CAMPAIGNS: Consumer PR - The West is won over by Toyota Yaris

In its 37-year history only one Japanese car had ever won the prestigious European Car of the Year award. In January 1998 Toyota hired CPN to run a campaign to make its new supermini Yaris - at that time no more than a concept - a winner within two years.

In its 37-year history only one Japanese car had ever won the

prestigious European Car of the Year award. In January 1998 Toyota hired

CPN to run a campaign to make its new supermini Yaris - at that time no

more than a concept - a winner within two years.



Toyota is the third largest car manufacturer in the world, but it has

not enjoyed the same sales success in Europe as in other markets. Yaris,

which was designed in Europe, represented a vital entry-level model for

the company in one of Europe’s most fiercely contested markets.



This year Yaris was one of 27 new models eligible for the title, which

is voted on by 56 senior motoring journalists from 21 countries in

Europe.





Objectives



To win European Car of the Year, regarded by Toyota as a key factor in

its ambition to increase its share of the European market to five per

cent by 2005.





Strategy and Plan



With only a concept car to work on, CPN began its campaign by conducting

extensive research into the European Car of the Year award to find out

as much as possible about the whys and wherefores of the award. This

involved desk research and liaising with Toyota PR managers across

Europe.



Armed with this research, CPN launched a campaign aimed at positioning

Yaris as a ’European car with Japanese engineering values’. The

perception in Europe was that Toyotas were worthy, but dull and perhaps

lacking in European styling. The line ’designed by Europeans for Europe’

thus became the main focus in media briefings.



CPN set up the Yaris Media Group targeting key media across Europe. This

extended way beyond the Car of the Year judges because it was felt that

other media were equally influential and it was important not to

alienate them. Late in 1998 Toyota took the unusual step of allowing

journalists to drive Yaris prototypes in Brussels. This was repeated in

Seville in February 1999. In the spring a special Yaris design event was

held in Brussels which enabled key aspects of the design of the car to

be communicated.



CPN also provided press office support at all the key European motor

shows.



The key event in the campaign was a week-long media trip to Japan in

July attended by 40 journalists. This gave them the opportunity to

interview the chief engineer for Yaris and to visit the factory where

the car is made. Getting so many journalists to give up so much of their

time was regarded as a major coup.



CPN was able to build on two other timely events in the run up to the

awards. In early summer Channel 4’s motoring programme Driven made Yaris

its car of the year, while in October Autocar did a survey of the

world’s top 100 cars and awarded Yaris first place.



CPN decided not to do any more PR work between shortlisting and the

announcement of the award because it was felt this could do as much harm

as good.





Measurement and Evaluation



CPN’s in-house evaluation of the campaign reveals core campaign messages

were widely taken up. The general press picked up on the key message

about European styling, while business media also emphasised the

importance of Yaris to Toyota’s plans to gain market share in Europe.

The FT ran the headline ’Toyota’s stylish Yaris shows how the West could

be won’.



Winning European Car of the Year on 16 November meant the ultimate

accolade for the campaign. Toyota’s market share in Europe has also

risen from 1.6 per cent in March to 3.6 per cent.





Results



As a non-European car, Yaris was regarded by many as a rank outsider in

the battle for European Car of the Year. A thoroughly planned and

carefully orchestrated campaign meant that CPN was able to achieve what

appears to be a major change in perception among the media, including

the key award judges. Emphasising the design, allowing early access to

the car and arranging an intensive trip to Japan were the major elements

that led to success.



Client: Toyota Motor Europe

PR Team: Countrywide Porter Novelli

Campaign: Winning European Car of the Year for Toyota

Timescale: Jan’98 - Nov ’99

Budget: circa pounds 650,000



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