The automobile industry has had quite a long history. This is one of those industries where it is difficult to come up with very innovative commercials, promotions, and means of getting current views and interest. With so many dealers and dealerships to choose from, customers must be expertly convinced in order to go for a specific brand, style, make, or business location. The major headache for many managers in this industry and many others is what they can do when their brand goes south.
The Toyota Car Manufacturing Company is one company has had its image dented by one significant event that triggered the company’s need to use damage control strategies. The incident in question here is the spate of recalls and quality problems that threatened to throw its legendary manufacturing model into disrepute. The quality problems in the United States were indicated with the recall in late 2009 for problems with floor mats which accelerator pedals stuck into hence potentially causing high- speed accidents but the problem presisted and since then over 9 million cars have been recalled.
Toyota as a company becomes then a classic example to look into and it is interesting to look at the strategies employed to redeem its image. Toyota is definitely a dependable, award- winning brand that has encountered some tough luck over the past few years. The good thing is that the company chose not to let the drawbacks affect its future success.
When the Toyota brand went south, and its reputation having crashed, Toyota company used the online space to market itself to clients hence restoring its god name and image. There is definitely a lot that we stand to learn from from this industry’s strategies. With a recall crisis having damaged such a respected brand, they resorted to Facebook, Digg and other avenues to restore its good name.
The company literally stopped sales and marshaled its social media resources to respond to the current crisis, reassure customers and rebuild its good image that had since been tattered. The Facebook, Twitter, and Digg platforms were used to respond to criticism at a time when it was taking an avalanche of a beating from the consumers, congress and even comedians. It even went as far as changing its corporate culture in an effort to redeem its dented image. Rebuilding a brand takes lots of effort and time.
In August 2009 four people were killed in an accident in San Diego after the accelerator in a Lexus was stuck and the vehicle could not stop. Toyota owners were asked to remove floor mats and later on the sales and production of the vehicles came to a halt. How then did Toyota work to rebuild customer trust? Toyota embarked on the following social media efforts;
Had a team in place
- Towards the end of the year 2009, Toyota created a social media group that integrated PR, marketing, customer relations and agency partners. This came at the beginning of a crisis that made it the lead story on national news broadcasts on many nights for weeks.
Planned for the worst
- Toyota did not expect a crisis but it prepared itself for one anyway, Gardiner says; “Have communicatin channels available and open so that, as you go through something like a crisis, you have the immediate means to get the right people to provide information.”
Got their executives out infront
- During the height of the recall in early 2010, key Toyota leaders held community chats via Digg Dialogue and Twitter. This put executives like the president then and chief operating officer of Toyota Motor Sales, USA- before the public in new ways. Toyota’s identity lay in collective but it realised that consumers needed to see a face and know that high- level executives were taking their concerns seriously. This personified the idea that Toyota was not only a brand but also a collection of leaders and people who care and want to assure customers that that they were doing everthing possible to rectify the problem. This effort humanized the brand.
Informed and directed consumers
- Facebook and Twitter were used to update drivers who were worried about the accelerator issue and the subsequent recall. It directed customers to its “recall hub,” a micro- site that enabled the company to inform the public directly. This helped consumers especially cut through the whirlwind of information and misinformation.
They let consumers be their advocate
- Toyota gathered support on Facebook from loyal drivers. They took advantage of the fact that cars tend to be one of the largest purchases that people make after a home and a college education and that people tend to have strong memories of their expiriences in the car. They managed to get feedback from that ranged from family vacations to memories of driving across the country on road trips.
The above measures helped immensely in contributing to a turnaround. From April 2010 to April 2011 the brand opinion had improved by 22% and purchase consideration increased by 29%. Toyota Company had managed to strengthen not only the connection, trust and the belief that people had with the car but also with the dealer,and the brand in general.