How much do you love your car? In the Hispanic community, there's a tendency for automobile owners to value their wheels so much they see them as members of the family -- an insight that's led to arguably one of Toyota's most personal marketing moves to date.
Last fall, to celebrate its tenth year as the most-loved auto brand among the Hispanic community, the brand launched the "Más Que un Auto" (or "More Than a Car") campaign, created by its Hispanic agency Conill. The heart of the effort was not a TV spot or print ad but a small, symbolic badge that Toyota owners could place on their cars bearing the unique names of their automobiles.
"For Latinos, getting to buy a car is historically something that involves a lot of struggle," explained Conill Chief Creative Office Javier Campopiano. "Once you get to the U.S., it's different because it's easy to buy a car here, but we have that background in our DNA. So we love our cars in a special way -- we feel they are part of the family. It sounds a little bit strange and funny, but it's the truth for us."
That relationship leads many Hispanics to give their cars superpersonal monikers -- whether they're the kind you'd give to a person, like "Oliver" or "Ellie," or a word that represents their relationship to the car, such as "El Milagroso" ("The Miraculous"), conceived by one owner who couldn't believe how many years his ancient Toyota has done right by him.
This tradition inspired Conill's idea to reward Toyota owners with free custom nameplates, created in the same typeface and material as the official Toyota marque. The campaign invites visitors to go to masqueunauto.com, where they can input the names and order badges, which they receive in the mail in about a week.
"We wanted to thank people in a genuine way, but we also wanted it to be something absolutely fresh," said Jack Hollis, Group VP-Toyota Marketing, via email. "We tasked our partner agency Conill with bringing us ideas to truly connect with our guests. We didn't want big, flashy statements or bragging about our leadership. It was about our guests through and through."
Since the campaign's launch, Toyota's "guests" have shown their appreciation right back. "Without getting into actual numbers, we continue to see earned impressions outperform paid impressions," said Anabel Ordoñez, Conill group account director.
Fans have been thanking Toyota, posting their emblazoned cars and sharing their car love stories on social media. In doing so, they've also evolved the campaign -- Conill will be producing some of those real car tales to share as part of the next phase of the campaign.
"Some stories are very simple, like 'My car looks like candy,' but other stories are bigger," said Mr. Campopiano. "For example, someone named their car after a niece that passed away. That says a lot about what consumers feel toward their cars."
Other fans have also used the badges as a platform for a cause. One group, trying to get more support for cystic fibrosis research, has banded together by placing "Cure CF" badges on their automobiles.
So far, the campaign has surpassed client expectations. "We started with a goal of delivering 25,000 badges within a two-month period, and found the demand so high that by month two, we had more than 50,000 badge orders," said Mr. Hollis. "Today, we have close to 100,000 badge orders."
Indeed, the badges have provided unique production challenges for the agency. Toyota isn't creating the nameplates directly, so the agency had to do a "talent search" of various suppliers to find one that could match the nameplate style and materials to Toyota guidelines -- right down to the type of adhesive used to attach the badge to the cars. "The actual outcome is a really high-quality badge," said Conill VP-Integrated Production Rodrigo Vargas.
The campaign has been supported through broadcast, digital and interactive videos, as well as by paid and organic social media. It was also introduced at the Toyota-sponsored Hispanic indie music festival Supersonica in Los Angeles in October. Toyota and Conill just introduced a new phase of the effort, asking customers to imagine what a commercial featuring their beloved ride would look like. Toyota will pick the best idea to produce for a real broadcast ad. "There is a feeling that this badge makes your Toyota unique," said Mr. Campopiano. "So since your car is unique, how would you imagine a spot starring your car?"
The "Más Que un Auto" idea is so endearing, you can easily imagine crossover to the general market. "We have seen interest and inquiries from people throughout the U.S. and abroad," said Mr. Hollis. "We continue to evaluate the program and will explore all of our options and opportunities, so stay tuned."
The could mean good news for one Canadian fan, who tweeted, "I'm in Canada. Can someone out of the kindness of their own heart get one for me? Please?" To which another fan replied, "Take back Justin Bieber and we'll consider it."