The future of new car promotion has arrived, and according to Toyota and its campaign for the 2011 Toyota Corolla, that future looks like artificial 3-D pop star Hatsune Miku. The computer-generated chanteuse has been dazzling fans and puzzling Westerners over the course of the past year while hawking the Toyota Corolla across a wide variety of media channels. Toyota recently expanded the Hatsune Miku experience to include a North American stop in Culver City, Calif.
Dubbed “MikuScape,” the event was held at the Royal/T café, a spot where American cosplay fans – the anime and Japanese pop culture buffs who form the majority of Hatsune Miku’s fanbase – gather on a regular basis. One hundred participants were given the chance to attend a “live” performance by the 3-D singer in addition to sample food and artwork all themed around the Corolla and Miku.
Toyota also took the opportunity afforded by MikuScape to introduce the “Corolla and Hatsune Miku Augmented Reality Experience.” This promotional effort is based around a digital image of Miku singing against the backdrop of a 2011 Toyota Corolla. The “Experience” will be made available to anyone who downloads the Toyota Shopping Tool App for the iPhone or any Android smart phone and works in concert with the ToyoTag “snap marketing” tool, which allows phone users to link up with additional information about the brand’s products – in this case, the image used for the Hatsune Miku performance.
At this point, you might be asking yourself what exactly is a 3-D pop star? In Japan, computer animated singers have become cultural icons, with devoted fan followings and a series of successful albums, concert tours and other pop culture trappings that have helped them carve out a niche amongst teenagers and young adults. Toyota has been successful within its home country in using the star power of Hatsune Miku, one of the scene’s leading digital performers, to sell cars. The company is now attempting to bring some of that same magic to the United States, where this phenomenon is almost unheard of outside of a cadre of dedicated fans of Japanese music and media.
Is Toyota taking a gamble on introducing an unknown – and some would say, not even real – music personality as a spokesperson for the 2011 Toyota Corolla in America? The short answer is yes. However, qualifying that response are the three million YouTube hits that Toyota has benefited from since it started the Hatsune Miku campaign this past May. In a world where it car companies are forced to go to greater lengths to distinguish their products and personalities from each other, a left-field strategy such as the one represented by a 3-D digital pop star might not be as unusual as it sounds.