Willem Verschuur – Toyota

Willem Verschuur – Toyota

Willem Verschuur is the General Manager Marketing Toyota at Louwman & Parqui, importer of Toyota and Lexus and part of the Louwman Group The Louwman Group is a family owned company in the mobility domain with activities in the Care and Car domain. Willem is responsible for marketing in the Netherlands. Willem: “Toyota is the most powerful car brand in the world according to the most recent Interbrand research. The strength of Toyota is different in the EU than it is in for example the US and Australia, mainly because of strong local players in Europe. Our organisation is very customer centric, and passion driven by the consumer. A personal approach is one of our company’s main drivers. Our NPS on sales is over 75, and we have received several awards for customer centricity.”

Main ingredients for brand growth

Willem: “Market share is a very important sales KPI. Next to that, we look at after sales, or return-frequency, which we score very high on. When you have a 6-year-old Toyota, do you go back to the Toyota dealer, or go to another non-branded dealer. We monitor our brand based on 3 main KPIs: Different, Meaningful and Salience. Different focuses on to what extent you’re different in comparison with competitors. Toyota is seen as an innovative and environmentally friendly brand. Meaningful is more focused on to what extent you matter, what does the brand mean to me? There’s an emotional element to that. This is a domain we have been developing ourselves at a rapid pace. Do I buy a car more with my head, or with my heart? Finally, we have Salience. Are you top of mind in the next purchase? We measure if our consumers are happy with us throughout the entire journey, and measure whether we are doing the right things for them.”

‘Stop making boring cars’

According to Willem, Toyota measures their campaigns to see what kind of steps they are making as a brand. “Brand development relates to product development, visibility and having the right models of cars. A couple of years ago, Toyota’s Chairman Akio Toyoda stated ‘stop making boring cars’. Product development is key when it comes to brand growth. This relates to emotional bonding, but you also need the proof to back it up. Our most recent models like C-HR, Rav-$, Corolla and the striking Supra are regarded as very appealing models. I always say, ‘design, you get for free’. But it is a determining factor when it comes to liking a car, and buying or leasing it in the end.”

Innovation as a tool to stay relevant

Willem explains that innovation is an ingredient for growth for Toyota. “It’s related to being different, how can we keep on innovating as a brand. Brand loyalty is under pressure in the industry. You have to continuously be relevant and offer added value. That’s why our media deployment is more focused on brand, and less on car. We are focusing on building that emotional connection.”

Mobility is a human right

Willem continues: “We are catering more towards emotion through several partnerships we have with motorsport, such as Dakar, Le Mans and rally. Toyota also became a global partner of the Olympics and Paralympics. In February 2018 we launched a big campaign specifically on brand. There wasn’t a car to be seen in that campaign; ‘Start Your Impossible’, which starred a lot of Paralympic athletes. Our philosophy is ‘mobility is a human right’. Everyone should get anywhere they want to, which is exactly what we wanted to carry out in this campaign.”

Not taking the car

Toyota is planning on expanding this mobility proposition. Willem: “We want to stimulate people to use different ways of mobility than the car. Which may seem a bit contradictory. An example is a pilot we are running with NOC*NSF. We offer them a shared car with a WeGo digital key system where people can schedule when they want to use the car. This allows companies to reduce costs, and make a positive impact on the environmental footprint. We talk to the users and gather feedback to improve the product, and look into whether we want to introduce it on a larger scale. Another example is our webshop with cars auto.nl (auto.nl), where we make buying a car as easy as ordering a pizza. The car is dropped off personally at your front door, and if you’re not happy after 2 weeks, you get your money back. Some people don’t enjoy going to the dealer, so this is a great solution for them.”

Not a top priority anymore

Willem: “We conduct consumer research. For instance, we have our own panel with Toyota users which we question on a continuous basis. We attend events and are looking into working together with partners. We notice that getting your driver’s license at the age of 17 or 18 isn’t a top priority anymore. Socialising, traveling and experiences are things they spend their money on, as opposed to a secondhand car. Of course, they want to go from one destination to the next, but there are other possibilities, or combinations. From motorcycle to train, to electric bike. It’s when they grow into a different life stage that car ownership is getting more common. It is our challenge to become more relevant as a Toyota Brand for this generation, with mobility solutions catered to their needs.”

“We notice more of these trends in mobility”, Willem continues. “The car still continues to have the biggest market share, but less people are owning and buying a car. More people are sharing one or are using private lease. Next to that, electrification is a big trend, just as autonomous driving and connected cars. I think the most important thing is that whatever the trend is, you need to make sure you keep a personal emotional approach. The blend between digital and traditional channels plays a vital role in this.

Putting the needs of consumers first

“The biggest pitfall is innovating within traditional governance, leading to deficient freedom of thought”, Willem explains. “Next to that, companies often only pay attention to disruptive innovations. They want too much, but sometimes it’s better to take a step back and look at innovating closer to home so you can benefit from it more quickly. In Japanese we call it “Kaizen”, continuous improvement, always challenge the Status Quo, that’s how brands like Toyota have grown over the years.”