Posts Tagged ‘Toyota’

Brand Sleight of Hand, Brought to You by Toyota

August 26th, 2010

Another day, another Toyota recall.  In theory, any other brand that might have shouldered the weight of so much negative press would have collapsed.

When your brand faces a torrent of constant criticism like Toyota, the go-to PR tactic is to respond with positive messaging, namely in the form of ads – that’s the platform that gives you supreme control over the message and narrative.

But please – when considering such an approach, you must avoid over-the-top, absurd spin.

You may have seen Toyota’s recent commercials about how they’re spending $1 million an hour on improving their fleet’s safety.  As the New York Times points out, that adds up to nearly $9 billion a year.

Now that seems like quite a bit of loose change to spend exclusively on safety improvements, but as the Times explains, the devil’s in the video details.  The actual script of the ad says that “at Toyota, we care about your safety. That’s why we’re investing one million dollars every hour to improve our technology and your safety.”

That last sentence, if diced carefully, says that the money is being spent on technology improvement alone.  Yet during that specific narration, the words “INVESTING IN YOUR SAFETY” float on the screen (yes, the words are in all-caps in the commercial).

Nice subliminal trick Toyota, but when mainstream outlets devote their time to parsing the meaning behind your ads – and potential duplicity – all your company does is fuel the lingering mistrust on your brand’s safety record.  Not the wisest PR tactic we’ve seen.

Crisis Corner: How Toyota May Turn LaHood Into an Ally

February 3rd, 2010

As is his want, today U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, testifying before Congress on the Toyota recall, said that if anyone owned a Toyota, they should “stop driving it.”  Immediately afterward, Toyota’s stock price fell nearly 8%, adding to the almost $30 billion hit the carmaker has taken since the recall on faulty gas pedals began.

Toyota has been under an amazing swarm of bad press and it’ll be a long, hard road back to redemption and better image reputation.  What’s different about today’s mini-crisis public relations drama, though, is that Toyota quickly shored up its position, and in a way that may have pivoted LaHood to be more sensitive when he speaks about the carmaker.

To Toyota’s benefit, LaHood clarified his remarks and said he meant to refer only to recalled models, not the entire Toyota fleet.  Toyota smartly followed up with its own statement that struck the right tone, which thanked LaHood for the clarification.  Instead of being combative and harsh, Toyota took the high road, and by doing so let LaHood save face.  This simple, delicate move by Toyota will keep LaHood from going off-script in his public statements, making it unlikely that the nation’s top transportation official is going to attack the company any time soon.