The general trend amidst American customers has been to move from larger cars of American manufacturers to the smaller and better fuel efficiency Japanese cars. It has also been noted that with time the acceptability of hybrid vehicles has been increasing and some states like California are adopting it more easily than others like Memphis. Technologically, whilst Fuel Cells were the cleanest form of vehicle power available, studies had proved that the total impact of extracting hydrogen and then using it in a cell was even greater than a gas powered vehicle.
Also, experts felt that it will be 10-20 more years before the fuel cell technology is strong enough. Toyota had invested and committed to developing capacity for the hybrid vehicles while its competition had only looked at hybrids as a temporary fix and were lobbying against certain laws. If imposed, these laws would result in a much higher demand of hybrids. The new hybrid technologies put in place by Toyota also ensured the same driving experience as with other American muscles cars. Problem Definition : The Problem in front of Toyota was simple. Although the Prius had done reasonably well , it was still largely a niche product.
Toyota now wanted to move from that stage into mainstream acceptance. It wanted to move up the bell curve into the growth phase of its PLC. Most of the Prius buyers were Innovators and Early Adopters people who had the understanding of technological products and those belonging to urban and semiurban areas. As a company Toyota now had to take Prius and make it more acceptable to the late adaptors and induce people to buy hybrids. Alternatives : The advertising and marketing campaigns of Prius have always revolved around its technical superiority over all other gas powered vehicles while still maintaining the basic performance attributes.
However at this stage of the PLC, Prius has to communicate and connect to new customers at an emotional level. Since Late adopters and laggards usually tend to have a delegatory buying behavior, they often tend to make decisions based less on technical aspects of the product. Thus the marketing campaign should focus on portraying the act of being caring about the planet a desirable trait in people. It should also depict the ownership of Prius as a point of Pride as a medallion of ones contribution to the planets wellbeing.
To overcome geographical and demographic biases, the ads should depict different kinds of people, men and women from different states, professions and backgrounds displaying their pride at owning a Prius. Owning a Hybrid should be portrayed as a patriotic duty of every car owner in order to protect the environment and thereby the future of the nation. The more interior states of Memphis and others could use some American Celebs who the people identifies with become brand ambassadors for promoting Hybrid technology.
The other possible method could be to focus the attention of the customer to the overall benefit of shifting to a Hybrid both in financial terms and otherwise. The advantage of using such a strategy will be that the differences will be highly tangible and therefore very easy to communicate. At the same time, it will continue to focus on technicalities alone and may be continue to appeal to the technical bent of innovators and early adopters only, in which case it will be difficult to graduate to the next phase of the PLC.
Also, we need to understand that the American consumer is not very much price sensitive when it comes to cars, and therefore might not respond to the financial benefit appeal. Recommended Alternatives: The more sensible foot forward would be to primarily work on consumers acceptance of the product at a psychological level. This can be achieved if the product can establish an emotional connect with the consumers and then move ahead from there. Thus Toyota has to work on making Prius a preferred brand my making it more American and a more responsible choice.
Implementation plans : ? ? ? ? Shift from a technical attribute focus to a more emotional focus Work on advertising campaigns along different media channels to project Prius as the obvious least that one could do to keep the planet clean. Reach out to the semi urban and rural consumer by focusing on how a hybrid makes sense for consumers of different ages, class and category. Make the brand more acceptable to them by using local celebs and building confidence and identity with the brand product.