“Increasing physical mobility can lead to upward social mobility.” I’m paraphrasing, but this statement blew my mind. I heard it from Doug Moore, the Director of Technology for Human Support at Toyota at the Net Impact conference in Atlanta. He’s developing technology like the Human Support Robot which helps people that have limited mobility with everyday tasks. It’s still under development and not available for consumer purchase right now, but I remember thinking how transformative that strategic direction was for a car company. So when I came across this AdWeek article, I spent maybe a little too much time pouring over their new “Start your Impossible” campaign. According to a press release made by Toyota on November 1 of this year, they are transitioning to “The Human Movement Company” through a global campaign in partnership with the Olympic and Paralympic games. It debuts with a film featuring 100 mobility stories of athletes and other individuals. Toyota is really committing to this new vision. There are so many aspects to this campaign that I can’t even begin to map it out (films, social media, tech innovation competitions, I could go on and on), but they all go back to this idea of making people mobile. According to a Saatchi & Saatchi Executive (one of the agencies behind the campaign), “Toyota is bringing to the surface the technologies of advancement. They’re high tech, but deep down, the essence in which each one was made is to help people move.”
This simple and elegant approach makes sense for them. Rather than defining themselves as a car company, they dug deep to understand why they do what they do and expanded it to a larger mission. And their passion for this idea shines through the creative. Here is a teaser video introducing the partnership with the Olympic and Paralympic games, but it goes much deeper than that. It was hard to pick just one story, but this one brought me to tears (in a very crowded cafe, kind of awkward) – a man without arms climbing Mount Everest.
You may ask: sooo….what does this have to do with cars? I think the whole point is to break that association. These are the people they’re inspired by. They’ve certainly found the right way to talk about their transition, but I always have to ask the question – exactly what are they doing to claim the title “The Human Movement Company?” This brings me back to how Toyota got my attention in the first place. Way before this campaign was produced, Toyota was quietly tackling mobility. They’ve been pretty hush hush about their products, but this contest proves the investment they’re willing to make to solve complex challenges for people with disabilities. They’re crowd sourcing ideas to increase mobility for those with lower limb paralysis with a contest awarding the most innovative idea $4 million. My favorite part about Toyota’s approach is their focus on co-creation with those living this reality every day. Seems like a given, but we’d probably be surprised how often inventors and engineers leave the user out of the design stage. Check out this video that pairs everyday footage of people with disabilities with the inventors trying to find solutions here.
It will be interesting to see what the future holds for Toyota. All I know is their expansion into mobility is both a smart business decision and socially conscious move. I’m sure their focus on the individuals inspiring these innovations, both in ad campaigns and R&D, will result in success for “The human Movement Company.”