Lexus: driving change

November 27, 2013 11:53 am

Lexus has an edgy new strategy – one it hopes will attract a younger demographic

Aside from its dedication to creating concept vehicles such as the award-wining LF-LC hybrid 2+2 coupe and the LF-CC, Lexus is pushing the boundaries of technology, craftsmanship and design with their new global campaign.

“I am very passionate about cars, and especially design,” said Akio Toyoda, grandson of the founder of Toyota and President and CEO of Toyota Motor Corporation. “To me, cars need to ignite all your senses, and one of the most important is the emotional connection you get when you see a beautiful car.”

And what better car is there to ignite our senses than Lexus? Toyoda’s personal commitment to the focus on design does much to explain the new Lexus global campaign and the brand’s new initiatives.

Lexus is greatly influenced by the Japanese culture in its craftsmanship and design.

“If you want to understand Lexus you got to really understand Japanese culture; that is where the whole core is. And to understand the Japanese culture you really have to visit the Ise temple: that is the beginning of Japan, that is where Japan all started from,” explained Manjot Bedi, Lexus’ Creative Director. According to him, the beauty of the shrine lies in the fact that it is broken down and rebuilt every twenty years so that the craftsmanship is never lost, it is passed from generation to generation.

“Toyota and Lexus are changing 180 and this is the turning point, now is the turning point in styling, in designing, in communication, and in the show rooms”, added Bedi.

The changes start with the new, younger, edgier image that Lexus is adopting in its marketing strategy and in its latest models in order to attract younger customers – a target audience that has been partially ignored by Lexus in the past. However, Atsushi Takada, GM Lexus Brand Management Div., is confident that this new direction is only an addition to the original Lexus image and would not affect their current customers

“We are so fortunate that we have such high brand loyalty among the exiting customers and of course it’s a great pleasure that we have a high retention rate,” he explains. But that is also the reason why it is quite difficult for Lexus to attract new and younger customer, “for example Lexus [has been] in the United States for over two decades, maybe the original owners have turned to be older and some of their children might say that’s a car for my parents. We need to re-stimulate our brand so that we can overcome some of the image that the younger generation customer might have against Lexus. That is why we are launching this new campaign.”

Their novel array of undertakings includes the global advertising campaign entitled ‘Amazing in Motion’, which features spectacular larger-than-life human figures that were created using high-technology 3D printing and fine craftsmanship. Lexus materials, including bamboo and walnut found in the interiors of their cars, as well as Lexus’ exterior paint, were used to construct the figures that came to life on a grand scale.

Lexus offers an emotional experience through design and engineering. That is the message the brand is communicating on a global basis through innovative activities such as their new unique space called Intersect by Lexus. Neither a dealership, nor a traditional retail space, guests will be able to engage with Lexus through design, art, fashion, culture, movies, music and technology, without getting behind a steering wheel. Wonderwall, the first Intersect by Lexus will open in Aoyama, Tokyo, in the summer of 2013, followed by locations in New York City and yes, even Dubai.

Then there’s the Lexus Design Award – a competition to inspire the next generation of designers, by having them demonstrate their creativity and be recognised for their accomplishments. The top two winners earned the opportunity to work with mentors Sam Hecht and Junya Ishigami, and their works were displayed at Museo della Permanente in Milan, Italy, during Milan Design Week.

Last but not least, Lexus collaborated with The Weinstein Company to support emerging directors from around the globe, commissioning them to bring five stories to life as short films. The stories explore the theme “Life is Amazing” and the world premiere event was held at the 2013 Festival de Cannes in May.

Lexus has always been a synonym to aesthetic elegance of vehicles but the attention to detail is what makes Lexus stand out, at least to Manjot Bedi. “You know I used to do aikido and my coach said it’s not about how strong you throw it’s about how beautiful you throw; so it is not about the result, it is about the process. If the process is right the result is always right, and what really fascinates me about Lexus is that they spend so much time on the process,” he said.

Speaking to a select group of media, Kyotaka Ise, President of Lexus International, discussed the brand’s new image direction, vehicle models and the future of the company:

What do you hope to achieve with this new brand strategy?

To establish Lexus as a truly premium brand we think there are two important things one is the product and the second other is the image. To boost the image of the Lexus we need the Lexus image to be very youthful and active at the same time.

What, in your view, are the strengths and weaknesses of the brand?

For the people in the Middle East, quality will be the first and foremost thing and Lexus won’t break even though you drive it in a very harsh environment. Also comfort is one of our very strong points, including hybrid vehicles. Thinking of weak points, I think the image – the young image – and the coupe are I would say an improvement area for Lexus. We would like to add more a sport-type, coupe type model to the existing current generation of the Lexus.

With the Lexus Design Award and your involvement with Milan’s 2013 Salone del Mobile, what relation does design really with a car brand?

The design is the most important thing for the vehicle and we have to admit that in that design area the impact has been weak. Our vehicles have been loved by many people, however, we lack the kind of distinctive personality or the characteristics of the vehicle.

In the Milano Salone we had much better reactions from that design award or design event than we had expected; so we would like to keep changing and challenging in the future too and, at the same time, we would like to support those who want to change, or who want the innovation as a brand.

What improvements and new features can we expect based on the strategy?
As for our strategy, the ‘active’ and the ’emotion’ will be the most important thing. As I have mentioned, I would like to add the sport type Lexus model and after we would like to add [a] very attractive model… when that vehicle is exhibited at the dealer shop, people come over to see that and think: ‘wow that’s great I’d like to possess this vehicle in the future’.

How has Lexus performed worldwide?

In terms of the Lexus global sales, 2007 we surpassed the 500,000 units per annum, however after that due to the problem of quality issues and also the great earthquake and tsunami, sales have been dropped under the 500,000 units. 2012 we had a prospect to exceed the sales of more than 500,000; however, due to the territorial dispute between the China, those issues had a negative impact on the sales.

In 2013 we do expect that sales would exceed the 500,000 and of course the sales in the Middle East has increased. I think more than 50% of the sales increase has been witnessed in the Middle East. Of course, Lexus has been mainly sold in the United States the however, in the future, areas such as the Middle East or the Asia Pacific will become much more important for the sales of the Lexus.