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Mazda Zoom-Zooms No More And Toyota Is America

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While sitting on my couch this evening, recovering from a thankless day at work, I endeavored to find a way with minimal physical effort to give my overtaxed brain cells a rest. So I stepped away from the laptop, shut it down and then ambled off to TV land to see what inane drivel I could find that would stop my cranial alpha waves and connected synapses from working in unison to form a thought. It worked, TV killed my brain.

And then two car commercials came on within seconds of each other. One for Mazda and the other for Toyota. Each one was very forgettable as neither of these manufacturers has really had a heavyweight commercial that stands out from the crowd (apart from the Toyota Swagger Wagon). But it did remind me of two things:

One, Mazda hasn't had a decent ad campaign apart from "Zoom Zoom" for close to a decade (that is a long time--I had hair on my head back then) and two, Toyota is really on the ropes still trying to recover and rehabilitate its image after last year's horrendous scandals.

So how do these manufacturers get out of the advertising rut they are in? Let's face it, a good ad goes a long way to rebuilding brand equity and, more importantly, sales. What will these guys do to kickstart the engines?

Mazda's Late Fresh Start
I turned on the laptop and rifled through my inbox to go back to an article about Mazda dropping the ad agency that created "Zoom Zoom" and made Mazda a fun brand globally. Mazda is saying it needs a fresh start. After a decade or so of beating us to death with "Zoom Zoom", you'd think Mazda would have realized that sooner, but why mess with a good thing. But at least it's a first step. Maybe something along the lines of: "Hey! We're still here and building FUN cars, you know."

A Way Out for Toyota?
And what does this have to do with poor, beleaguered Toyota, the whipping boy (well deserved in some cases, I say) of the international press for about a year or so? I was passed a link to a WSJ.com article about Toyota building "the most American cars", meaning with the most domestic content per vehicle assembled. Apart from the tremendous anger and patriotic bile this article elicited from its readers (check out the comments in the link below, it's worth it), it made me think Toyota may have a genuine distraction on its hands to lead Americans away from the image of it as a company that doesn't care about its customers.

It has long been a mantra of Toyota to assemble locally and to tout this, so this is nothing new, but Toyota needs to capitalize on these kinds of stories and turn them into an ad campaign now more than ever. Toyota definitely lacks exciting models and has an image as dull as dish water, but it needs to capitalize on the job creation aspect and stop spending money on ads telling everyone how much it spends a day on safety and reliability. Those topics are just too worn. Toyota, toot your horn and stop apologizing.

[Marketing Mag, WSJ.com]

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