By Peter Sorgenfrei
Toyota clearly is in a lot of trouble. Between having to recall millions of vehicles and the PR nightmare they’ve created by not communicating with the public and the government in a timely manner, they face a monumental task in getting their organization back on track and starting the process of regaining their customer’s trust.
Watching Ford, Chrysler, GM and Hyundai’s response has been interesting. They are all taking advantage of Toyota’s publicity issue and are directly targeting Toyota’s customers by running ads offering incentives to Toyota owners. While not explicitly saying so, the ads are implying that their products don’t have Toyota’s quality issues.
Their efforts are an example of traditional marketing and advertising. Here is an alternative path and one that I would have advised these (and others who might consider following suit) companies to pursue:
Run compassion and empathy campaigns. Tell your customers and the American people that although Toyota is a fierce competitor of yours, you understand how difficult it is for them to go through this. You have seen how tirelessly they have worked on quality over the years and you know how good they are. Explain that manufacturing an automobile is a complex process, that your company (and the industry) invest billions of dollars in getting all the components right and that sometimes there are issues. If you are Ford you could even say that you had some issues yourself in the past and that you wish Toyota the best.
I imagine the consumer would read or watch an ad like that and think – you know what – that is a great perspective, what a class act, refreshing to see. It would put the advertiser in a different light with that consumer. They would talk about the ad and they might even consider visiting your showroom to check out this ‘new’ compassionate company’s product.
I know this is not traditional advertising think, and I know that market share grab is the name of the game, but I do think you could create long term value with the consumer if you showed compassion for a competitor going through the worst crisis of its existence.