Toyota has chosen an interesting strategy to counter last year’s and this year’s bad press: a strategy that’s nearly 100% unrelated to the selling of their cars. The new campaign is named Ideas for Good and it urges the public to invent ways to use Toyota’s technology in new, innovative ways — ways that will help “make a better world”. In a brilliant move, Toyota has just made the first positive step in what will most likely be the first step in a long line of public relations overhauls that aim to socially connect Toyota to their consumers.
The timing of this campaign could not have been better, with last month’s news of even more Toyota recalls involving more than 245,000 cars globally. The public relations department at Toyota will no doubt have their hands full responding to the critiques of their latest car debacle, yet the new Ideas for Good program is giving Toyota advocates and adversaries something to focus on other than the recalls, while simultaneously driving traffic to the campaign microsite and company website, a winning crisis and marketing strategy. Additionally, it will help the company prove that it not only cares about car sales, but innovation in other sectors as well. In turn, this may lead to more sales by individuals impressed with Toyota’s willingness to use proprietary technology on public-facing projects.
As a public relations professional in the 21st century, it’s important to constantly reach out to the public, not only to enhance your company’s appearance, but to do a bit of “good” as well. Even though Toyota will undoubtedly be under the magnifying glass for their latest recall, having a program such as Ideas for Good can be an excellent card to pull when the going gets tough (which it has for Toyota). Recently, commercials about the program have highlighted various individuals who have used Toyota’s technology to create groundbreaking products and items, such as safety equipment for athletes to prevent injury. The program itself and the series of commercials promoting it are the first sign of life in a company that, in recent years, has been through quite a lot of legal, and as a result, image trouble. Combine that with the news from U.S. investigators declaring Toyota wasn’t even to blame for some of last year’s claims, and this might be the winning public relations year Toyota has been anxiously awaiting.