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Stabs in the dark at ‘cool’

March 27, 2003

In 2000, Toyota pumped a marketing fortune into launching the Echo, with an intended positioning as the hip, cool car for the 16-26 year old segment. It flopped. The median age of the Echo buyer is 45 and so far Toyota hasn’t been able to sell even 50,000 a year.

Strike one. But Toyota is coming back to bat with its new sub-brand, Scion. The Scion is conspicuously similar to the Echo under the hood, but with a rectangular body and a whole new positioning approach. Presumably with a different youth trend consultant signing off on the content, Toyota is allocating most of the Scion launch budget to molding the brand with music, fashion and art first and foremost. Communicating information about the actual car models is a secondary concern. article about Scion positioning

The Echo was a case study in how a brand campaign with good creative, smart media, and a huge budget can fizzle when it is not well enough informed about what’s cool to young people. It can pass through pretesting with flying colors, wow executives with its hip-hop beats and famous music spokespeople, but when it comes right down to it, “cool” is almost impossible to mimic. It’s like trying to pass as a fluent speaker of a foreign language. There are subtleties that a savvy VP of Marketing cannot register, but that come across as obvious to young people who are incredibly sensitive to inauthentic attempts at cool.

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