Friday, October 20, 2006

Toyota's Yaris Embodies the Curator Effect

The evolution of the Toyota brand is one of the best examples of the Curator Effect. Rather than stretching a master brand to the point of dilution, it demonstrates its grasp of its limitations. Instead of attempting to upscale the brand beyond credibility, it launched Lexus. Knowing that the Toyota brand doesn’t (and shouldn’t) have the street cred to appeal to urban youth, it launched Scion.

Now, its Yaris brand goes a step further with a media plan that includes a significant online effort. Its virtual test drive lets the visitor customize the car, download free stuff, and virtually drive through one of six hip neighborhoods in the country. Every aspect of the experience reinforces the brand’s indie positioning. You can click on stores in the neighborhoods to learn about retailers that share the values of the target audience, find the best taco stands, and browse independent book stores.

This literal curation of like-minded brands confidently shares the space with other aspirational brands to create an immersive environment. Toyota shares Yaris with visitors by giving them the power to affect the experience. It shares the brand with its ecosystem of brands that position Yaris by association. It also creates real buzz within these style-influencing neighborhoods. If you know the neighborhoods, it gives the brand local appeal. If you don’t know them, it creates an aspiration. Owning a Yaris delivers a piece of the lifestyle and that lifestyle is unambiguous.

The Curator Effect is far more powerful and lasting than any 30-second commercial.

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