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.