Commentary by Jonah Bloom

Bass Pro a Perfect Venue For Toyota Truck Promotion

Co-Marketing Deal Puts Outdoorsmen and Tundra Pickups Together

By Published on .

I clambered into a suspension-less, musty old cab outside the train station in Harrisburg, Pa., more in hope than expectation. The
Jonah Bloom, executive editor of Advertising Age.
chances of my driver -- a central-casting Boo Radley -- knowing the whereabouts of an outdoor-sports store that opened its doors for the first time that morning seemed slim at best.

But Boo -- real name, Gary "Frenchy" French -- was a true gent, several steps ahead of me. "Ah yes, Bass Pro. I was there last night. It's fantastic, it'll bring a lot of business to town." It turned out Frenchy had been invited to the VIP opening -- "they must have got my name because I bought stuff from the catalog" -- and he gave me a thorough briefing (employs 400, 200,000 square feet, big tourist attraction, etc.).

600 lined up at dawn
Frenchy's parting shot was that he hoped I got one of the free Bass Pro hats set aside for the first 500 customers. But half an hour after the doors opened all the hats had been snapped up, presumably by the 600-plus customers who'd been queuing outside since 7 a.m.

Bass Pro is a billion-buck business, growing at around 15% a year, and gets the kind of customer props most retailers only fantasize about. Its cavernous stores are like hunting lodges on steroids. Apart from endless racks of guns and fishing rods, and kit for any outdoor pursuit you can think of, there are wildlife mounts,

Bass Pro and Toyota have teamed up for what has proved to be an effective co-marketing campaign aimed at outdoorsmen.
a shooting range, a Nascar simulator, a tank of fish (mainly bass) and a climbing wall.

The privately owned chain of 28 stores, including three opened in the last month, attracts vacationers and even honeymooners as well as locals, and I could not find a customer with anything but glowing praise for it. It's considered such a draw that New York state spent the last four years, and $60 million, luring Bass Pro to Buffalo.

Ride-and-drive events
Such success hasn't been lost on the marketing folks at Toyota, who, last April, signed a deal to be the official Bass Pro truck. Apart from having displays and promotions at stores, Toyota has organized massive ride-and-drive events at each of the Grand Openings. So, as I emerged from Harrisburg's new outdoor mecca, I joined a line of happy hunters waiting to test the Tundra D-Cab.

Toyota has lured more than 11,000 folks into Tundras at nine Bass Pro openings. Only 18% are current Toyota owners; 51% are Ford, Chevy or GMC drivers. After the first six events, 82% said they had increased purchase consideration of the Tundra, 33% wanted to receive more info and 580 had asked for dealer follow up.

'Touch and feel the product'
Toyota was getting sales leads, and test drivers were talking about the trucks being made in the U.S. and speculating on future models. This wasn't just selling trucks now, it was paving the way for Toyota's increasing truck capacity. "It's a perfect demographic for us," said Toyota's Steve Jett. "A great way to have people touch and feel the product."

It's not surprising automakers are boosting event-marketing efforts. With 260 nameplates in the U.S., compared to 130 in the '70s, and a decline in the cost effectiveness of mass media, events that create buzz for a brand and put product in the hands of potential consumers are obvious marketing manna. But Toyota's choice of venue is smart.

As we obsess about media habits, it's easy to overlook the time consumers spend consuming. Examining when and where they do that can yield interesting new marketing avenues. It's a case, as Jett put it, of "fishing where the fish are."

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