Part of Toyota's new “Moving Forward” ad campaign aims to nudge up the brand's so-so dealership customer satisfaction ratings.

So says James Lentz, group vice president-marketing for Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

“Moving Forward” is a wide-ranging campaign that includes more than 20 TV commercials featuring vignettes of life (from mountain climbing to marriage), humor (not a mainstay of previous Toyota advertising) and cross-cultural pitches (Afro-Americans, Hispanics and Asians).

The new campaign replaces three-year-old “Get the Feeling.” That served the auto maker well but “because customer mindsets have changed, as well as our business, we felt it was time to kaizen our message,” says Lentz, referring to a Japanese term for continuous improvement, a Toyota philosophy now embraced by its marketers, too.

He says “Moving Forward” taps into “a universal truth that people strive to make progress in their lives.”

That extends to dealers.

The hope is that the ad campaign will encourage dealers and Toyota employees in general to look at how they can be move forward to offer more to customers, says Lentz.

He adds: “A big part of it is that there needs to be change in the dealer world. Customers are changing. Boomers are retiring in ways people didn't retire before. There are also new people coming in.”

The auto maker's job is to build reliable vehicles, the dealer's to sell and service them to satisfied customers, he says. “Sometimes those roles get out of whack.”

He says Toyota is using a “carrot-and-stick” method of late to boost dealership satisfaction ratings. Those tend to lag behind consumer happiness with Toyota products themselves.

Often the cause of relatively low satisfaction scores at a Toyota dealership can be traced to just one or two salespersons lacking adequate skills in customer relations, says Lentz.

“A new system allows dealers to drill down and find out where an associate needs additional training, whether it's in negotiating skills or whatever aspect of handling the customer,” he says.

Deborah Meyer, Toyota Motor Sales' corporate manager of marketing communications says the company is “going to great lengths to immerse the philosophy of ‘Moving Forward’ with our dealers, associates and team members.”

She expects “Moving Forward” will connect with consumers because “it really is part of people's vernacular and we think customers will relate to it extremely well.”

Tweaked in Translation

Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. worked with minority-run advertising agencies to tailor its “Moving Forward” ad campaign to Afro-Americans, Hispanics and Asians.

The collaborating resulted in some message tweaking here and there.

For instance, “Moving Forward” was adapted for the Chinese market with a tagline that translates to “Moving Forward and Pursuing Your Dreams.”

For the Hispanic market, the Conill agency recommended altering the new ad slogan to “Moving Forward with Confidence” or “Avanza Confiado.”

Conill says that resonates better with Hispanics.

Unique Tech-Oriented Site Expands Toyota's Web Presence

By Steve Finlay

Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.'s website now plays the starring role as the primary product information source for buyers.

“That frees up our print ads so we can focus on building consideration,” says Deborah Meyer, the firm's corporate manager-marketing communications. “serves as a direct link to those people in the market seeking final details before making a purchase decision,” she says. Expanding on that, “we are doing something very unique.” It's the launch of a companion website, PlanetKaizen (

“While is designed to sell, PlanetKaizen is designed to tell,” says Meyer.

Named in part for kaizen, a Japanese term for continuous improvement, the technical-oriented website is designed for auto enthusiasts who surf the Internet.

Says Meyer: “Previously, the only people who had access to this information were journalists and dealership personnel.

“Needless to say, this site isn't geared toward the general consumer. It's way too techie. It's for that auto enthusiast who spends eight hours a week searching for all things car-related.”

Visitors can delve into technical topics, get the latest news and talk with Toyota personnel or with one another.

The site will be freshened often to encourage return visits.