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New Toyota Campaign Explains Why It's Number One

Toyota's new marketing campaign carries the bold theme "#1 for a Reason."

The "#1 For A Reason" campaign will remind people why Toyota continues to be the top brand consumers turn to when buying a new vehicle. Featured in the commercials will be Toyota's segment leading products—Camry, Corolla, Prius, RAV4 and Tacoma.

The main objection to the marketing campaign might be the fact that it portrays Toyota as somewhat of a bully. The message seems to be, "Don't ask questions. We're number one for a reason." Some might suggest they're number one because most Americans buy new cars for practical – and not passionate – reasons.

"For three consecutive years, people have purchased more Toyota vehicles than any other brand," said Bob Carter, group vice president and general manager of Toyota Division for Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. "We look forward to maintaining this momentum in 2011 as we continue to focus on fuel efficiency, value, quality and safety."

Nowhere in Carter's statement does it Toyota is going to focus on design – and here's the dirty little secret of car sales. Believe it or not, design doesn't sell cars. Sure, some will sputter coffee over their keyboards when reading that but it's true. Design gets people on the showroom floor but it doesn't seal the deal. Who among us wouldn't admit that the Toyota Corolla is one of the most boring vehicles on the planet?

But the Ford F150 isn't the best selling pickup in the country because it's ruggedly handsome. It's on top of the heap because it gets the job done. The Toyota Corolla hasn't sold 8.6 million vehicles in the U.S. since being launched in 1968 because it's cute. It has sold so well because of its dependability.

The same could be said of Hyundai's success in this country in the last few years. People finally accepted the fact that Hyundais are dependable after years of the 10-year/100,000 mile warranty. The fact the product got better looking helped but it was fuel efficiency, value and safety that pushed Hyundai to new levels.

Lurking behind the Toyota campaign, though, is a company that has to be nervous. Sure, it's still number one in the U.S. market, but there are a lot of competitors nipping at its heels – most noticeably GM, which is dying to be at the top of the domestic heap again.

The GM tie-in is appropriate because GM for decades tried to be everything to every buyer. Offering something for everybody is a good strategy because it means you capture a greater share of the market. The challenge, though, is to make sure you do so while still being profitable. Spreading yourself too thin with too many niche products can lead to overwhelming debt for product and development costs.

So, it is bold for Toyota to launch a somewhat cocky theme of "#1 for a Reason" but the Japanese automaker is entitled. Let's see if it can continue to hold on in spite of a couple years of problems with recalls and safety concerns.

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