October 21, 2015 wasn’t just any old autumn day — it was the exact date that Marty McFly, played by a young Michael J. Fox, arrived at when he traveled 30 years into the future in the 1985 box office smash Back to the Future, a movie that inspired two sequels and set our standards for science fiction time travel for many years.
But yesterday didn’t feel that different, at least on the East Coast. Things were a little bit different in California, where Toyota was creating a big buzz around its “Fueled by Everything” marketing campaign, with a very interesting play on the movie’s plot line.
One really exciting part of a new Toyota Back to the Future promotion was the filming of a short video with actors Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox talking about what it’s like to be actually living in the future that their characters explored. On October 14, Toyota released a short teaser with Lloyd and Fox in a diner, talking about some future predictions that came true, and others that didn’t.
“We have 3D movies,” Lloyd says.
“And fingerprint technology,” Fox replies, also noting that “dog-walking robots” aren’t quite ready yet. Then the rest of it devolves into a study of the modern fax machine.
Then, this past week, Toyota unlocked a whole load of video content, in which Lloyd and Fox take a look at a brand new futuristic machine.
In short video segments built into a landing page, Toyota’s “Fueled by Everything” campaign introduces the two real-life actors, and the rest of us, to the Toyota Mirai — a car that runs on refined biogas turned into hydrogen.
There’s a Huey Lewis trash montage. There’s an old school diorama like the one made for the DeLorean in the original film; as Lloyd wryly notes, it’s not painted or built to scale. There’s also a lot of music from the original film score to build up the Mirai as Toyota technician Misha talks about how the Mirai works, referencing the “Mr. Fusion” element that Lloyd as Doc Brown uses to power his time-traveling DeLorean.
What it all boils down to is an extremely clever marketing strategy — to align a new product with a massively popular classic film, at the exact time that Back to the Future fans are wanting some kind of fanfare from a day picked at random by Hollywood studio people when all of us were 30 years younger. The campaign bridges the gap between that younger, naïve world and the very different one that we now live in. It’s also an effort to underscore the power of science to fix the problems that we currently face — many of them are problems around energy solutions.
Also it is making a bold statement about the possibilities of renewable energy alternatives, and though, as the footage concedes, the natural biogas from landfills is mixed with natural gas from the grid, this still represents a major breakthrough in handling carbon emissions for the rest of the 21st century and beyond. But is this staged introduction more of a fun concept or a stiff marketing ploy? Check it out for yourself, and revisit those days when things that we take for granted today were still the stuff of science fiction. Or even better, if you’re in California, go on down and take a test drive.
Like classics? It’s always Throwback Thursday somewhere.