Toyota Stimulus Program Letter: "Pluses and Minuses"

Let’s look at this marketing initiative from one online marketer’s point of view — mine.

Earlier this week I have received received a letter which started liked this:

The Pluses

Being an online marketer, the first thing that I have noticed was, of course, that URL with my name in it. I thought – “Wow! What a cool idea to use someone’s full name in a subdomain listed in a piece of snail mail!” After all, how much does it cost a company to put together custom subdomains for every customer they send a letter too?! Great move, Toyota!

The second thing that I’ve found pretty innovative (and I love innovation in marketing!) was the essence of the deal. The letter, signed by the General Manager of my local Toyota dealer (where I service my vehicle), read:

I am sure you are aware by now that both General Motors Corporation and Chrysler Corporation have received governmental financial assistance in the form of an emergency bailout. Toyota remains strong and does not need a bailout. Instead we want to offer economic stimulus by giving you, the customer money back when you purchase any new Toyota!

Great idea! Love it!

Now let me get to the things that could be improved.

The Minuses

First of all, while I appreciate the innovative idea, it would really help if they were honest. C’mon, I do follow the economic news! Yes, my favorite Toyota is doing considerably better than the big three U.S. auto makers (GM, Ford, and Chrysler), but why not just say that? It’s not that you “remain solid”, Toyota. It’s different! You’re better. Kudos on taking the “crown from longtime sales king GM,” but why not just say that, and not that you’re “solid”? Recession has brought you similar problems as the Big Three are facing now. Your output is expected to drop 60% and you’re also gonna be cutting thousands of jobs. That’s not exactly my portrait of “solid”. I love you, Toyota. But, please, be honest!

Secondly, it is always good to proofread an outgoing marketing piece of mail (or e-mail) before sending it off. Nothing major there, but are you giving me “the customer money back” or did you mean to say that you are “giving you [me], the customer, money back”? I think you’re missing the second comma after what looks like a clarifying insertion. “Rules of Thumb for Business Writers” by Wienbroer, Hughes and Silverman (1999) reminds us to “surround an insertion or interruption with a pair of commas.” The authors clarify that “both comas are necessary, since a single comma would separate the subject from the its verb.” (p. 171)

And finally, while I love how you have personalized that URL with my name, I feel somewhat disappointed when I don’t see my name appearing on the webpage that the URL sends me to. Additionally, I feel almost cheated when upon typing in in my browser’s address bar, I see exactly the same page that I’ve seen when typing in When you personalized a piece of mail, personalize it fully. Otherwise, it looks like a job only half-done.

The above three advices apply to any piece of online or offline marketing mail (somehow, outgoing affiliate recruitment e-mails come to mind first): (i) be honest, (ii) remember to proofread, and (iii) when you personalize – personalize fully.

1 thought on “Toyota Stimulus Program Letter: "Pluses and Minuses"”

  1. As a consumer, I’m always miffed by marketing words (such as “solid” as cited in this article). Another one that gets me is “the best [pizza in town]”. I often wonder by whose decree they are claiming the best and how their competitors deal with it.

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