Uh Oh

Uh Oh

You know things aren’t right with your brand when…

a) You’re part of the punchline in most jokes

b) You’re in editorial cartoons every day

c) Costa Rican rental car companies use you in negative co-branding ads

As I was returning a car at the Avis branch near Liberia, Costa Rica, I was surprised to see such a provocative comment from a big company that may or may not need Toyota’s friendship in the future. I asked the manager of the branch if this was a Costa Rica wide campaign, and he claimed that Avis worldwide was thinking of doing it (I think it’s just Costa Rica).

Costa Ricans are very relaxed; except when they get behind the wheel of a car. For some reason a chemical reaction occurs in Costa Rican (male) brains and their loins as soon as they find themselves in a drivers seat, and they become… jerks. Costa Rica has the highest automobile fatality rate in the world.

When rental companies in the country with the worst road safety in the world start making fun of  Toyota, you’d think they’d realise how seriously their brand is out of control. I don’t think they have.

Toyota would do well to stand up and explain to people what’s gone wrong, and how they’re going to fix it. It’s simple – replace the front page of every country website with an explanation specific to that country, and replace all TV advertising for many weeks with a clear (and believable) story. Ideally they should have done that as soon before the world’s press started running with the story.

Something like:

  1. Here are the cars that are broken
  2. Here’s the brake pedal / gas pedal / floor mat keeping the gas pedal down that’s broken
  3. Here’s how we’re going to fix those cars
  4. These are the cars with no problems, please consider buying them
  5. In 3 months, new Toyotas will have the strictest safety and quality controls in the history of the car industry

They had a chance to do that starting in September 2009, but they ignored the problem in marketing until 4 days ago, when they launched the ad below. Hopefully the damage from months of sweeping the problem under the carpet can be undone.

Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. Agree completely. It would have been bad enough on its own. But Toyota have built their brand around and told us all they stand for value, reliability, quality, and innovation.

    This attacks the brand at its core, and they should have seen how bad this could get and reacted swiftly. Rather, they have been clumsy and slow in responding and most likely have caused even more damage.

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Brand Mythology, Co-Branding, Organizational Behaviour