Product placement from hell

On the news, you see a fleet of jihadists’ vehicles, flying black flags and carrying flatbed-mounted weapons, heading into or maybe out of some terrible place in the middle East or North Africa.  What very well-known brand name do you associate with what you’re seeing?

I’ll give you a clue:  it’s written extremely prominently, in black capital letters, on the tailgates of the vehicles.  Got it yet?  It is of course TOYOTA.  Very occasionally it’s NISSAN.  But I’d say that Toyota has a 95% market share of the jihadi transportation market.

If product placement matters at all – if there is any kind of perceptual halo created in our minds from the context in which we see brands in the real world – then this has to be bad news.

Not entirely bad news, I suppose.  There are some positives to be taken from the fact that the vehicles operate reliably in what are usually pretty challenging conditions and, I suspect, without being serviced at regular intervals.  But on the whole, you’d think that being the vehicle brand of choice for global terrorism would be more of a hindrance than a help.

All of which seems to raise two interesting questions.  First, is the whole business of product placement complete rubbish?  Does it in fact make absolutely no difference at all who’s seen to be using your brand?  And second, if it’s not complete rubbish and does make some difference, why isn’t Toyota trying a bit harder to do something about it?  Presumably there are dealers around the middle East supplying these vehicles:  are the chiefs at Toyota really happy to see the hands they finish up in?

I appreciate that on the list of Issues Arising from jihad this one comes towards the bottom.  But I still think it’s worth mentioning.



2 thoughts on “Product placement from hell

  1. Yes, I first noticed this when the British were in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban after 9/11 in 2001. I think it was the Saudi government who originally bought them 200 Toyota Hilux pick-ups, 1980s or 1990s model year, with TOYOTA big on the back. They were not the absurdly macho, bloated trucks on steroids you see today, but a basic flat-bed van, very tough, 4×4, basis of the slow but tough Land Cruiser, I think.

    Anyway, they bounced up mountains no problem, filled with Tali sitting in rows in the back grinning – no seat belts! – in tribal dress, all wiry and clutching ancient, decrorated bejewelled flintlocks, it seemed. They were indestructible. And so were the pick-ups.

    Political fashions and fancies change. I once met an ex-squaddie who went to fight for the “Muj”, he called them, the heroic mujihadeen who preceded the hated Taliban, when the Russians had a go in Afghanistan. Why Britain later ignored their own advice from the 19th Century, “Don’t go to Afghanistan!” I don’t know. Kipling’s “The Man Who Would be King” should have been warning enough.

    Anyway, every manufacturer then wanted a Hilux and some rum names have come out of it along the lines of “Marauder”, “Bandit” and so on, it’s all become very gay. You might even expect to see TALIBAN on the back, or TERRORIST, depending on the market, whether Sunni or Shia and so on.

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