A New Mantra For Toyota, and a lesson about Your Personal Brand

Toyota’s in big trouble – no doubt about it! I read an article in The New York Times over the weekend that went into detail about why they’re in so much trouble and what they will need to do about it.

The first paragraph of the article said it all…

“A Japanese leader (Toyota) in the auto industry is accused of negligence, causing
car accidents and dragging its feet with investigators. A giant recall is
ordered, top executives are hauled in front of Congress, and losses snowball.
Consumers flee in droves, trial lawyers lick their chops, and analysts say
the company’s brand is permanently tarnished.”

So, how will Toyota begin the long journey back out of the cave they have dug for themselves?

They’ll have to come out of hiding. Out from behind the anonymity that big corporate execs often get too comfortable in.  Out into the open where everyone can see them, like a movie start out for coffee on a Saturday morning, their hat holding unwashed hair closely under cover.

This will likely be difficult for them.  The Japanese culture is one that prides itself in humility and respect for authority.  As the author of this article pointed out…

“Grandstanding and mea culpas
do not come naturally at Toyota. Like many other Japanese manufacturers, it is driven
by engineers bred to act deliberately. Top managers are often chosen because of their
connections in the company and their skills in the workshop, not their charisma or
links to shareholders or customers.”

When your long time company mantra has been to under promise and over deliver, while remaining as quiet as possible about your success, the job of winning trust from the public again through total exposure, honesty, and authenticity looms large.

For me, I simply found it interesting that in order for Toyota to recover,  they will need to be more personal, open, and transparent.

Much in the same way the rest of us work so hard to build our own personal brands, Toyota will need to move out from behind those quiet walls and scream big promises about how they plan to over deliver.  They will need to move way outside their comfort zones and the norms that have become so commonplace for them.   And ultimately connect directly with their customers.  Something they probably should have been doing more of all along…