Value Appeal : Prius


Customers buy products based on more than product attributes. If customers purchased on attributes alone, for example, a consumer buying a car to predominantly drive to work and to take the family around, then customers could (financial resources permitting) randomly choose any make of car from Kia, Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen, Audi, Mercedes etc. In reality, cars like many other marketed products do not just market on attributes, but rather to appeal to consumer values (Schwartz 1992).

Take the best-selling green car Toyota Prius. Most drivers who are aware of the car associate it as being environmentally friendly. Advertisements for when the Prius first came out drilled this into the consumers’ minds and hearts – that for those wanting to protect the environment, this is the car for them. As the advertisement below from 2012 shows, the Prius is placed between two hills and the bright green of lush grass and trees, to associate the Car being at one with the environment. The lush valley and bright green colour on which the Prius sits is appealing to our classical conditioning (Webb 2010); we instantly feel positive feelings from seeing green hills – evoking feelings of being in the healthy outdoors, fresh air, countryside and ultimately a friend of the natural environment Emphasis on using bright green, reinforces the ‘Green Agenda’ and thus accordingly we associate these feelings with the Prius.

toyota-prius-ad 2012

Fast forward 4 years and now the 2016 Prius is advertised as being involved in as the getaway car for a bank robbery and out-running the cops! The video commercial feels like something out of Fast and Furious or any other movie with a high speed car chase. They have given it a story-line, but essentially the clip is playing on the viewers’ emotions of excitement, trendy, ‘cool’ and edgy . This is in stark contrast to its past market positioning in the perceptions of consumers. A move away from the pride in being ‘slow’ and ‘stodgy’ (Brauer 2016).

You could say that the Prius has saturated the consumers mind that it is an environmentally friendly car, that the consumers already ‘get that’, and now Toyota are evolving their product to show it in a different light. It is not just a boring economical car that you are meant to drive at a constant speed to be environmentally friendly and green, but it is also an excitingly fun car to drive.

The use of the Prius as a getaway car in a bank robbery is absurd and comical, but for this reason it works to make the commercial fun, and different so that it captures the customers attention. Essentially, it is attention grabbing marketing, as Webb (2010) notes ‘when you see something strange looking in a television advertisement you stop to take notice of the advertisement to sort out what you are seeing’.

The commercial also includes feedback from another Prius driver to give it the social approval, showing a middle aged women and with her expressing that the driver is the most attractive, again, associating that if you are a consumer of the Prius you will be attractive. This music itself is by Apache – Incredible Bongo Band, a use of a high tempo and catchy tune to create the feelings of an exciting and fun drive. Hirsch (2015) quotes the VP of Toyota as saying, ‘Prius needed to appeal to the emotional part of driving’.

Whether consumers ‘buy in’ to the marketing that this is a sporty, racy car and they can attract a new consumer market remains to be seen. More realistically, it looks like a marketing exercise to maintain Prius as the number 1 green car but adding to the product the dimension of fun and excitement.

Blogged by Trthu


Brauer K (2016) 2016 Toyota Prius and Rav4: Proof Hybrids are here to Stay. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 31 March 2016].

Hirsch, J (2015) With Sales Flagging, Toyota unveils a sportier Prius [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 30 March 2016].

Schwartz, S.H. (1992). Universals in the Content and Structure of Values: Theoretical Advances and Empirical Tests in 20 Countries. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 25, 1–65.

Webb, K (2010) Consumer Behaviour, Second Edition, McGraw-Hill.



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