Don Esmond, group VP-general manager of the Toyota Division, said a key initiative for the brand this year "is a focused effort to re-establish our connection with the young new-car buyer."
Toyota has established two marketing teams in its efforts to focus on youth. Within the company, it's called Genesis; at Saatchi & Saatchi, Torrance, Calif., the special unit is called the Bomb Squad.
"In the late '60s and early '70s," Mr. Esmond noted, cars such as the Corolla and Celica "laid the foundation for Toyota's phenomenal success in North America." Those cars "were an instant hit with young buyers from the immense baby boom generation, 77 million strong. They have been the core of our most loyal repeat customers."
Although still "our most important target buyer group," he said, Toyota now is turning its attention to the Internet Generation.
COMING: 63 MIL NET GEN DRIVERS
"Every year from now until 2010, about 4 million people from this generation will reach driving age. That will result in 63 million NetGen drivers," he said.
Toyota also is concerned about becoming saddled with the uncool stigma facing other marketers, such as Levi Strauss & Co., said Gail Brackett, management supervisor on the account at Saatchi.
FIRST ADS FEATURE ED
In the first print ad effort from the new youth units-each of which is made up of staffers under age 35-Ed, from "Driver's Ed," presents humorous driving-related tips. The page ads, breaking in Teen People and Young Money, show pages from a teen's three-ring binder.
In one execution, Ed offers the tip: "Attention nose pickers: Just because you are alone in your car-News Flash-you are not invisible."
The campaign is intended to drum up interest over the long haul among children ages 12 to 18 and among car buyers ages 18 to 30 for three new models being introduced starting in October: The Echo, Toyota's first all-new vehicle aimed at youth; a new Celica sports coupe; and the MR Spyder, a convertible roadster due out in spring 2000.
Ms. Brackett said the ads will be followed by a fully integrated national ad campaign still in development, with elements rolling out closer to the time the new models are launched.
Another new print campaign from Saatchi, with a more traditional appearance and supporting the RAV4 sport-utility vehicle, carries a theme that introduces "Ravland."
SAME CORE VALUES
Research on the marketer's new target audience, Ms. Brackett said, has shown the same "core values" of their parents. But beyond the research, and the advertising, the automaker had to produce cars that would appeal to youth.
Toyota needed to be able to tell the NetGen that "We do have a car for you," she said.
"Toyota abdicated a lot of entry-level [purchases] to the Koreans" with Hyundai and Kia, said James Hall, VP-industry analysis for consultancy AutoPacific. "Toyota has to make sure it doesn't become a car [brand] simply for boomers.
"If you don't cultivate Gen X and Gen Y early, your brand won't be relevant" and you risk having a "self-extinguishing buyer base," he said.
By 2010, Mr. Esmond said, 123 million Americans will be under age 30.
"NetGens are expected to be the most marketed-to generation in history," he