Monthly Archives: March 2010

Toyota Isn’t Grasping Social Media Like They Should

Follow me.

This is just one of Toyota’s latest requests to its loyal (and not so loyal) public. In recent days, Toyota has jumped on the social marketing bandwagon with some gusto. Prior to their much-discussed recall, Toyota had what I would consider a rather lackluster effort in the social marketing arena.

Today however, you can go to to follow the latest happenings on Toyota, from Toyota and others. This is a branded channel on TweetMeme that was produced with the help of Federated Media. When you come here you can read their latest posts from their Twitter page,, as well as video, press releases and some feeds from larger publications.

For instance, just last week I found the latest article from the Washington Post and USA Today talking about NHTSA’s belief that the latest runaway Prius incident in New York was due to driver error. There was also an article on their “loyalty” deals (0% financing on select models) as well as several others talking about reasons to buy a Toyota and more.

The tone is, well, decidedly positive. Is that in line with what’s going on elsewhere in the web?

The LA Times covered this story too (March 2, 2010 Toyota, Looking for Positive Spins, turns to Twitter) and suggested that Toyota may be filtering out some “unwanted” criticism. But Toyota’s reps at Federated Media replied by saying that “Negative stories are not filtered out of ToyotaConversations in any way whatsoever except for offensive content and the like”.

Given the commentary to my last two Toyota blogs on AOL Autos (Toyota’s Female Problem: Women Buyers Considering Other Brands, Some Revolutionary Ideas For Toyota To Right Itself), I would guess that those are the kind of comments that they are filtering, likely falling into the “and the like” category.

We have all talked endlessly that Toyota’s biggest mistake (outside of some obvious engineering and quality control issues) was their handling and communication, or lack thereof, of the situation. Rule #1 in any good crisis management campaign is to control your message. Saying nothing may seem like taking the high road but in this day and age, particularly for a large, public company, all it serves to do is to fuel the speculation for what’s REALLY going on.

So, entering into the social marketing fray, particularly Twitter, is the right thing to do, even if they were a bit late. It has worked for other brands and it has worked against brands too.

Take the latest high profile Twitter issues that have erupted in the transportation segment. Filmmaker Kevin Smith was accused of being too fat for Southwest Airlines seats and promptly Tweeted his case that resulted in a big black eye for the airline company. But, Southwest handled it quickly by responding in the same medium. This was made more successful due in part to the fact that Southwest already had a strong commitment to the social landscape and has over 1 million Twitter followers. @Toyota as of today has just over 18,000.

The point is, without a strong understanding and presence in the Twitter and social landscape, it is very hard to get on top of these issues and harder yet to seed good will before bad has a chance to root.

To further prove this point, I searched for companies or groups that have analyzed the Twitter activity of Toyota since the recall debacle began and found a good analysis on Buzz Study ( A few of their slides are transposed here (Dated March 12, 2010).

First you can see that the quantity of posts has almost quadrupled up to what BuzzStudy says was a highpoint of 120,000 posts in one day.

Then looking at the left side you can see that there has been about a 30% decrease in Toyota sentiment that occurred right after the first incident.


You will note in this next illustration that this is a downward trend, not the end of the story, at least not yet. So expect to see a continued downward slope for a while.


This slide is one I would recommend all Toyota Marketing and PR executives keep on their dashboards. It is a classification of the buzz going on about Toyota, by social site. Obviously, Twitter is the place to start. But Facebook has potential. Unfortunately, while Toyota does have a Facebook page, they very rarely update it and therefore are violating Rule #1 again…they have lost control of the message there.


Finally, I think it is pretty clear that in this technological age, you can run but you cannot hide and while Toyota is starting to approach the problem in the right way (in fact, the buildout of their is a good example of a lot of great info refreshed frequently, but it shouldn’t be the only place), they are lacking that truth and transparency aspect that people are clamoring for from them. Like it or not, this is happening more on social media sites rather than on manufacturer websites.

They have their Twitter pages and Facebook pages but they don’t appear focused on them. The tone is far different from that of the rest of the ecosystem, which only helps to solidify the idea that they are presenting a message out of balance. These social media spaces can serve them well if they show more of an effort towards personalization and transparency. Brands do not win over crowds by simply showing up. Today you have to be a true participant if you want people to “Follow Me.”

