My Mantra

Helping brands and leaders be more influential
by embracing their humanity and personality.

Advertising Archive

The Underappreciated Brilliance Of The Helpful Honda Campaign

In 2007 an association of about 50 Honda dealerships based in the Southern California area launched a bold experiment.

Faced with the reality that customers generally rate car dealers among the least trustworthy people in business, Honda and their agency at the time had an idea to change that perception.  The “Helpful Honda Dealers” concept was to prove Honda Dealers were helpful by sending them out into the community in light blue polo shirts to do everything from washing customer’s cars to paying for parking all day in Old Town Pasadena while covering meters with blue Honda signs saying “It’s on us.”

The Strategy:

Launched exclusively in Southern California with the relatively small budget of $25 million in February of 2007 – the program had an almost immediate impact. Just over a year later, AdAge magazine reported that the campaign had helped local Honda dealers close the trust gap against Toyota in their region and increase likelihood among consumers to visit a Honda dealership. As far as local dealership campaigns go, this was certainly enough to declare success.

But then the Southern California Honda Dealers Association did something that is sadly quite rare in the world of marketing. They committed to executing a good idea.

For years the campaign suffered from a lack of funds, but in 2012 Honda finally committed millions of dollars to regional advertising and gave dealer associations more autonomy to launch regional campaigns.  So the SoCal dealers were able to fund and double down on their campaign concept of the “Helpful Honda Dealers.”  Over the past two years, the campaign has produced a series of video ads like the one below:

They have also used social media frequently to share the latest news from the campaign and new ways they are helping the local community, as well as engaging with the people in Southern California who share stories of how Honda has helped them – such as the tweet below from their efforts this past 4th of July weekend to provide free gas for Honda owners:

So with all this success in their region – you might think that other large dealer associations might be rushing to take this same concept in launch it in their own regions.  Or perhaps that Honda’s national marketing team may put more resources behind making this a campaign and promotion to be rolled out across the country.  Unfortunately, neither seems to be true.

The Missed Opportunity:

While the Southern California team of dealers work to single handedly change the perceptions of Honda dealers and connect with consumers in a smart and authentic way – only a few pioneering dealership associations like a small group of 10 Valley based dealerships in Arizona seem to be supporting the effort.

Meanwhile the Tri-state dealer association representing New York, Connecticut and New Jersey (a similarly sized region to Southern California with about 60 dealerships) is slated to receive an estimated $40 million funding from Honda for regional advertising, yet shows no signs of any integrated campaign on the same level as the Helpful Honda dealers effort from their colleagues out west.

In contrast, here’s a brand-centric tweet from their team over this past holiday weekend predictably focusing on one of their vehicles and offering no real incentive for participation:

Aside from the larger regions, plenty of other mid sized regions like Detroit, Houston, the Carolinas, Central Florida, the Gulf Coast, and the Capital region north of New York seem to also have ignored this opportunity.

The Strategy Lesson:

Sometimes the best ideas for a campaign come from a place where people are most deeply connected to the customers they serve on a regional level.  More importantly, those ideas may only take full shape over the course of years until they become an embedded part of a brand reputation.

Changing marketing strategy every year simply isn’t as smart as finding a great strategy and committing to it.

The SoCal Helpful Honda Dealers campaign has evolved over seven years to become one of the most brilliant marketing strategies for a region of dealers working to change their reputation and relationship with their customers – and leverage that hard earned trust to sell more cars.  The only downside is how few others within the Honda marketing and dealer organization seem to realize just how effective this strategy really could be if they adopted and promoted it on a national scale.

The Best And Worst Of World Cup 2014 Marketing Strategy

World-Cup-Best-Worst-Marketing-2014

There aren’t many people in the world who don’t love a good soccer trick video. And when the World Cup rolls around, you might expect that there will be lots of them flooding YouTube. So over the past few weeks I have seen everything from a freestyle champion soccer player dressing up as an old man to an unexpected superstar…Read More >>

How Bow Ties And “Adverstalking” Might Kill Online Marketing

bowties2

The worst mistake I ever made online was searching for a bow tie. In a world where credit card numbers and identities are being stolen en masse, that probably seems pretty innocent. Outside of the occasional danger of credit card fraud, online shopping is usually a fairly safe activity. Unless you happen to be shopping for a bow tie. Let…Read More >>

The Best And Worst Of 2014 Sochi Olympics Marketing Strategy

Sochi-logo

Just mention “Olympic Marketing” to anyone in communications and two images will likely come to mind immediately. The first is the predictable 30 second spot focusing on the dedicated Olympian who wakes up super early, braves crazy cold temperatures and sacrifices a “normal” life for their dream. And the second is an army of lawyers ready to threaten any brand…Read More >>

Best And Worst Of Super Bowl Marketing Strategy 2014

The Super Bowl just ended and right now media outlets are asking people to vote on their favorites. Choosing the “best” ads based on entertainment value is a fun thing anyone can do – but for several years now, I’ve been studying and writing about Super Bowl ads from the lens of marketing strategy. (See my previous recaps and analysis…Read More >>

What Walgreen’s Gets Right (And Wrong) About New Year’s Resolution Marketing

Walgreens-Resolution-Ad

This is the week to start saving money. Or losing weight. Or spending more time with family. In other words, it is the week for starting on a new year’s resolution. But there is a force outside your control that may help you either keep that resolution or break it … and that force is marketing. This is the season…Read More >>

4 Lessons From The Year’s Best Marketing Campaign

metrotrains-melbourne

Every year, Advertising Age magazine publishes a report that looks at the collective results from nine of the most globally respected industry award shows in the advertising industry—from the Cannes International Festival of Creativity to the Clios. The number-one award recipient this year wasn’t a tear-jerking celebrity sports ad or a preview of a hot new holiday gadget. Instead, the top honor…Read More >>

The 300 Year Old Female Entrepreneur Story You’ve Never Heard

kikkoman-makehasteslowly

“Started by a woman, in a time when women didn’t start companies.” These are the powerful first words that introduce the story behind a brand you probably forgot you have in your kitchen right now. Kikkoman is the #1 best selling soy sauce brand worldwide, in a category filled with syrupy competitors that can rarely lay claim to any sort…Read More >>

How To Position A Product Like Don Draper

Don-Draper

The marketing team for Viagra doesn’t use email newsletters. You can probably guess why – but I have often thought for some time that anyone who can figure out a good marketing strategy for a product like that could probably promote anything. If that person existed in real life, he or she would probably resemble the character of Don Draper…Read More >>

7 Ways To Get Marketing Agencies To Work Together In a Mega-Agency World

omnicompublicismerger

Today two of the biggest communications holding companies, Omnicom and Publicis, announced they will be merging to form the world’s largest advertising company. For anyone familiar with the common in-fighting among agencies for limited client budgets, one of the immediate concerns will be the challenges that these new found partners in this “merger of equals” will face in the coming…Read More >>