AUSTIN, TX: Toyota is one of the marketers that used last week's South by Southwest Festival (SXSW) to bring its Yaris, a subcompact aimed at Gen Y buyers, to the US.
Nancy Hubbell, Toyota national strategic news manager, said the corporate sponsorship fit the target buyer. "It is a young, hip audience of people very passionate about their lives and interests," she said, adding that the company wanted the car to be embraced by gaming and music enthusiasts.
The Yaris, which goes on sale April 24, is being positioned as an inexpensive, design-focused car. Toyota tried the tack several years ago with Echo, which failed to win over younger buyers, leading Toyota to launch the Scion brand.
"We want people to understand the car is about accessible design," Hubbell said. "It's a lot more than just an inexpensive vehicle."
The car manufacturer teamed up with Drillteam, a word of mouth marketing agency, to create an online and offline presence. Drillteam is owned by Insound LLC, which also operates Insound.com, a distributor of predominantly independent music.
Toyota's involvement with the SXSW music festival is stage one of the relationship. The recently launched Web site, www.yaris-sxsw.com, features free downloads from SXSW bands, videos, and a competition for SXSW attendees and music enthusiasts to nominate their favorite of 713 bands playing at the festival.
"Yaris is a car designed for young people who have a creative spirit, and SXSW definitely embodies that," said Matt Wishnow, Insound president.
Insound's ties to visual artists in the independent music community gave Toyota additional credibility. The artists contributed reinterpretations of the cover art for albums that SXSW bands have released to be used as additional signage for Yaris.
Insound also used the car as a shuttle to transport attendees to and from events.
"It's not just a static car display," Hubbell said. "We're helping people at SXSW and showing them [directly] how Yaris can help them have a better experience."
Insound will also place Yaris ads on popular music blogs like Stereogum.com and review sites like Pitchfork Media. Wishnow called the relationship symbiotic.
Hubbell said that while the company would do some press outreach, the campaign was more specifically geared to create buzz.
"We have the different monitoring groups that will look for Internet buzz," she said.