Toyota kills Scion: brand failed to connect with young drivers

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Toyota just announced that its Scion brand is dunzo. Only surprise is that it took so long. It will become the latest case study of what can go wrong when you try to build a youth brand – especially for a product with a relatively high price point.

There were plenty of red flags from the beginning:

1.Toyota misread Gen X (or chose to ignore the facts) when they built the Scion as an aspirational youth brand. The key premise, that young drivers were rejecting all the existing cars on the market, was just plain wrong. Track down any research from that time on teens and young adults, it clearly shows that they DID  have strong favorites (perhaps couldn’t afford them) – but to overlook the fact that Gen Y coveted BMWs, Civics, Jeep Wranglers and Escalades – is a huge misstep.

2. Scion was so focused on being “underground” and “niche” it failed to connect with a broad enough audience to support the brand. Their goal was to hook up with influencers and tastemakers who were into tricking out their vehicles with after-market parts. Problem was, there were not enough of them  interested in Scions. A classic case of chasing cool with gimmicks and borrowed interest. It rarely ends well. Ironically, Scion also ended up appealing to elderly drivers who liked the price and didn’t mind the basic models or boxy design.

Scion did, however, break new ground in a number of very important ways: no haggle-pricing, personalization, grassroots promotional tactics and the use of social media and internet advertising instead of TV (their recent digital influencer campaign with Eddie Huang was fantastic).

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