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Marketing the Rainbow


The Toyota Motor Corporation is a Japanese multinational automotive manufacturer headquartered in Toyota, Japan. It was founded by Kiichiro Toyoda in 1937. They have over 350,000 employees worldwide and are the largest automobile manufacturer in the world based on 2020 unit sales. Toyota was the tenth-largest company in the world by revenue (2019). They are the global market leader in sales of hybrid electric vehicles. Its Prius family has been the world's top-selling hybrid for years.

Toyota Motor Corporation produces vehicles under five brands: Toyota, Hino, Lexus, Ranz and Daihatsu. It also holds a 20.02% stake in Subaru Corporation, 5.1% in Mazda, 4.9% in Suzuki, 4.6% in Isuzu, and 3.8% in Yamaha Motor Corporation.

This article was last updated Feb 12, 2022 

AdRespect: "Possible gay candidates featured in this commercial are a balding man driving in a black rubber shirt as his dog leans over his shoulder, and three giggling guys in the back of a taxi." John Foley, the account manager for Toyota at the ad agency Saatchi: "Basically it is a brand positioning commercial for Toyota New Zealand to further capitalize on their strong market position as New Zealand's favorite car company. In New Zealand, Toyota is by far the number one player in the market and over the last 20 years their advertising has become famous for its relevance to the New Zealand market. So this particular TV commercial basically conveys that Toyotas are an everyday part of all walks of New Zealand life."


Then they made a few bloopers. In 2001 a print ad had a note accompanying a stern looking gnome (who appears in several of the campaign's ads) that read: "If power is an aphrodisiac, don't turn your back on Vic at the lumberyard." The implication to the text appears to be akin to the old homophobic saying among men, "Don't drop the soap in the showers" - that Vic might attack another man from behind sexually. 

In "Poison Dart" (2004) they want you to know that it is better to let a friend die of a poison arrow than help by putting your mouth to his neck to suck the poison out (the appearance of giving a hickey).

They made up for that in the same year with a Canadian commercial, which very artfully walked a thin line. Can’t you get more wholesome than a father and daughter sitting together on the front porch talking about love? In fact, the father has even talked about his daughter’s new love interest with her mother, so it’s a family affair. Dad infers that his daughter has lousy a taste in men when he asks: “Is he like all the others?”. "Nope" she says, decisively. And up comes the punch line. 

The beginning

Girlfriend  (2005)

Human Touch (2007)

In this unusual video they wanted to add a 'human touch' to building - and more importantly using - cars. This means a lot of 'man-on-man action'. It's not an LGBT-themed commercial, but the casual way in which male contact is presented gets compliments.

It's Reinvented! (Super Bowl, 2012)

Toyota reinvented more than the Camry in this version of the blockbuster commercial: "What would you like #reinvented​?"

AdRespect: "In this funny commercial that debuted on the Super Bowl, a variety of wacky re-inventions are shown, including a re-invented couch that is made up of seven hot women or shirtless men. As the owner walks into the living room and looks at the "couch," he seems equally happy with either version."

This stylish commercial from Japan throws you off balance, as you see an elegant woman undressing and strutting towards the car that is being advertised. All in fiery red colors. Asia is letting us know once again what people should be doing with their cultural direction. Japanese translation "Not trendy, not casual, not for everyone". The model in the commercial is Stav Strashko. PS: the Auris was renamed Corolla in 2018.

Auris (2012)

Hybrid, The new generation Corolla GR Sport (2020)

Toyota made this commercial for the Dutch market in 2020. A casual appearance of a lesbian (?) couple. Dad keeps smiling at the surprise of his daughter having a girlfriend. Or is he enjoying the look of the car?

Corporate policy

A company with this size can be considered as a role model, although as far as diversity is concerned, their Asian roots may hinder the display of this position. Material from Japan is difficult to obtain (for me), but at the same time the American division has a very accessible history.

The corporate website highlights diversity and inclusion of all kinds (applying to employees, suppliers, dealers, communities and customers).

President and CEO of of Toyota Motor North America Ted Ogawa: "Toyota was built on the foundation of Respect for People. That is why Toyota has been working to help find ways to overcome racism and other social injustices that continues to plague our society by taking long-term, sustained action to achieve equality for all, regardless of where you come from, what you look like, who you love, or what race you are.”

Gaywheels & gaycarboys

"The gay-friendly car & travel guide" lists Toyota on their shortlist (well, it contains 40 brands) of gay-friendly automakers. They have repeatedly and favorably reviewed the models as That’s So Gaystill hot, still full of pride or perfect for the senior class at LGBTQ High. Already in 2008, they elected the Yaris as "most wanted vehicle".

In 2018, announced that, for the fourth year in succession, Toyota finished ahead of its automotive rivals in a list of the most admired companies. This was not necessarily a gay opinion though. However, in 2020 they said "Hot Guys prefer Yaris Cross" and in 2021 they said "Sexy Men Drive Toyota Yaris Cross". They reviewed over a dozen models over the years.

Toyota - We've created a workspace where respect never gets a day off.
Toyota - Our orientation is inclusion. 2012
Toyota - The Future of the Workplace Is 2016
Toyota - Love drives our greatest moments, big and small. 2016

Toyota has scored a perfect 100 on the HRC Corporate Equality Index since 2007 - and they are very happy about that (see video).

