When it comes to new car sales, brand loyalty has always been the name of the game. (Goodness knows VW executives must have everything crossed in the hope that their normally sticky fans stay solid despite that brand’s recent issues.)
With that in mind I’m a little fascinated by the recent commercial for the new look Toyota Land Cruiser 200 series 4WD. The good people from Toyota are rightly proud of their latest update to this classic off-roader claiming it to be earth’s greatest 4WD. Their Land Cruiser Legends campaign is terrific. And it’s clearly not intended to convert drivers of other brands to Toyota unless they’ve had a bad experience.
The strategy is very transparent. Encourage existing Land Cruiser owners to update to the new look model. Promote the reliability of a legend, therefore raising doubt in people’s minds about the durability of the alternatives.
But there’s one aspect that has me in two minds. To demonstrate its reliability and improved towing power the commercial sees the New Land Cruiser 200 simultaneously rescuing a Jeep and another 4WD out of trouble. And of course the Jeep has the word ‘Ranger’ emblazoned on the side to take a thinly veiled swipe at the Ford Ranger as well which must be worrying Toyota due to its great sales performance.
The brand loyalty of people who use their 4WD for its intended purpose is incredibly strong. The friendly banter between owners rivals the good old days of Ford versus Holden. For example, once the Land Cruiser ad launched the Jeep fan blogs went into meltdown with some owners irate at the very thought that Toyota should be so cheeky as to suggest that a Land Cruiser would need to come to their rescue. (I should declare here that I drive an old Jeep but I’m nowhere near as fanatical as many others.)
My point is that when that sort of loyalty exists I just wonder whether this strategy rusts potential customers on to their brand of choice that little bit more rather than perhaps at least getting a look in to be included in the consideration set next time around. For years marketers have said that you should never mention your competitors as it’s giving them a free kick and I suspect that might be the case here.
I have no doubt that the Land Cruiser loyalists will queue up for new model. But the new model isn’t cheap. And in a price competitive market with more choice than ever before is it the right strategy to preach to the Toyota converted and take a cheap shot that risks alienating potential brand switchers?
Alan Kewley is a Group Account Director at BCM