Blue Beetle might be a disappointment for Warner Bros. at the box office so far, but Toyota is happy with the performance of its broadly placed Tacoma mid-size pickup truck in the latest film treatment of a super hero.
While not nearly as familiar to casual superhero observers as Superman or Captain America, Blue Beetle actually has a heritage that goes back more than 75 years. The history of Tacoma doesn’t go back quite that far: It was first produced in Fremont, California, in 1995 as the brand’s entry into a fast-developing compact-truck market in the United States.
But unlike some of its competitors in that category, Tacoma has survived the decades. And that turns out not to be just convenient for product placement in Blue Beetle but also for the actual plot itself: A Tacoma appears throughout the film as the beloved vehicle of the protagonist’s family, referred to as the “Taco,” the pride and joy of Uncle Rudy. And there’s plenty of madcap adventure in the film to make it clear that Tacoma is up to every bit of it.
“The appeal of this movie to us was that it was highly anticipated and was a platform by which we can showcase not only the heritage of Tacoma but also the upcoming 2024 model,” Lisa Materazzo, group vice president of Toyota marketing for Toyota Motor North America, told me.
In the film, she noted, Tacoma displays “durability and power in the adventures where the vehicle is key. And it’s along on every aspect of the journey. That is authentic to the property” in part because of Taco, a 2018 model. A new 2024 Tacoma Trailhunter eventually replaces Taco in the movie.
“We look at our place in the narrative when it comes to movie activations,” Materazzo explained. “In Blue Beetle, there’s a nice alignment with the characters of the movie and what we want to emphasize about Tacoma.”
The placement effort also is notable because Blue Beetle is the first superhero movie based on the story of a Hispanic protagonist. Xolo Mariduena starts in the title role, as well as his alter ego, Jaime Reyes. Jaime runs across an ancient relic of alien biotechnology: the Scarab. It suddenly bonds to him, giving him a suite of armor that, of course, is capable of extraordinary feats.
The Toyota marketing campaign around Blue Beetle is a 360-degree effort that includes digital, social media and programmatic buys as well as in-cinema advertising, commencing August 31.