Toyota's Tundra launch loaded with PR arsenal

TORRANCE, CA: Toyota Motor Corp. will use a number of major PR initiatives centered on grassroots and ride-and-drive events to tout the debut of the 2007 Tundra pickup. The integrated effort has been reported to cost in excess of $100 million.

TORRANCE, CA: Toyota Motor Corp. will use a number of major PR initiatives centered on grassroots and ride-and-drive events to tout the debut of the 2007 Tundra pickup. The integrated effort has been reported to cost in excess of $100 million.

With the launch of the Tundra expected early this month, Toyota is making a major play for more market share in one of the most dense and entrenched car segments. The full-size pickup segment, long dominated by the Ford F-150, also has a feverishly loyal customer base. Add to that Toyota's ascendancy toward the number one automaker spot in the US, and this has all the makings of a pivotal launch.

Chad Harp, marketing communications spokesman at Toyota, said this is the "most important launch in Toyota's history in the US."

Harp said Toyota has succeeded at tapping most of the markets in the US, but saw the most room for growth in the full-size pickup market. The primary target for the Tundra is what Toyota is calling "true truckers" - people who use these vehicles as tools.

"This is not a brand-new segment for us," Harp said. "But we finally have a true vehicle for them."

Toyota will take the Tundra directly to consumers via its Toyota Tundra Prove It Tour, a 300-plus-event national ride-and-drive program scheduled to kick off February 7 in Orlando, FL; and the Toyota Outdoor Tour, a national consumer engagement tour. It will also have a presence at such events as the Daytona 500, The International Builders' Show in Orlando, 84 Lumber grand-opening events, Brooks & Dunn concerts, and Tractor Supply Co. retail events.

Multicultural efforts include brand engagement opportunities at local rodeos, construction events, Spanish concerts, and sporting events. "This is one of the heaviest Hispanic marketing efforts Toyota has done," Harp noted.

Toyota is working with GolinHarris, its AOR for the past five years, on a number of these efforts, as well as tapping smaller agencies throughout the country, including Michael Dobrin Public Relations and the Walker Agency.

Art Garner, SVP and Toyota lead at Golin, said the agency's focus is to give consumers a hands-on experience with the Tundra. "The real strength of the Tundra is its capabilities," he said. "So we get the truck out there in different situations where they can actually experience the vehicle, how it works, and what it's capable of doing,"

But Jim Sanfilippo, EVP and senior industry analyst at automotive marketing consultancy AMCI, said Toyota is going to encounter "density" unlike anything it's used to. "It's not going to be easy pickings, and they're going to have to earn every sale," Sanfilippo said. "This is going to be war of the worlds. It's going to be a hell of a battle."

One front on the battlefield will be auto racing. This is the first year that a number of NASCAR Nextel Cup drivers will race in Toyotas.

"The biggest reason Toyota is getting into NASCAR is to sell trucks," Harp said. "You go to any NASCAR event and look at the parking lot, and there's a healthy amount of trucks out there."

Toyota and Golin are doing a lot of media outreach and have compiled a list of more than 1,200 media outlets that fall within the Tundra's vertical demographics, which include construction, hunting, fishing, farming, and outdoors.

Harp said that Toyota worked hard on creating a seamless integrated marketing effort. "There's nothing really 'stunty' about all of this," Harp said. "It's planned out to be one of the best combined efforts with the proper use of PR, advertising, and marketing working together as they should. This could be that proper mix that a lot of launches miss on."

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