Source: AOL Autos

Toyota’s Female Problem: Women Buyers Considering Other Brands

“Oh what a feeling!” — Toyota’s old corporate advertising theme — must be taking on a far different meaning these days at company headquarters. From some data we’ve seen, it appears Toyota could face problems regaining the trust of female consumers as it rebuilds its image in the U.S.

The story just keeps getting worse and worse for Toyota in terms of announcements, Congressional hearings and a litany of bad press. On the marketing side, many of us, including yours truly, have offered thoughts and ideas on how to learn from Toyota’s mistakes should your company find itself in similar problematic circumstances. We have also opined on what Toyota should do next and of course listened to Toyota talk about how their loyalty has actually INCREASED (Ad Age “The Cult of Toyota”, March 1, 2010) since the recall announcement, at least as measured by their customers comments and additions on Facebook and followers on Twitter.

I could go into great detail about how this use of their social strategy is a day late and a dollar short. But, hey, they get props for at least going there eventually (Honda, by way of comparison, has over 4 times as many followers as measured in a similar way). And truth be told, it is in what the customers are saying, not any of us, that matter at the end of the day. The first indicator of pain or progress was last week’s announcements of the February auto sales performance. Toyota lost only 8 points of share, year over year, but last years levels were the worst in its recent history. Still, it’s not bad considering the mayhem. This would not look so bad if it weren’t for the fact that Ford gained a whopping 43% year over year (yes, over a low base too, but still!).

Why is that? Dan Neely, my friend and founder of Networked Insights, a social listening company that tracks over 17 million blogs, social platforms and websites for a total sample size of 300 million people globally (of which 180 million are US-based), performed a little social listening analysis to see if we could make sense of it. Take a look at this: The words size and boldness reflect the frequency and strength of usage amongst the over 17 million sites.

Take a look at this: The words size and boldness reflect the frequency and strength of usage amongst the over 17 million sites.

So, as usual, we Americans are far more likely to have polarizing viewpoints with the common usage of both “love” and “sucks”. We can see from the above that with regard to Toyota, people in the US tend to be focused on issues of reliability and quality, same as our global brethren. We also seem to breathe Honda in the same breath likely because there are similarities to be drawn with the Japanese OEM’s but also because it seems that Honda was the last standing automotive brand who’s virtues are also firmly and almost solely based on the idea of quality and reliability…at least before the Honda recall that was announced last week. (Note that these slides are reflective of listening trends from the week after the Toyota recall).


Does age matter? Yes. We know that Toyota serves all ages and the Scion brand and Prius have actually pushed Toyota’s average buyer age lower. Taking a look again at the Toyota data here, it seems as if the similarities lie in the use of “quality” and “reliability” again. But the more mature Americans are far more critical with the frequent occurrence of the use of words like “junk”, “failed”, and “judged”. It seems the younger audience is more likely to forgive and move on than the more mature of us.


But the most important slide in my estimation is this one. Gender. And no, it is not because I am a woman, but it is because of my years in the automotive sector at both Ford and DaimlerChrysler which taught me that while men make up just over half of all auto purchases, women INFLUENCE over 80% of them. So, let’s pay attention here. Both genders speak of “quality” and “issues” but the men are speaking more frequently of “Honda”, “fix”, and “love” while the women talk of “Ford” most often and critical conversations include words like “report”, “failure” and “damage”.

Call it a coincidence, but I think that this data was an early indicator of the February sales trends. Ford was the clear winner because it has great products, has not taken TARP funds and is not managed by our government. They also benefit from the fact that more WOMEN have decided that they are the brand to consider, even over Honda.

So, maybe the best piece of advice for Toyota left unsaid so far: pay attention to the women and use your marketing forces to regain their trust. Understand that women are not one size fits all. They are daughters, grandmothers, mothers, single women, married women, divorced women, blue-collar women, white-collar women, rich, poor and everything in between. Emotion, trust, facts, assurance and authenticity matter a lot to them. Find out where they are having these conversations that have been captured in these slides and work to turn it around. Because if you don’t, Ford will. Oh, what a feeling

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