Corolla Bows Hatchback: 5 Questions With Toyota VP Lisa Materazzo

Toyota is injecting new life into its sedan line with its first-ever hatchback form of the Corolla, and backing up the product launch with a marketing campaign that pushes the envelope in a number of ways.

The new Corolla hatchback actually represents a reconfiguration of the old iM model from Scion, the youth-oriented brand that Toyota deep-sixed a few years ago. The Corolla sedan has been sold in the US by Toyota for decades, but the spiffy new model is its first-ever hatchback.

And it’s supported by a suite of high-energy TV and digital ads that show off the car’s dynamic design, a scintillating new color, a manual-transmission option, and Toyota’s outreach to a variety of ethnic demographics. In fact, Toyota has engaged three different ad agencies to come up with the creative for the campaign, which goes under the tagline, “Greater Than.”

“The customer in this [vehicle] segment is quite diverse and so we think with our go-to-market approach it’s something we can deliver,” Lisa Materazzo, Toyota’s vice president of vehicle marketing and communications, told brandchannel.

“We can make sure ads are delivered digitally, specifically to the audience where it will resonate, by using data and delivering on motivations of that segment,” she said. “Our job in marketing is to make sure we’re very strategic about our approach and knowing what our customers want and will value, and we’ll tailor that communication to that audience and highlight the features that are most important to them.”

Materazzo shared more about the new Corolla hatchback, and the marketing campaign, with brandchannel.

Lisa Materazzo Toyota

Toyota has remained committed to its important sedans, like Corolla and Camry, despite Americans’ increasing shift away from that segment. Is a Corolla hatchback a way to make your sedan lineup more relevant in this environment?

We’re seeing a shift to SUVs and CUVs but there is this core sedan buyer who doesn’t want to make the shift. Specifically in regard to Corolla and the smaller-car segment, there’s a shift to small and mid-size SUVs. One reason for that is a focus on functionality and utility. That’s a real good rationale for introduction of the Corolla hatchback. If we can deliver that functionality and versatility in the form of a sedan, in a hatchback, we do see opportunity there.

What’s the history of the Corolla hatchback? This is a first for the model line.

The previous generation of this vehicle is the iM, the Scion model. Now in the Corolla hatchback we’re seeing this configuration for the first time. We noticed that in the segment overall, hatchbacks represent about 15% overall. We’ll build to the demand. And we’re optimistic because of that. The versatility and driving dynamics and value of the Corolla hatchback are a compelling proposition.

How can you get that Scion buyer to migrate? 

We start with the product. We’re really excited about the product first and foremost. Particularly with the hatchback, we’re seeing very expressive vehicle styling, a more athletic stance and lower, longer and wider stance, improved driving dynamics. It’s a blast to drive. It also has a manual transmission. When we go to market with a campaign we can really tap into those features.

You’ve got multiple ads from multiple agencies, and some of them are oriented toward particular ethnic minorities.

All of these ads will run in the US market. We have a rather unique approach to all of our marketing. We have a total Toyota approach to the market and that means we don’t work with just one advertising agency but four.

We can do targeted cable for video in very specific placements. When we look at digital we can become even more targeted and we’re using a variety of platforms. We’re using Facebook and other forms of digital placement, to deliver relevant messages where they’re consuming media. We have a very holistic approach to this campaign. And we have events and engagement in addition to media that does the heavy lifting for in-market placement when people are doing detail shopping online.

One thing that’s hard to miss in the ads is the prevalence of a bright blue color of the Corolla hatchback that you seem to use in all of them. What’s that about?

That color is called Blue Flame. It’s an amazing color and it pops off the page. It has a great deal of appeal and it’s been very popular. The color palette in general for the car includes a nice red, a black metallic and silver metallic—it’s an exciting color palette. It works particularly well with the styling of the vehicle and character lines of the vehicle.

Get more insights in our Q&A series.

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