Word-of-Mouth and Referral Marketing Blog

How Toyota Became The Most Valuable Car Brand Worldwide

Toyota is the world’s largest automobile maker, and an industry trailblazer.

Founded in 1937 in Japan, the MNC now produces automobiles under 5 brands, including the luxury brand Lexus and the Millennial targeted brand Scion.

Despite setbacks from the 2008 global recession, the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and a number of recalls during those years, Toyota persevered through the rough times, and earned the position of most valuable car brand worldwide in 2015, with a brand value of US$29.5 billion.

1. Instagram Ad Videos – Bite-sized Content

How do you pick up a bunny? No, not by the ears, you do it with a motocross bike. #HotelTacoma

A video posted by toyotausa (@toyotausa) on

Ever since Instagram was optimised to display video content, brands have been leveraging on this new social media tool for advertising.

Toyota is no exception.

These short-branded videos are a lot more economical to produce than traditional media and TV advertisements, and because the costs are lower, more videos can be produced to create a whole video series promoting a product.

These Instagram videos are also typically shorter, and are better at capturing the small attention spans of tech-savy millennials.

Toyota’s ad videos have been effective in generating hype about a product, or an event. #HotelTacoma videos for instance typically garnering between 15k – 20k views, and hundreds of comments.

Word-of-mouth tip: Consumers these days live in a world of instant gratification. Ad videos are a great way of capturing the attention of and delivering information to young, media-savy consumers.

2. Pinterest – Humanising the Brand


Toyota social media managers have curated an incredibly aesthetic Pinterest account, that simultaneously weaves together a brand narrative that humanises the brand.

Boards such as “Road Trip to Northern CA Coast” and “Outdoor Adventures” gives the viewer a visual treat of picturesque scenery and genuine human interactions made possible through the use of a Toyota automobile.

The use of Pinterest boards to put together inspirational content is a more organic approach than traditional print and media advertising.

In this way, the brand comes across as more approachable and friendly, appealing to the emotional aspects of a consumer, without coming across as artificial.

Word-of-Mouth tip: Pinterest is a great platform to put together a whole visual ephemera of images related to the brand. The use of different Pinterest boards allows the brand to put together multiple narratives, each one appealing to a slightly differentiated customer base.

3. Corporate Social Responsibility – “Meals Per Hour” Campaign

Following Superstorm Sandy of late fall 2012, Toyota took the initiative to build up a Corporate Social Responsibility campaign designed to help victims of the disaster recover.

Toyota teamed up with Food Bank For New York City for disaster relief, and engaged ad agency Supermarche of Paranormal Activity fame to produce a six-minute documentary style video which documented their efforts.

The video shows how Toyota contributed to the relief efforts through its expertise in operational efficiency and engineering.

The “Toyota Production System” was a key focus of the documentary, and the video content was skilfully produced to not only show Toyota’s commitment to do good, but also to introduce Toyota’s guiding philosophy of kaizen – continuous improvement – to its viewers.

The video shows how Toyota’s expertise and skills contribution greatly reduced the time taken for meals to be delivered to the local community, and their reactions of gratitude.

What made the documentary go viral though, was undoubtedly Toyota’s pledge to provide one meal to the local community, for every view the video received, up to a maximum of 1,000,000 views.

The video campaign was an all-round success, generating 214 million media impressions, and was viewed for more than 2.2 million minutes, garnering 17,000 YouTube likes.

Word-of-mouth tip: Consumers are after all, empathetic humans who like to do good. The simple action of viewing the campaign video could not have made it easier for the consumer to do good. However, that same action would have also educated the consumer about Toyota’s do-good philosophy, raising brand awareness and brand loyalty. Definitely a win-win situation for all parties involved.

4. Social Selling – Personable Sales Representatives at Car Dealerships

Buying a big-ticket item like a car is no easy decision. A lot of time, thought, money and effort goes into making this important life investment.

When customers are interested in purchasing a car, they go to a car dealership to find out more about the options that are available to them.

This is where sales representatives have the potential to make all the difference, and where one such Toyota sales representative, Laura Madison has.

Madison sends personalised notes to her customers via snail mail, investing the time and effort into establishing personal connections with her customers, making them feel important and appreciated.

Madison also built her marketing model on personal referrals and recommendations from customers. Millennials are known for reaching out to friends for opinions and reviews before making a purchase, so this strategy effectively legitimises herself and the brand she is representing.

Madison, as an automobile sales expert, also cultivates transparency around the work she does. Madison has her own website where she posts tips to help first-time buyers make a good investment.

By being transparent about her work, this builds a profound sense of trust with customers, putting them on her side.

Word-of-mouth tip: Human relationships are still at the essence of everyday brick-and-mortar sales transactions. Establishing personal connections with customers, building up trust, and making them feel important and appreciated will drive up sales. Satisfied customers will go on to tell their closest networks about their pleasant experience, and sales will organically increase via WOM.


Read next: How Mercedes Established Itself As A Global Luxury Car Brand

Andrea Lee

Andrea Lee

Andrea is an undergraduate majoring in international relations and East Asian politics. She enjoys a good run in the city.

Add comment