According to the New York Times, Toyota is working to bring children into the franchise, despite the fact that children can’t drive.
In April, Toyota quietly began an unusual virtual promotion of its small, boxy Scion: it paid for the car’s product placement in Whyville.net, an online interactive community populated almost entirely by 8- to 15-year-olds.
Never mind that they cannot actually buy the car. Toyota is counting on Whyvillians to do two things — influence their parents’ car purchases and maybe grow up with some Toyota brand loyalty.
It may appear counterintuitive, but Toyota says the promotion is working. Ten days into the campaign, visitors to the site had used the word “Scion” in online chats more than 78,000 times; hundreds of virtual Scions were purchased, using “clams,” the currency of Whyville; and the community meeting place “Club Scion” was visited 33,741 times. These online Scion owners customized their cars, drove around the virtual Whyville and picked up their Scion-less friends for a ride.
Whyville was founded in 1999 as an educational online community and now reaches an audience of 1.6 million, who create their own personas within the site and interact with other visitors.