Toyota Sienna Caricaturing Its ‘Customer Profile’

Love this. It’s Toyota Sienna’s new ‘Swagger Wagon’ rap video.  Favorite line: “It’s true. If I were you, I’d be jealous of me too.”

After receiving this link by email (viral…), and looking into the campaign a little more closely, I’ve come to the big conclusion that it’s very clever…while at the same time they’re missing the boat with their Facebook strategy and execution and losing out on the opportunity to engage with all of the new potential fans who are coming their way.

This video is one of a series. It’s gotten the most play (over 3 million views as of this post). Jody Hill teamed up with them to pull off a solid web series. The campaign integration is pretty straightforward.  They have a destination site,, which seems to be an embedded YouTube channel. The featured video (and any video you watch) has a long tail…after you watch it, you can click on the YouTube video itself to choose from a menu of other episodes…all with the same characters introduced in, “Meet the Parents.”  The YouTube channel is here:

Although it’s always cool to see a brand making quality entertainment, I’m most interested in how Toyota has introduced characters who are actually the absurd caricatures of their ‘target demographic.’ They are inoffensively poking fun at minivan parents; amplifying the defining characteristics of the Toyota Sienna’s ‘customer profile.’ Are they making fun of their customer? I don’t think so. They are actually having fun with their own brand marketing process, making it transparent with a kind of self-deprecation.  Reminiscent of how geek culture has become cool by embracing and celebrating its nerdiness, Toyota is coming off looking more real and authentic by exposing the hopelessness of using marketing to make minivans cool. I can picture the creatives convincing the marketers…”No, we’re making fun of marketing itself. We’re going to expose the way brands try to manipulate us emotionally by shining a light on the aspirational qualities themselves. We’ll do it in a fun way and people will trust us more!” And they’re right. As a minivan parent, I actually feel cooler when I’m laughing about the absurdity of trying to be cool.  I like this interaction with the Toyota brand. I don’t know how long it will last (the Facebook page dampened my enthusiasm immediately), but I still feel like I’m sharing a joke with the brand.  I like the brand more. I like that they were willing to take the risk of launching this campaign. In the broader context of Toyota ‘repairing’ their image from the pedal deaths, this content and brand strategy takes us to a different plane, far away from the seriousness of the problems of the (distant) past.

These videos are getting tremendous exposure and their agency should be proud. Whoever is managing the Sienna Facebook page needs to wake up. Their missing a tremendous opportunity with all of the attention and traffic. The page sucks and is out of date. The YouTube channel subtly introduces info about the minivan while the the FB page clumsily mixes the fun of the campaign with ‘real’ information about the minivan. Nobody is coming to the page for information about torque.  Provide me a link that says something like ‘click here for really useful information about the Sienna.’ That’s it. That’s all I need.

Also on the Facebook page is an application that allows you to choose a stuffed animal over which you superimpose a photo of you or your kid that you upload. It’s a cute idea and I tried it, but the (m)animals look really creepy…even the example they show you looks creepy. Get rid of it or make it better. And keep going with the parents…and avoid the temptation to bring in more info about the damn minivan. Less is more.

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