Adventures in Marketing: The Toyota Venza Attempts to Steal Subaru's Thunder

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

Toyota’s all-new Venza fills a two-row, crossover-sized void between the smaller RAV4 and the larger Highlander, and is essentially a return to what the Highlander was originally. To help draw in buyers to its resurrected nameplate, Toyota decided to use a long-standing Subaru ad trope: the family pet.

Toyota promises to empower Venza drivers to “discover the unlimited possibilities that await them on the road ahead.” And to that end, the company unveiled a new marketing campaign called “Seekers of New.” Its first ad spot, Lifesaver, is intended to display all the impressive features of the Venza, and relies on the all-new theme of a lost dog.

A small dog finds freedom from its owners and goes on a journey across an unidentified city that’s probably in the Pacific Northwest. The dog’s damp and despondent owners give chase and must rely on their capable crossover to find the dog.

Only the Venza can help its owners through the following tough driving situations: Rain in the suburbs, an empty city, a wet bridge, and a damp underpass. Along the way the couple makes use of the panoramic roof that becomes opaque at the touch of a button, and the rearview mirror that turns into a camera. Light hipster tunes accompany the ad, which ends with a triumphant reunion of wet people and misbehaving dog.

While the ad itself is relatively unremarkable, it does highlight how the mandatorily hybridized Venza might lack an identifiable customer base. While it’s in theory more stylish than the Highlander, it rides on the same platform. Venza’s entry price is within $2,000 of the larger and very well-established three-row Highlander, but its cargo room is less than RAV4. And unlike Highlander, there’s no V6 in any trim. Power comes solely from the hybrid 2.5-liter inline-four.

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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  • Ajla Ajla on Sep 29, 2020

    The new Venza is one of the more attractive Toyota vehicles IMO, but for the pirce I think it is a mistake that it gets the RAV4 Hybrid engine instead of the higher output Highlander hybrid engine. Really that is kind of a thing with many of Toyota's HSD offerings right now. I'd say it should be: 121hp version in the Corolla, Prius, C-HR 210hp version in Camry, Rav4, UX 245hp version in Venza, Avalon, Highlander, Sienna, ES300h, NX 308hp version in RX, ES400h(new trim) 355hp version in LC, LS, RC(new offering)

  • Snakebit Snakebit on Sep 29, 2020

    I'm still smarting from the version one Venza TV ads in New England, picturing the typical Venza owning couples as stylish and well-groomed, while the Outback couple looked like disheveled hippies, probably the only time I found Toyota TV ads to be condesending and mean-spirited. Yes, I have a new RAV4 that I'm very happy with, but could have seriously considered a Subaru Outback or Cross-Tek had the dealer bothered to send a salesman out to talk to us in the 45 minutes we were perusing their cars outside. I honestly can't fathom the need for a new Venza, and understandibly, just the model name is a negative marketing factor to me when we're ready for a new car. Toyota, honestly, give it another model name, and this time, don't put down owners of competing models in your TV ads, just point out why the new(whatever)model needs to be in a car shoppers driveway.

  • FreedMike Needs MOOAAARRR POWER.
  • Mgh57 I should just buy an old car where everything is analog.
  • FreedMike You mean, the "Hellcat all the things" plan failed?
  • Fred I've only had it for about 7 months and I like it. Mostly because I have a hard time seeing my phone screen. So even tho my Honda's screen is 6" it's a lot easier to see than my phone.
  • Cha65697928 I'm 48. Both our cars have it, I'm never going back. Being able to activate calls, messages, music, nav, opening/closing garage doors all via voice command is awesome. Now if Audi would just allow Google maps to mirror in the middle of the driver's display instead of only allowing the native nav...