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Toyota Uses Social Networking to Market Hybrids

Toyota has redesigned its hybrid vehicle site to now let owners create profiles like those found on MySpace and other social networking sites. The hope is that owners will discuss their reasons for owning a Toyota hybrid vehicle.

“Toyota’s more than 600,000 hybrid owners are very passionate about their vehicles and the reasons they drive them,” said Gregg Benkendorfer, National Manager of Media Strategy and Digital Marketing for Toyota. “The new community site taps into that excitement by letting users visually represent themselves through graphic art and video.”

The Toyota site allows users to view other owners profiles, share their reasons for driving a hybrid, and provide statistics about themselves and their vehicles. Every community member is visually represented. There’s also an interactive distance map, which charts how much further Toyota hybrid vehicles travel than ordinary cars, and a gas savings calculator. 

Saatchi & Saatchi LA and Firstborn created the site.

If you look at other sites like Toyota’s – Digital-telepathy recently launched a similiar social networking site for Green Mountain Energy’s BeGreenNow, which sells carbon offsets – you’d presume that word of mouth marketing, for green consumers, is a driving force for green companies.  

For some companies, like Toyota, that could be true, but, according to a MediaPost article, it’s not the case for all brands. Research by Interpublic Group created an environment friendly score from Business Week’s Top 100 Global Brands 2006 list and analyzed online consumer conversations about each brand in relation to the environment over a period from April to June of 2006. Only 40 of the 100 brands had any mentions associated with the environment. Toyota and Honda topped the list with their hybrid vehicles. Dell and HP were high due to recycling programs. Oil companies were scored very low with BP scoring higher than Exxon Mobil.

The MediaPost article goes on to say that “if you have found  the right environmental issue to associate your brand with and have business processes or ingredients that can give your brand a ‘green’ shine, don’t feel shy – court advocates, seek endorsers and reach out to your customers so they want to learn more. ”  That’s the goal of Toyota’s new site design.

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