one intended to establish the car as a respectable driver’s car, via a relationship with DUB Magazine. On the magazine’s modified car, youth culture and music tour Toyota will have a custom-made DUB Avalon. The automaker is also partnering with New York-based Alvin Ailey to have a presence at the dance company’s tour stops. It's also getting into programs like the Soul Train Awards.
Todd Turner, president of auto market consultancy "Car Concepts", says the new version of Avalon will get a lot of traction with African-American consumers and everyone else. "I think [Toyota] has done an exceptional job of moving the needle with the car. It's just going to up the brand to a lot of new customers."
"I think now it does have an envy factor, and that's a really good sign when you have a group who would not normally aspire to own one. And if it is aspirational for them now, it bodes well." Turner says research that he has done through the dealer networks with which he has relationships suggests the car -- which went on sale late last year -- is achieving that. "Dealers say people who buy a Camry are looking at it. Anecdotal feedback these buyers are giving is that they really want one. There wasn't that kind of aspiration for the prior model."