Toyota is Faced with a Branding Dilemma

Why are so many Toyota vehicles appearing in ISIS propaganda videos?

Toyota has strict policies regarding sale of vehicles to potential purchasers who may use or modify them for paramilitary or terrorist activities. However, according to Toyota spokesman Ed Lewis, “It is impossible for any automaker to control indirect or illegal channels through which our vehicles could be misappropriated, stolen or re-sold by independent third parties.”

We have heard, time and time again, that any publicity is good publicity. But is this really the kind of publicity that Toyota wants? It goes without saying that Toyota has a proven track record of making cars and trucks that last a long time, and that is potentially the reason ISIS has opted to purchase as many of them as they can their hands on. But as the automaker, how do you navigate the PR firestorm that is brewing? How would you react if there was public backlash and you were placed in a position to defend your brand?

It is simple! The best defense is always a good offense. So what you do is get ahead of the wave before it has a chance to break on top of you. What Toyota needs to do is create PR and marketing campaigns that side the company with the people and not ISIS. They have to start getting in front of media and the masses, condemning the use of their vehicles in the atrocities that ISIS is committing. Right now is not the time to sit back and see what happens, for it is going to be hundred times costlier to play defense and try to change hearts and minds after the fact.

When you are one of the most recognized brands on the planet, your responsibility to make sure it is always viewed in a positive light becomes more paramount, especially if your brand is being used to promote war and your products are converted into instruments of death. Just ask Volkswagen.

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