Toyota concentrates marketing on women to boost Solara sales

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Toyota is still chasing women as the main target for its second-generation Solara convertible.

Women accounted for nearly 60% of Solara convertible sales last year. So the Toyota Motor Sales USA division is relying on that demographic to pump up sagging sales for the new model. It's focusing on women in their late 30s and early 40s with a fund-raiser linked to a popular female cause, a single TV spot, print and a standout outdoor effort.

Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi Los Angeles, Torrance, Calif., created a series of billboards that are arriving now in nearly 30 key markets. One shows a woman driving the top-down Solara while her female passenger holds a kite flying off the board. The commercial, arriving April 5 on spot, national broadcast and cable networks, shows a woman imagining her boss and his desk retracting into the floor of the car.

Toyota is also hosting a 10-day online auction for 2004 Solara ragtop and other goodies on eBay. Online ads started March 21 on eBay, top portals, auto and content sites promoting the auction. The money from the winning bid will go to the 2004 Revlon Run/Walk for Women, which raises funds for breast- and ovarian-cancer research.

marketing and charity

The Solara auction marks the automaker's first special promotion on eBay since it announced a one-year exclusive auto sponsorship of the site last month. The package includes airfare and three hotel nights for two to Los Angeles for the May 8 event, a trunk-load of Revlon products, a makeover, $1,000 shopping spree, $500 in spending money and a pair of Sergio Rossi shoes. The opening bid is $32,569, equal to the car's base retail price.

"Marketing through this philanthropy makes sense for this vehicle because the target is right," said Deborah Wahl Meyer, corporate manager-marketing communications at the auto brand. "The tie-in with Revlon and the whole idea of revitalization and rejuvenation speaks to that target."

Ms. Meyer said she had no projections on the number of bids or the winning bid, since this is Toyota's first eBay auction. She said the new Solara soft-top's styling is very different from its predecessor, "very sporty-looking with very crisp lines."

Jim Sanfilippo, exec VP of Omnicom Group's AMCI auto consultancy, said "there's too few convertibles out there and most are premium priced," adding that the 2004 Solara is "very aggressively priced" and "significantly more stylish" than its predecessor.

Toyota, a single-platinum sponsor of Revlon's 5K events since 1999, raised its status to double platinum for the 2004 event in Los Angeles. The sponsorship gives Toyota more exposure, including its logo on medals, at the finish line, on participants' bibs and T-shirts and a mention in the event's public service announcements. Last year's event in Los Angeles attracted 40,000 runners, walkers and volunteers. The events, presented by the Entertainment Industry Foundation, have raised more than $30 million in the past 10 years.

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