Jacquie Ottman's
Green Marketing Blog

Toyota’s Prius: Different Strokes for Different Folks

The mainstreaming of green brings with it the need to segment audiences. As marketing efforts behind the Toyota Prius demonstrate, targeting messages to specific consumer groups can broaden appeal.

When launching the Prius in 2001, Toyota opted to target not the green-leaning drivers one might expect, but rather tech-savvy “early adopter” consumers. Featuring a beauty shot of a shiny new car parked at a stop light and illustrated by the provocative headline, “Ever heard the sound a stoplight makes?” an introductory print ad emphasized the hybrid car’s quiet ride (and specifically the fact that the motor when switched into electric gear did not idle at stoplights like combustion engines).

Putting primary benefits first, the key visual was a big, bold beauty shot of the car itself set off against a backdrop of the Golden Gate Bridge while the body copy explained the revolutionary technology. Environmental benefits appeared at the top right corner of the ad in mouse print in the form of compelling statistics about the car’s fuel economy and emissions. To establish its green bona fides and get a buzz going among influential greens, a supplemental campaign, “Genius,” spotlighted the car’s lighter environmental touch and activist group endorsements.

Spiked gasoline prices subsequently triggered a new campaign highlighting the car’s fuel efficiency.

Today, its distinctive styling makes the Prius —and its now extended family of members—a rolling billboard of one’s environmental values and forward thinking. A successful public relations campaign, including stunts like celebrities rolling up to the Academy Awards in a Prius, bestowed the car with a “coolness” factor  the reason why, anecdotally, many people buy a Prius.

Excerpted from The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding (Berrett-Koehler 2011) by Jacquelyn A. Ottman

Ottman is an expert adviser on green marketing to Fortune 500 companies and the U.S. government.  Her firm’s website, containing more information about the book, is http://www.greenmarketing.com.

 Recent blog posts:
Focus on Consumer Self-Interest to Win Today’s Green Customer
Ideals on Wheels
Doing Cause Marketing Right

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