Back in 2009 Toyota teamed up with the Los Angeles Saatchi & Saatchi team to create an email marketing campaign to gain awareness for the Toyota Matrix through some rather extreme ideas along the lines of “terror marketing”.
The campaign was kicked off by this video aimed at pranksters, asking them to pass on details of a friend to be pranked with direct emails for a bit of a scare and a laugh:
Ms. Duick received a series of rambling messages appearing to be from a rabid soccer fan and riot participant named Sebastian Bowler. She received links to his Myspace page, copies of hotel bills that Sebastian Bowler was apparently holding her responsible for, and indications that he was on his way to her home to visit her in person.
According to her attorney, Ms. Duick “was terrified. She slept with a machete next to her bed and she slept with mace. She could barely sleep or eat normally.”
It was not until the ninth email message that Ms. Duick was informed that “she had been punked” and the whole ordeal had been part of a marketing campaign for the Toyota Matrix. Ms. Duick is probably not likely to purchase a Toyota vehicle in the near future.
Email marketing campaigns endeavour to engage your customers, somehow I don’t believe Toyota “engaged” their customers in the right way – surely terrifying people so much that they struggle to get to sleep at night is not a good strategy if you’re looking to get any business from those people!
Toyota didn’t exactly need this bad publicity around a law suit for their marketing practices, having just previously recalled over 3 million cars due to a manufacturing issue that had resulted in the loss of lives… Not a good year for the company huh.
Here’s a tip – Don’t go out of your way to terrorise potential customers just for a bit of email marketing!!!