Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Dear Toyota: Women Buy Cars Too

I've never owned my own car. In high school, I shared a family car; in college, I comandeered one of my parents' cars. And, over the course of the last few years, I've lived in urban areas with great public transportation and simply haven't needed a car. Suffice it to say, I still don't "need" a car - but my partner and I are beginning to consider the possibilities of life with our very own automobile?!!

So, as I'm browsing the internet, researching the features/prices/environmental impact of various vehicles, I've started looking at hybrids. I like the idea of a hybrid- great gas mileage, low emissions, small size, good overall safety--but that's most hybrids. What is going to stand out to me about brand X's car? Evidently, Toyota has done some great branding, because the first hybrid that pops in my mind is the Prius...

Unfortunately for Toyota, all I saw when I went to their website was the sexist tag line for the 2010 model: "Harmony between man, nature and machine." [emphasis mine] I tried to let it slide by and continue my cross-brand comparrison, but I couldn't. I got stuck - stuck on the fact that here I am, ready and willing to read their best gimic; ready to have their website tell me all about why I, an educated, responsible consumer, should interest myself (and better yet, BUY!) their product. And instead of being SMART advertizers, they stymi themselves with blatant sexism.

So channeling my most effective feminist activism, I emailed Toyota:

I am very interested in the Prius, but am more than a little put off by the marketing scheme: 'man,' v. nature, v. prius. I recognize the logic "man v. nature" but find it offensive to be excluded from the wonders Toyota supposedly has to offer (for both man and nature) because I am a woman. This is your 2010 model, not your 1950 model. Your advertising budget is astronomical. Find a better way to convey your message that does not exclude 51% of the population (and what I would imagine is a greater majority of your target audience): women.

I recognize it is not the most profound piece of protesting literature I've ever written, but my voice deserves to be heard. Perhaps, in the past, I would have let it slide; I would have internally chastized myself for being overly-sensitive and gone along my merry way. But NO. This is my money. This is my investment. This is Toyota needing to understand how their lousy marketing is not only counter-productive, it's OFFENSIVE. (Side note: if anyone has consumer reports information on how many women v. men buy hybrids, and specifically Priuses, please share!)

If you care to join my protest, first check out Toyota's sexist marketing strategy, and then shoot 'em an email. As far as I'm concerned, my buck stops here.

NB: According to Consumer Reports, women are "far more focused on fuel economy, with 38% citing it as the most important factor, while only 24% of men felt the same."
Photo credit: flickr.com/cgoulao

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