We all know that marketing plays a big role in the automotive business. A brilliantly conceptualized and well-executed marketing campaign can do wonders for the sales performance of any car model. And the most common form of marketing is, of course, advertising. A car company usually pays an ad agency to produce a TV commercial or whip up a print ad that trumpets the main selling points of a specific vehicle, and hopefully the car-shopping public will buy it.
Many times, an ad material requires the services of a celebrity endorser. Toyota, for instance, has hired Gary Valenciano, Anjanette Abayari, and even international stars Brad Pitt and Britney Spears to peddle its cars. Mitsubishi has commissioned the likes of Parokya Ni Edgar and Ramon Bautista to recommend the Adventure. Chevrolet has Ryan Agoncillo serving as its brand ambassador.
And in those instances when an advertising campaign doesn't revolve around a celebrity, the focus is still on the car's best attributes.
In other words, the basic formula used in most car ads consists of either glamour or product highlights. This formula can be very effective, sure, but it can also leave people so jaded that they are able to sniff a hard sell from a mile away.
It is for this reason that Lexus Manila wants to employ "inspirational marketing" in reaching out to its customers. Inspirational marketing, in a nutshell, is a way of promoting a product not by zeroing in on its selling points but by associating it with positive values that, well, inspire people. An example would be Coke's "Open Happiness" campaign. By evoking feel-good vibes, an inspirational TVC or print ad is able to make people see a brand or product in a whole new (and flattering) light.
According to Lexus Manila president Danny Isla, his company will roll out a series of inspirational ads featuring successful and highly esteemed individuals who also happen to be real-life Lexus owners. As I write this, they have already wrapped up the photo shoot for one such individual--some guy you might know as Washington SyCip. If you have no idea who this man is, and yet you follow the hourly tweets of Lady Gaga, you seriously need to see a psychiatrist (especially if you're already 40 years old).
SyCip is the founder of the SyCip Gorres Velayo & Co. accounting firm and a leading proponent of quality education in the country. His business school at the Asian Institute of Management is possibly the best in the region. Movers and shakers of the business sector look up to him as a role model of inimitable excellence and unbending integrity.
The 90-year-old SyCip owns an LS sedan and is always happy to let people know how much he loves the car. He is not a paid endorser or brand ambassador; he is merely a satisfied car owner. And so Lexus Manila approached him to do an unusual print ad. In this ad, the universally admired man won't be talking about any Lexus car. He won't even pose beside one. In fact, the entire copy is completely unrelated to cars. The copy instead talks about the important values that matter to SyCip--things that are useful in some random game we call life. The only giveaway that it is a Lexus ad is the three-word inscription below his name: "Proud Lexus owner."
For the trouble, Toyota Motor Philippines offered to compensate SyCip. He refused. Any amount is nothing to him anyway. "But we insist," Lexus Manila president Danny Isla said. "If you don't want to accept the money, you can avail of it in the form of repair or maintenance service for your car."
"If you insist, can you just donate the money to any education-related charity or cause?" SyCip countered.
Ah, what company wouldn't pay to have this kind of brand ambassador? In a time when so-called celebrity endorsers (who don't even use the product in real life) try to squeeze every last peso out of an endorsement contract, someone who not only refuses his talent fee but also volunteers his advocacy as the beneficiary instead, is totally inspiring.
Isla says Lexus Manila is also planning to invite other respected Lexus owners to participate in its inspirational marketing campaign.
A new chapter may be dawning for automotive marketing. Enough of highly paid endorsers who just mouth off scripts written for them by some vodka-addled copywriter. Enough of print ads that are nothing more than a rundown of the car's technical specs and features. Let's see some real-life owners who are also outstanding and meritorious members of society. Because we know that if somebody is successful and honest and altruistic, his choice--even in cars--carries a lot of weight.
I hear Justin Timberlake endorses Audi. I think I'd rather have Washington SyCip motivating me to succeed in life so I may one day buy my own dream car.