NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Look closely at a Toyota and you may see a bright decal that says "Somos muchos mexicanos. Somos muchos Toyotas," Spanish for "We are many Mexicans. We are many Toyota owners."
As Toyota struggled to recover from a drop in sales and reputation due to safety concerns, the car maker's U.S. Hispanic shop, Conill, came up with a simple idea to link Latinos' pride in their heritage with pride in being a Toyota owner.
"No one would use an 'I love Toyota' sticker, but if you give them something that says Argentina or Mexico, they'll put it on their car," said Pablo Buffagni, Conill's senior VP-chief creative officer. So that's what he did. Conill crafted 99 different decals with the names of Latin American countries and major cities, and offered them for free on a Spanish-language Toyota Facebook page.
The agency also sent street teams and cameras to places such as the parking lots of soccer stadium or Home Depot, and approached Toyota owners there to offer stickers, showing them the different options on an iPad, Mr. Buffagni said. As drivers picked their stickers and recounted their personal stories, often talking spontaneously about their Toyotas, they were filmed and the footage was edited into 15 spots, of which six are running on TV and the others online. One excited Puerto Rican woman spoke so quickly that her Spanish was subtitled, in Spanish, in the spot.
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By the end of October, more than 259,000 stickers had been ordered, mostly through Facebook, where "Somos muchos Toyotas" has 25,000 fans. Drivers can chose a formal or more colloquial country or city name on their sticker. Someone from Mexico City, for instance, could opt for "capitalino" or the more slangy "chilango." Carlos Martinez, Conill's exec VP-managing director, picked "Somos muchos boricuas," a colloquial term for Puerto Ricans, for his car over the more formal "Somos muchos portorriqueños." (Mr. Buffagni's car sticker says "Somos muchos argentinos"; his wife's Toyota sports the slangier "argentos" instead of "argentinos.") Soccer clubs would likely have been popular too, but couldn't be used due to rights issues.
"We've had great feedback on Facebook -- one guy even made a shirt from stickers and uploaded it to Facebook," Mr. Buffagni said. More important, Toyota has been carefully watching research that indicates the brand is regaining popularity. According to Toyota's Hispanic PR Tracker, since the campaign started in July, favorable opinion of Toyota has improved by 13 percentage points and consideration for Toyota vehicles increased 8 percentage points.
The most popular decal is "Somos muchos mexicanos," reflecting the Mexican origin of about two-thirds of the U.S Hispanic population. People can ask for up to 10 free stickers (the Spanish word for sticker is "sticker"). Requests for bigger orders have come from pastors, teachers and the business community, Mr. Buffagni said. "If it's nonprofit, we give them more."
"It's up for discussion [how long the promotion will last], but I think it should be forever," he said.