Toyota Hybrid: Not a moment to lose

By The & Partnership, London, UK

For Toyota Motor Europe Brand Toyota

Highly Commended in category Data Driven Insights

Project Description
In arguably the largest automotive scandal of all time, called ‘Dieselgate’, Volkswagen had been caught using devices that lied about the emissions from its diesel cars. By 2017, this had become a catalyst for Governments and regulators to ban diesels from many city centres and hit them with higher taxes. In theory, as diesel cars fell out of favour, Hybrid car sales (as a cleaner alternative) should have benefitted. 20 years earlier, in 1997, Toyota had launched the first Hybrid car – a Prius – with a petrol engine and an electric motor working in tandem. By the time ‘Dieselgate’ struck, Toyota had bet the business on Hybrid engines, rolling them out across all its major models (seven in total). As the leading manufacturer of Hybrid cars, this should have been Toyota’s moment.
Unfortunately for Toyota, consumers and competitors had other ideas.
For Toyota, the ideal solution was hybrid. But for most consumers, the decision wasn’t nearly as clear cut. They just weren't ready to buy a hybrid yet. The task for communication was to increase consideration, but that task was made
doubly difficult by two things: Firstly, barriers to consideration couldn’t be reduced to a single issue.
Instead, different people had different concerns – from the functional, to the emotional, even to the social – which played out differently across different countries. All would have to be tackled to
take hybrid mainstream.
Secondly, the clock was ticking. Everyone knew
the game was up for diesel, and competitors were
rushing to provide their own alternative powertrain solutions. There was growing noise around electric as the future: Elon Musk, Tesla, world leaders, other manufacturers – fully-electric cars dominated the headlines and cultural zeitgeist. Nowhere was this better highlighted than at the 2017 Paris Motorshow, where hybrid barely got a look-in. There was a clear and present danger: that
consumers would postpone their decision, allowing competitors to catch up.
The real communication task then, was to
convince the car-buying majority that hybrid
was now a legitimate choice, overcoming ALL
of their barriers to consideration, BEFORE the
window of opportunity had closed.
1. Increase consideration for Toyota hybrids, measured by growing Toyota hybrid search volume by +30%.
2. Increases sales of Toyota hybrids, such that 50% of total Toyota car sales in Western Europe are hybrid cars by end 2017.
3. Increase Toyota’s brand image as the ‘Leader in Hybrid technology’ across Europe (increase in Q4 2017 versus pre-campaign levels in Q2 2017)
Toyota Hybrids were most commonly bought by a niche audience of affluent Empty Nesters (averaging 60 years old) looking for a statement, eco-friendly car. Our hybrid sales volume required us to expand hybrids’ appeal and audience:
1. Attracting younger car buyers, specifically 35-50yr olds
2. Identifying a new attitudinal mindset to appeal to (i.e. beyond the eco-motivated)
Research identified those with a progressive attitude to life and new technologies, were more open to considering Hybrids, narrowing our audience to focus on, The Progressive Mainstream.
Typically, a creative agency would look for
the key barrier to switching and the single
insight that would unlock the brief - but with
hybrid, there wasn’t just one! The car buying
journey is too complicated, the barriers to
hybrid too numerous, and the European
markets too varied, for a silver bullet.
We began by sizing our audience using m[INSIGHTS], GroupM’s proprietary digital behavioural insights platform. Then overlaid a bespoke hybrid survey of 10k people across Europe, to provide an in-depth look at hybrid consideration and barriers.
This revealed two things:
Firstly, functional barriers, often rooted in myths or outdated wisdom, posed sizeable issues for 7.4m of our audience - 26% thought hybrids had to be plugged in to recharge (they don't); 21% believed hybrids had limited range (they don't); and so on.
Secondly, and even more significantly, was that a much larger group (48.3m), rejected hybrids for emotional and social reasons. Specifically, over 1 in 4 (of 48.3M) just didn’t see themselves as
the type of person to drive a hybrid.
Interviews with hybrid rejecters confirmed driver image was a major part of hybrid’s problem - the typical hybrid driver was seen as an eco-conscious
eccentric (a ‘treehugger’), who saw their car as a
statement of their environmental beliefs.
To bring hybrid out of its niche, we had
to update perceptions. This meant persuading
people that hybrid was already a much more
popular choice than they realised, and you didn’t have to be an eco-warrior to drive one. In fact, hybrid drivers were a broad church united in their desire for a more progressive car.
We needed an idea centred on this insight, but able to tackle all the barriers identified earlier.
Agency Solution
Our creative idea was to familiarise hybrid, by shining a light on the many and various people who had already made the choice to drive one; a desirable, yet accessible movement. We summed it up with a simple statement: We Choose Hybrid.
Within the creative platform we developed assets to meet each of the respective audience tasks identified from our data analysis: relevance; education; leadership; and conversion.
Broadcast comms (primarily TV, OOH, print) focused on the aspirational hybrid drivers of today, with the reasons why each of them chose hybrid. These helped to address driver image, a key piece of the puzzle, but by no means all of it.
Supporting content took on the functional barriers with a range of 10 educational videos designed to deliver short, informative messages in highly-targeted digital and social formats. They made clear, for example, that hybrids do not need to be plugged in, that they don't have short range, etc.
For those already considering a hybrid but unsure about Toyota, dedicated creative assets reinforced Toyota’s hybrid leadership with messages such as 'The hybrid leader for 20 years' and 'Toyota hybrids are driven by more than 10m people worldwide', reassuring of the brand’s hybrid pedigree. Behaving like a leader was as important as the message, so these were mostly large-format Press ads and OOH.
Direct response assets - press ads, and performance digital assets - featured compelling offers and response mechanics to turn hybrid buying intention into dealership visits and test drive requests.
In summary, we had one creative platform, We Choose Hybrid, under which a broad suite of messaging and creative addressed all the emotional, functional, and social barriers to hybrid we had identified at different points along the car buying journey.
The creative platform was made available to local markets at the beginning of Q4 2017. Uptake of creative assets can be a perennial challenge for Toyota, which encourages markets to behave autonomously, but in this instance the sheer versatility of the platform ensured widespread deployment:
• 150 master assets (the most ever
created by the pan-Euro marketing team)
• 500+ localised assets deployed
across markets
• 13 markets chose to run the campaign
(5 of whom are independent, so had to
specifically request campaign assets)
Though TV accounted for the largest proportion of media investment (given the scale and urgency of this creative task), the platform was truly multimedia, with digital channels getting the second-highest share of the budget (18%).
Typically, attitudinal research isn’t so helpful for media planning, given the difficulty of accurately targeting attitudes in the real world. But this is where connecting our hybrid survey to individuals in m[INSIGHT] became invaluable. Because their digital behaviour was being tracked in real-time, we could serve them creative that specifically addressed their personal barriers to hybrid. What’s more, we could build look-alike audiences at scale, and target those too. Levels of engagement with the creative dictated which creative asset they saw next.
In summary, the campaign was widely adopted by markets across Europe, even those operating independently of the pan-Euro marketing team. The campaign was launched with significant multichannel spend, emphasising smart use of digital, serving the right content to the right person at the right moment in their buying journey.
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