In 2014 the company announced the move from its US head office from California, one of the most liberal states, to Texas, described by Gaywheels as "a place that is, at the very least, deeply conservative, and at worst, homophobic". Whereas the company vowed to uphold its protection of and benefits for LGBT employees, no such guarantees could be given for 'life outside work'. The move did not happen until 2017: by that time at least same-sex marriage had arrived in Texas, and with it - hopefully - a more liberal attitude towards LGBT. 

COVID support

In 2020 they announced a collaboration with their nonprofit partners in the LGBT+ community to better serve client and patient healthcare needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than $275,000 of previously awarded funding was being reallocated to support critical needs. Additionally, $25,000 was dontaed to support life-saving healthcare services for AIDS/LifeCycle’s beneficiaries, the Los Angeles LGBT Center and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. This was necessary as the charity bike ride, which raised more than $16.7 million in 2019, was canceled due to the pandemic. Participants, including a Toyota team of volunteers, continue to fundraise for the cause. 

Toyota-produced personal protective equipment (PPE) face shields were also sent to the Los Angeles LGBT Center to help outreach employees and other staff take proper health safety measures. Other emergency relief was initiated in collaboration with Dallas Resource Center, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, Los Angeles LGBT Center, the Point Foundation and the Trevor Project.

As early as 1992 - long before it became fashionable, even before Amev's world premiere and IKEA's dining room table - Toyota showed us diversity in their commercials. A print advertisement in Australia presented a "family car", which was the property of two guys and their dog. Apart from the timing, the location is remarkable: the redneck market of Oz!

In 1998, New Zealand joined the rainbow with a fun video. The commercial (with a variation of the Sly & the Family Stone tune) "Everyday People" from New Zealand was charming, albeit it a bit 'gay vague'. The original full-length version of this ad featured a montage in front of an old-model Toyota, with one of those signs in the windscreen which proclaims the names of the driver and his passenger. It starts off with "Kev & Sal", then "Kev" with a few other female couples, before ending with "Kev" and a male companion in a tight embrace.

app 2
Spirit Day app banner

Spirit Day

In 2012 Toyota Financial Services launched a ‘Spirit Day’ app to fight bullying and support LGBT youth. Spirit Day is an initiative of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) which started in the USA, but has meanwhile gone global. Purple is its signature color. In later years, they became an official sponsor of the GLAAD initiative. Ann Bybee, VP at Toyota Financial Services said that “Going purple for the day is a small but powerful way we can all show our support for those who have been bullied or who fear being bullied. It is so important to raise awareness that bullying isn’t acceptable.

The Business Partnering Group Spectrum was formed to give the LGBT+ staff a platform to achieve "professional advancement, strengthening business partnerships and improving business results by applying a wide range of skills, talents and passions."

March To Equality (2017)

The National Pride March, also known as the Equality March for Unity and Pride occurred on June 11, 2017. The event was organized by New York gay activist David Bruinooge, and drew over 50,000 participants. The march also commemorated the 49 victims of the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting. Toyota was a partner of the event. 

The Lipton Ladies (2014) & Love Drives

Local dealer Lipton Toyota from Fort Lauderdale promoted their cars with a lesbian couple in 2014. 

A national campaign with the slogan Love Drives was run in subsequent years. The same gay dads were still being shown on the corporate website 6 years later (see below, COVID support). 

In 2020, satirical website Babylon Bee let us know that Toyota officially announced that the Prius is gay. "We felt the time was right for Prius to come out of the closet,” Toyota spokesman Andrew Welsh explained.  "It's Pride month 2020, and let's be honest, a lot of strange things have happened this year.  We thought a hybrid car coming out as gay might even seem normal in a year like this." The gay community welcomed Prius with open arms, and decided it was only right that they add a “P” to their ever-lengthening acronym.  Welcome to the LGBTQP community Prius!

In "The bookstore" (2005) they used a transgendered woman for cliched humor, with a man's immediate rejection when he realizes she is just that, and the positioning of the Toyota Corolla as a hero to drive him far away.

The 2005 "bullet up my tailpipe" held a double entendre that could be explained either as homophobic, or as fun, depending on the context. 

2020 Pride

While all Pride events went virtual in 2020, they had a social media campaign highlighting their continued support. The footnote says that "some vehicle colors were simulated in order of PRIDE month". 

The Russian newspaper Gazeta wrote, in the light of the legal restrictions on 'the promotion of LGBT': "Major automakers around the world have joined the LGBT community's flash mob to support sexual minorities in their fight for their rights. This action was ignored in the American and European press, but in Russia it caused a violent reaction from car owners and harsh statements from media people." I guess with "ignored" they meant that no one got upset by it, while Russians were stimulated to do so. 

2021 On the Road

A collaboration started with LGBTQ Nation, which was announced as: "It's time to get ON THE ROAD, presented by @Toyota." The Nation's website states: "Toyota presents On the Road. Follow AJ and Emile as they road trip around the Bay Area, finding adventure in San Francisco and Guerneville." The editions were also published on YouTube - for instance the one with drag legend Juanita More.

Despite a few lame jokes and bloopers, Toyota has been engaged in activities about, for and with the LGBT community since 1992. From inclusive advertising to anti-hate campaigns and charitable support. Incidentally, this is a broad trend in Marketing the Rainbow: first try to address the consumer directly to sell something specific, but in recent years have been present more as a brand name ATL to show your diversity broadly and proudly through support.

Case study: Toyota

Branche: Cars