Lexus Marketing Sells Sex, Character and Handling

“Character and handling” are the two elements Lexus CEO Kiyotaka Ise says he wants to stress for his brand. His marketers have some other ideas.

I don’t know how tgriffith and I missed this, but back in February, after too much sake, the Lexus lads came up with a totally fabo-genius idea. Take Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Tori Praver, create an actual race course from the outlines of her body, make a video with two professional drivers (and herself, of course; see after the break), and create a downloadable video game app—so you can race around Tori’s body at home!

The thrilling process of how this stunt was accomplished is described here. The multifaceted campaign (basically, to push the new GS) also included print (in the February 14 SI) and online rollouts, plus several Las Vegas events.

If at this point you’re asking what the hell this has to do with character and handling—or whether this kind of silly sexual marketing is really targeting the right buyers—well, I’m with you.

All right, boys, stop drooling at Tori and look at that ugly barge of a GS F Sport lurching around the course. It does stay pretty flat, however. Perhaps next time, Lexus will run it against an M3 or a C63 AMG.

There is life after Tori, however. Last month, Lexus introduced a concept borrowed from Apple, a “Genius Bar” of tech specialists trained to help customers understand and operate all the techy magic that Toyota has stuffed into its cars.

In June, Lexus plans to have some 2,400 people in training sessions at Lexus College in California, teaching them how to improve the delivery process and guide customers through the technology maze in their new and present cars.

This, I submit, is a smart way to build brand loyalty and improve their already top-of-the-heap numbers in J.D. Power’s Customer Service Index Study. The Index measures customer satisfaction with dealers’ repair service, advice and overall quality of service—and Lexus again finishes way out ahead of other luxury brands.

So, it is no dumb move to keep pushing for quality service in this area. The Genius Bar approach will help. Lexus “customer-service lines got 13,000 calls last year about navigation, audio and other infotainment technologies, up from about 5,000 calls two years earlier.”

Which will be more effective in gaining Lexus customers—the Tori approach or the Genius Bar?


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  1. I remember testing the new autoparking feature on an expensive G-series Lexus a few years ago. It simply didn’t work, but of course that didn’t stop Lexus from taking people’s money anyway. Although I thought the car itself was very nice– quiet, powerful, with decent handling and good quality, the plethora of gadgets approached the level of absurdity and made the car very distracting and hard to operate. But given the fact that Lexus seems to be a flagship for those experiencing suppressed mid-life crisis, the commercial doesn’t seem to be a surprise. The guys in full blown mid-life crisis buy a Porsche, the closet cases buy a Lexus.

  2. Oh I didn’t miss it. I downloaded the app on Day 1. It was just terrible so I moved on! Instead of being sexy, her body in the app is like a giant collapsed and fell on the race track. Nothing hot about that. Just creepy and weird.

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