Marketing goes mobile

Marketing goes mobile

Marketing goes mobile

Toyota Motor Sales USA is adopting interactive bar codes across all its marketing so mobile phone-carrying customers can quickly access sales promotions, vehicle quotes, videos, safety tips and similar information.

With the new ToyoTag, a logo inside a ring, Toyota says customers — potential and otherwise — can snap the image and receive product-related content and other company information using either a standard mobile phone or a smartphone. Those with iPhones or Android devices can download a SnapTag reader to receive Toyota’s content.

“The ToyoTag allows customers to engage with us wherever and whenever they want information,” said Michael K Nelson, interactive communications marketing manager for Toyota. The new tag, he said, will provide one-to-one interactions with customers at all stages of interest in its products.

The company, which is creating its ToyoTag marketing in house, teamed up with SpyderLynk, a Denver-based mobile marketing technology provider. In 2008, SpyderLynk introduced the SnapTag, which uses 2-D mobile bar code technology, and the company customises the tag’s look and content for each client.

Coke, Bud Light and the Marines have all experimented with SnapTags. By chance, Nelson came across the tag last year as Toyota began exploring a comprehensive mobile marketing program.

“I was watching football one Sunday last fall,” said Nelson, “and I saw the SnapTag being used in a Bud Light commercial. I knew right away that we could brand it.”

Although some studies predict that about half of the American public will own smartphones by the end of 2011, Nelson said he did not want to ignore the other half “that don’t want to shell out for a smartphone.” “That’s why SnapTag was perfect for us,” he said.

Nelson said he contacted SpyderLynk the next morning, and worked with them to use the SnapTag technology to create a logo in which the center of the ring is swapped out depending on what Toyota is trying to convey. For example, to rebut some of the negative publicity it received from braking problems on some models, Toyota placed a ToyoTag in some newspapers to direct people to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Web site to read the government’s report on the issue and Toyota’s response.

Toyota also has experimented with the ringed logos by including them at auto shows so phone users could learn more about its prepaid maintenance plan. It also tried them in some newspaper advertising for its popular Prius hybrid and for fund-raising for tsunami relief in Japan.

After evaluating these initiatives, Toyota worked with Saatchi & Saatchi, part of the Publicis Groupe, this spring to redesign the interactive logo, and this week announced its rollout for the ToyoTag. The company did not disclose its marketing budget, but according to Kantar Media, Toyota spent $1.87 billion for all its advertising in the company’s last fiscal year, which ended March 31.

Toyota’s first step will be expanding its ringed logos across social media, at this summer’s action-sports Dew Tour, by sponsoring a best-athlete voting contest as well as a scavenger hunt where participants who snap a tag receive a video response from a tour celebrity.

Starting this fall with the introduction of its 2012 models, Toyota plans to tie its new branding to the rollout of its new Prius line, and to some of its other popular models like the Tacoma truck. The company will imbed information in car brochures so users can receive interactive content like videos, or links to apps that allow customising or building a new vehicle.

Most companies that have tested two-dimensional codes in advertising have yet to embrace such tag marketing, opting instead to experiment with one-off campaigns.
It is challenging for companies, said Miles Austin, who writes the independent blog Fill the Funnel, to create an interactive experience that is “fat-finger friendly, which means easy-to-use big buttons, and offers video that resonates and is not just another Web site.”

“But if your audience is between 18 and 35 years old, and you have car models you want to sell to them, using these tags is a great approach,” he added.

Companies also run the risk that “not enough people are familiar with this kind of technology to engage with these types of features and contents,” said George Guildford, an account manager for Punch Communications, a British-based public relations and social media agency.

The advantage, he added, “is that since the links used in the codes are trackable and measurable, brands can clearly see how effective and successful the campaign has been and how much traffic and engagement they have received as a result.”

For Toyota’s branding, Nicole Skogg, founder and chief executive of SpyderLynk, said “every snap can be tracked.” He added, “We can see whether a person who snapped later sought more information by snapping a tag at an auto show, or two months later went to the dealership.”

Eventually, said Guildford, who contributes a blog to the Web site,, automakers could use such tags on billboards or in print advertisements to link to exclusive video footage of a new car model or allow users to instantly book a test drive at their nearest dealership.

“The possibilities,” he said, “really are endless.”