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Content Marketing & Curation 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.

7 Useful Lessons From The Corporate Social Media Summit

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After two days of conversations about social media with 25 of the world’s largest brands, perhaps the nicest benefit is that you don’t hear the same conclusions or experiences over and over. For the third year in a row, I had the chance to moderate and lead the Corporate Social Media Summit in NY – which brought together brand marketers from Whole…Read More >>

The Selfie Silencer And Other Silly Startup Ideas That You’ll Wish Were Real

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The greatest word The Simpsons ever offered to the English language was “craptacular.” When Bart Simpson used it to describe Homer’s Christmas decorations, he introduced a much needed concept for us all: something that was so bad it might actually be good. Today we are in the age of instant startups, where launching an idea from a garage suddenly seems…Read More >>

5 Marketing Lessons From The Alluring #FollowMe Project

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About two years ago, aspiring photographer Murad Osmann was in Barcelona on vacation with his girlfriend Russian journalist Nataly Zakharova when she grabbed his hand to pull him forward – annoyed at how often he kept stopping to take photos. He captured that moment from his perspective, and it started a project where he spent the next two years capturing…Read More >>

The Best And Worst Of 2014 Sochi Olympics Marketing Strategy

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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 >>

Why Most Trends Don’t Matter (And 15 New 2014 Trends That Do!)

Why Most Trends Don’t Matter (And 15 New 2014 Trends That Do!)

If you believe the typical trend declarations for 2014 – this is going to be the year of big data, wearable devices, and ubiquitous tablets. These are the facts we have heard over the past two months presented as big insights for the coming year. There are only a few problems with these so called trends, and others like them:…Read More >>

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

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“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 >>

Rainbow Loom vs. Silly Bandz – Why One Marketing Fad Outlasts Another

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The carpet in my living room this weekend was covered with hundreds of tiny rubber bands. The bands are part of an addictive new toy kit called Rainbow Looms that let kids create their own woven bracelets out of these small rubber bands. Invented by a Chinese immigrant dad of two teenage daughters, the product has been on the market…Read More >>

BOOK LAUNCH: ePatient 2015 – 15 Surprising Trends Changing Healthcare

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Today I launched ePatient 2015 – 15 Surprising Trends Changing Healthcare, my newest book focused on the future of healthcare. It might seem like an odd project for me to launch – being a marketing guy. This is the unexpected story of why and how I did it (along with my co-author Fard Johnmar), and why the book might be…Read More >>

How LinkedIn, YouTube & Others Could Finally Cure Stupidity Online

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The greatest collection of human stupidity ever amassed sits on the Internet … and you probably encounter it every day. When you go online today, there is some great content – and a deluge of bad, useless or otherwise idiotic content. It is common knowledge that content creation online is exploding and that much of it is not very good….Read More >>