Toyota goes guerilla to roll Scion

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The national rollout for Toyota's Scion will use many of the same guerilla tactics that worked so well in its launch market.

Jim Farley, VP-marketing of Scion and a self-described "mainstream-marketing guy," is somewhat shocked that the word-of-mouth launch campaign worked so well in California.

The main goal of the viral marketing is to drive people to scion.com, so all the branded merchandise handed out at events includes the Web site address. During the first six weeks of the launch, 158,000 people configured a Scion online, and the figure is growing by 40% to 50% weekly, Mr. Farley said.

The unusual launch campaign employed a vast array of place-based messages. "We just threw stuff at the wall. Some of it stuck. Some didn't," he said. Some marketing ploys that were used in California that won't make it into the national campaign include image projections on buildings, skywriting and life-size Scion sand structures at beaches.

`one-on-one'

What Toyota found was that the "one-on-one stuff works better," Mr. Farley said, adding he wants to do more "real world stuff in the city, out in the streets where the kids can discover your product."

Scion will be available next February along the Eastern seaboard, and in the South and Southwest. The Midwest markets and rest of the country will be added in June 2004. At that time, Toyota Motor Sales will add a third sporty model that will compete with the Civic coupe from American Honda Motor Co.

Rebel Organization, a unit of Scion partner and regional title URB, developed a slew of the non-traditional marketing programs, including Scion Sessions, a 12-city blitz outside California. Rebel targets 20-somethings by hooking up with nightclubs, art galleries or malls.

`street teams'

Josh Levine, president of Rebel, said his "street teams" hand out promotional items to gatherings of between 300 and 1,000 people. "The point is to keep it somewhat intimate," he said. The goal is to get the young trendsetters who discover Scion to be evangelists for the brand.

Rebel's "Installation" art tour for Scion will visit 12 cities in the next year. Scion Hot Import Nights puts the marketer in 22 U.S. cities at car customization events with the street teams handing out information and branded merchandise. The Scion DJ Contest will travel to various cities with the winner on URB's next co-branded Scion music CD. Rebel is also handling Scion's sponsorship in the Sprite Liquid Mix tour of 21 dates in August and September.

The guerilla methods are cost effective. Mr. Farley figured the cost of displaying two Scions and hiring three street team members to man them to be about $500. Only 10% of his California ad budget was spent on TV.

Two 60-second launch spots from Attik, San Francisco, have run only in cinemas. Mr. Farley said he will probably use a pair of 30-second TV spots and theater spots for other markets. Once the brand is national, it's estimated Toyota will spend at least $50 million to support Scion.

test drives

Separately, Omnicom Group's AMCI will conduct Scion test drives across the U.S. The cars will have video cameras in them and participants can send a copy of the drive to friends via e-mail. Of the 4,000 test drives AMCI did in California, 1,100 drivers wanted to see a dealer, Mr. Farley said

Mr. Farley knows reaching his target in other states won't be as simple as in California, where he said he covered 80% of youth in four cities. So, Scion will be doing "a little more mass media" with national buys in titles like Flaunt, Complex and Accelerator.

He projected 2003 unit sales of roughly 8,000, rising to 60,000 in 2004 and 100,000 in 2005. "It's a pretty quick ramp up. It took [Toyota's] Lexus seven or eight years to get up to 100,000" after its 1989 debut, he said.

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