Toyota’s New Prius Harmony Animation – a Joy Ride (Brand Champ) or a Ho-Hum (Brand Chump)?


The reaction to Honda’s animation, featured in last week’s Brand Champ or Chump, was overwhelmingly positive. The vast majority felt Honda hit the sweet spot with an inspirational piece that connected to consumers’ demands for greater environmental accountability.

So, the verdict from last week: Brand Champ.

This week, I want to know how you feel about Toyota’s new animation, which seems a fitting follow up to last week’s spotlight on Honda.

I leaned toward Brand Champ for Honda, and I’m taking the same position this week for Toyota. This time, I’m leaning strongly toward Champ.

This spot is a 30 second commercial promoting the third-generation Prius. Set to a familiar happy-go-lucky and eco-friendly tune, we see a Prius moving through a clean and beautiful environment.

But this environment is… well… unusual. The landscape is made up entirely of people. That is, the sun, clouds, flowers and blades of grass are depicted as people.

The point: Toyota’s third-generation Prius strikes a balance between the needs of man and nature. You can get everything you want in a car – extra power, more space and fuel efficiency… and the best part is you also make a difference by driving a car with fewer smog-forming emissions. So, a simple message: We get more of what we want in a car, but less of what we don’t want.

For me, this piece was eye-stopping to the point that I really wanted to see it again. The animation has a unique feel to it. Like some of Toyota’s earlier Harmony spots, this one feels organic and artistic… though much more uplifting. The flow of the piece suggests progress and change—for the better. I immediately connected with the message.

Toyota has its hands full with Honda. The latter is launching the competitive Insight hybrid and seems poised to take share away from Toyota, which has seen Prius sales drop quite sharply. This piece, as part of a larger campaign, may just help Toyota defend some of its ground.

Overall, I think this piece is a winner. I felt like I was on a joy ride. Do you agree? Or was it ho-hum for you? Watch it for yourself (see below) and let me know what you think we have here:

  1. A brand champ?
  2. A brand chump?
  3. Somewhere in between?

If the video does not appear below, please see the animation here.


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8 responses to “Toyota’s New Prius Harmony Animation – a Joy Ride (Brand Champ) or a Ho-Hum (Brand Chump)?

  1. I rate this piece solidly in the middle.

    On the positive:
    It connected with me emotionally and made me want to see it again. I appreciated the visual and auditory components, and after watching the “making of” video on You Tube, I was even more impressed that 200 human actors were used to create those visuals, and there was a very positive vibe to that mini-film. Kudos on making me want to make my next car more environmentally friendly.

    On the negative:
    First, now that I (and maybe some others) want an efficient, environmentally-friendly car as my next car, I really don’t know why I should pick a Prius over the competition. My only takeaway on the Prius is that this version has more space and power than the last version. I ask myself, “Why is the Prius the best car in this space? Why should I be more confident in Toyota for this important and sizable investment?”

    This question naturally led me to seek more information at their website. Points for having a Prius with green landscape to tie in with the ad’s imagery. Unfortunately, the problem is that my questions above were still not answered, and I did not see anything else featured on the Prius page that would support the notion I developed from the ad… that Toyota truly and passionately cares about the environment. The rest of that Toyota story was not present, and amid the voluminous information available on specs, there was no “easy button” for me to keep learning about the greatness of Toyota Prius. In contrast, Honda’s website connected well with last week’s ad and continued to tell the Honda and environmentally-friendly story with quality, accessible videos.

    In sum:
    Interesting ad that connects emotionally and sells the niche, but does not differentiate competitively or follow-through well with the website.

    Recommendation:
    Use some of the voice-over in the ad to say what Prius is best at. Offer better and easier follow-through on the website a) for me to learn about Prius and b) to support and demonstrate the ad’s promise that Toyota cares about the environment. Perhaps there could be a portal for this niche of environmentally-friendly hyper-efficient driving, with links and community options. E.g., I recall from last week that Toyota had an innovation and ideas link that had an environmentally-friendly feel, but I did not see a connection to it here.

    Here, like any other brand, all the touchpoints with the brand should support a digestible, deliberate brand strategy and align with one another to create a credible, relevant, engaging and differentiating brand experience.

  2. Edward, well said! I’m glad you highlighted the lack of a competitive differentiating element.

    With Honda threatening to take share away in this space and other hybrids coming on to the market, you’d think Toyota would put more emphasis on what makes the Prius stand out from the growing pack.

    I wonder if this was a deliberate strategy or choice on Toyota’s part?

    • I think deliberate avoidance of comparisons with the competition, i.e. the mark of the leader in the space. If you’ve been paying any attention at all to the eco-friendly auto market or have only just begun to look at reviews, the Prius does so well against the competition, has such a great track record, and is so loved by its owners that Toyota doesn’t have to compare…yet. At some point, they probably will.

      I say champ.

  3. I can’t not watch this piece every time it comes on. And the message is delivered simply and digestibly against a beautiful backdrop. Champ.

  4. It Works. It has taken the high ground. Ownership of green

  5. Somewhere in between. Nicely produced, but we totally get that the Prius is good for the planet. What this spot doesn’t do–and should have done–is explain why the Prius is worth a premium price. Especially since Honda launched the “hybrid for the rest of us” with the Insight. Prius is the leader in its category, which is why it’s in the crosshairs of not only Honda but also VW (see their new diesel Rabbit spot) and others. Tell me what makes the “third generation” so remarkable that I am going to want to pay more for it.

  6. This is a champ for me.

    The Prius is the 800 lb gorilla in the eco-car space. I disagree that they have to spend their time and money explaining why the Prius is worth the premium price. The “Prius Brand” does that explanation, and they have spent a lot of money on that. I think this ad does a good job of saying basically, this Prius is better than the last one. I agree with Kevin on taking the high road.

    Basically, I think its up to everyone else to explain why the Insight or VW should even make the shopping list.

  7. I loved it! I say – CHAMP!

    Of course, I work for a Green Company. Maybe Green can become the new religion.

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