Unwanted Customer Loyalty Leads to Negative Brand Associations for Global Car Manufacturer
Whether they like it or not, Toyota has been adopted as the car brand of choice for some of the most reviled extremists in the world. It seems every second image of ISIL shows their followers riding in, riding on and showing-off their shiny new Toyotas, and the brand association has not been lost.
Toyato’s hard fought brand reputation for toughness and reliability has not been lost on militants in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Africa. The car brand regularly appears in propaganda imagery and videos. It now appears that the U.S. Treasury Department’s Terrorism and Financial Intelligence wing which monitors monetary transfers and the flow of goods that could aid militants has also noticed the brand connection and is investigating the relationship.
The company maintains it has “a strict policy to not sell vehicles to potential purchasers who may use or modify them for paramilitary or terrorist activities” and recently released a statement; “We are committed to complying fully with the laws and regulations of each country or region where we operate, and require our dealers and distributors to do the same,” the company said. “We are supporting the US Treasury Departments broader inquiry into international supply chains and the flow of capital and goods in the Middle East.”
While there are procedures in place to help prevent its products from being diverted for unauthorised military use, according to Toyota, the company says that it’s impossible for it or any car maker to control the channels through which its vehicles can be misappropriated, stolen or resold by third parties.
Is this the price of popularity? The dark side of doing everything right with your product development? Once a brand becomes dominant in its category it becomes increasingly likely to be selected by and associated with groups or individuals who bring with them a negative association. All fame – even brand fame it seems – has a price.