The automaker has struggled to attract younger buyers for several years, as it tries to reprise its popularity in the 1970s with baby boomers, many of whom remain Toyota loyalists but have upgraded to the Camry or the Avalon. Toyota's bid to make Corolla young and hip is critical to its future growth. Corolla, which made its U.S. debut in 1968, is the automaker's best-selling model after the Camry. Toyota sold 245,023 Corollas in 2001 vs. 230,156 in 2000 in the U.S., according to Advertising Age sibling publication Automotive News.
The average age of a Corolla owner is 44, but the 2003 model targets 30-somethings, said Steve Sturm, VP-marketing, Toyota. Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi, Torance, Calif., created three TV spots for the Corolla campaign that broke over the weekend with the tagline, "The new Corolla just wants to have fun."
In addition to TV, print and online media, Toyota will launch an interactive game March 1 to reach younger consumers who spend a lot of time online. "You're only going to use gaming when you've got a young demographic," Mr. Sturm said. With the 2003 model, Toyota targets 18 to 24-year-olds.
"Toyota has fired a major shot in a war in that [small-car] segment" with its aggressive low pricing, said Jim Sanfilippo, exec VP, consultancy Automotive Marketing Consultants. The Corolla is priced from $13,370 for the base CE model to $14,680 for the premium LE.
The online game, created by Wild Tangent, Redmond, Wash., allows enthusiasts to play snowboarding, hang gliding and go-karting games and includes a viral element in which gamers can send postcards to friends issuing a challenge.
The game will be pre-installed on 1.5 million Hewlett-Packard Co. consumer PCs with an alert to notify consumers. It will also be available on Toyota's Web site. Wild Tangent, which created a game for the launch of Toyota's first full-size Tundra pickup in 1999, has also created games to promote Fox Sports and TBS Superstation's "War Games." Its games are also distributed through AOL Time Warner's AOL Music channel.
Other automakers have tried online games as well, including General Motors Corp., Chrysler Group with Jeep 4x4 EVO2 and Mazda North America. Last year, GM's Cadillac division mailed more than 1 million DVD-ROM games to potential buyers, most of whom signed up on cadillac.com. Players learned features of the 2002 Escalade during the game and could enter to win the SUV.
"The younger audience is more likely to let the Internet influence shopping, financing and buying decisions," said Julie Ask, analyst, Jupiter Media Metrix. "[Online games] are a creative way of engaging youth. It's an audience that wants to be reached online."
Jim Press, chief operating officer of Toyota, told dealers last month the company will have a U.S.-only line of new youth-targeted vehicles under their own brand name, Automotive News reported.