Marketing isn't one-size-fits-all

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Imagine what would happen if we offered a free Toyota car to everyone in America.

We'd end up with a lot of unhappy people.

Really - it's true. No matter which car we offered up, it wouldn't be right for everyone. We'd hear from people who would want to exchange it for a truck, or a bigger car, or a smaller car, or an SUV, or, of course, request the cash equivalent instead.

The same holds true for our marketing. There's no one way we can satisfy everyone. People who purchase a car are likely making the biggest purchase of their lives next to buying a home, and every person has special needs to help them make the best decision. That's why the fundamental theme of "Moving Forward" is that no matter where our customers are going in life, we'd be honored to help them get there.

To help our customers find what they're seeking, we create a unique marketing plan for each of our 17 models. Each plan is designed to package information in the way customers want to get it and have it delivered when they need it.

A layered approach

To achieve that, we take a layered approach.

Take trucks, for example. If someone were looking for a Tacoma, they would find a layered approach to all the information they're seeking, kind of like our truck buyer would make a batch of deluxe nachos.

First-the tortilla chips are spread all over the pan to make the base-that's our sports-TV buy with Monday Night Football, ESPN and NBA. Then the chips are covered with a layer of beans-that's our interactive efforts including direct mail, e-newsletters and toyota.com. Then we add meat-which includes print ads in Sports Illustrated and Maxim. Some onions are sprinkled about-print ads in enthusiast publications like Motor Trend and 4Wheeler magazines. We add some chile peppers for flavor, like our participation in the Nascar Craftsman Truck Series and partnership with Bass Pro Shops " where the truck buyer can touch and feel the vehicles. Finally, we top it with cheese, which is our Toyota Dealership Association TV, newspaper and radio buys.

Then, we bake it and hope we've provided enough enticement to convert that shopper to a Toyota Tacoma buyer.

But because we have a winning recipe that seems to be attracting buyers and driving sales, we're always looking for ways to improve it. Just as our customers are moving forward with their lives, we are embracing Toyota's DNA "continuous improvement " and the spirit that there's no best-only better.

important changes

That is why we work with our agency and media partners so closely and challenge one another to think of new and different ways to improve and expand upon what we're doing.

This approach has led to important changes in the way we approach business. For example:

* Toyota has dramatically increased its diversity advertising and now works with four agencies: Saatchi & Saatchi, general market; Conill, Hispanic; Burrell, African-American; and InterTrend, Asian.

* We are expanding our Web site to include customized brochures that accurately reflect models and incentives on a regional basis and we have added Planet Kaizen, a heavy contented Web site with technical information, that's drawing enthusiast influencers to Toyota.

* Toyota has, and is continuing, to establish partnerships and sponsorships that go far beyond putting a car on display, but encouraging people to touch, feel and experience our Toyota vehicles, as well as the Toyota brand.

And while we know we've come a long way, we also recognize there is always more we can be doing. Right now, we have the all-new Avalon flagship sedan we are launching. We also will be reaching out to a young male audience for the FJ Cruiser sport utility vehicle that recently made its debut at the Chicago Auto Show.

You couldn't really ask for two more diverse audiences than Avalon and FJ Cruiser, but that's the challenge-and the excitement-of what we do at Toyota.

We need to whip up two completely different layered recipes that have all the ingredients to appeal to the right people. If we do it well, we will have helped our customers move forward in their lives. Then we can celebrate for a few moments before we start looking for ways to do it even better.

Mr. Lentz is group VP-marketing of Toyota Division at Toyota Motor Sales USA.

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