And The Video Marketing Oscar Goes To…

By Amy Kossoff Smith, Write Ideas, Inc.

As a publicist, I see virtually every commercial message through the PR/marketing lens.  Was that a good idea…a brilliant idea…an embarrassing idea (who came up with that one?)…The marketing wheels turn, and I realize it’s not safe to presume that every marketing professional thinks about strategy and how the customer will perceive a message.  With the ongoing influx of viral/social media, it seems almost anyone can be a producer, a director, a writer.  But to be a really brilliant producer…that takes skill and perspective.

One example from this past year really struck me as as “stand out marketing.”  I wrote about Toyota’s “Swagger Wagon” video campaign on my moms’ website – click here for that post and a link to the video – as a great example of putting the “cool” in minivan.  Guaranteed to make you laugh – check it out.

I’m shifting gears (excuse the pun) about this campaign now as a marketer.  It’s entertaining for sure, and while the idea of commercials that entertain is far from new (think Superbowl without the multi-million dollar production and airtime pricetag)…the idea of airing a longer “commercial” breaking out of the :30 or :60 fence line where you can really tell a story has certainly found its playground on YouTube and other video sites.

The Swagger Wagon videos got some great industry press and views (10 million+ as of today for one video alone, and there’s a series!), but I’m curious, what did it do for the brand?

Toyota teamed with B.A.D. Company for an interesting promotion at the industry’s SEMA Show and created a special edition car, “The Sienna Swagger Wagon Supreme” (art meets life), and engaged Sienna’s online community of fans to engineer the product.  Interesting…get your customers to play architect – talk about consumer engagement!

Auto Guide called the campaign “hard core and humorous.”  Sports Bash got into the swagger with a “Yo! Viral Ad Marketing Genius” headline and bordered on a rapper tone in the short piece of coverage.

The closest I could find that reports on the potentially promising business aspect of this tactic was Jim Motavalli’s commentary in Forbes that reports that “minivans could be poised for a revival, as consumers let their image issues be trumped by concern for fuel economy and family-friendly practicality.”  This, despite the fact that “minivan sales have dropped precipitously in the U.S.”

All of this hype made me curious about something…what did it do to move sales of the product?  I reached out to Toyota’s media department and learned that yes, the viral campaign was a good shot in the arm (the sales arm, that is!).  Sona Iliffe-Moon,  Marketing Communications Supervisor for Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., shared, “Sienna was a top performer in the minivan segment in 2010 as a result of a variety of factors, including the debut of the Swagger Wagon campaign in early May. We saw a spike in Sienna sales after the release of the Swagger Wagon music video, up 23 percent from the previous month. We’re pleased with the positive reaction to Sienna and that so many people—more than 10 million—have watched the video on YouTube and are still enjoying it nearly a year and a half after its premiere.”

Kudos to Toyota for putting the swagger in the wagon!


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