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Automobile Advertising Adventures – Honda Can Always Do Better

If you have a short memory in our 140 character Twitterverse world, you have probably already blotted out from your memory the advertising campaign tied to the 2012 Honda Civic. For all the debate about the 2012 Civic and how good or bad it was, the ad campaign for the 2012 Civic launch was one of the worst in recent memory. Hoodie ninjas, cubicle zombies, sorority monsters, and lumberjacks with bird nests in their beards turned out to be awful spokescaricatures. If you don’t remember, here is a blast from the past from the 2012 Civic launch.

When you’re marketing you have to take the five P’s in account:

• Product
• Persona
• Positioning
• Price
• Packaging

So the product is a Honda Civic, the persona is a defeated single cubicle zombie, the last to leave work, who has no golf game, and dresses like a dork at bars while hitting on women out of his league. At least the advertising gurus at Honda spared us seeing his one bedroom Ikea furnished apartment downing a handful of Wellbutrin with a whiskey chaser to go along with his pathetic life. So what’s the positioning? If you’re pathetic, buy a 2012 Honda Civic sedan because, that’s what pathetic cubicle zombies do.

The 2012 Civic was ill-received, but sold well despite itself. Honda already taking a beating for a number of missteps made the unusual announcement that the Civic would be updated for 2013. Here is a new 30 second advertisement for the new 2013 Civic sedan:

Product: The 2013 Honda Civic sedan. The model shown in the ad is a Civic EX-L with optional satellite linked navigation. The Civic has a legacy reputation going back more than 35 years, with the previous year model suffering a black eye from negative reviews, and a, “Not Recommended,” by Consumer Reports.

Persona: Honda moved far away from their, “a Civic for everyone,” campaign of 2012. We actually never see the driver beyond a glimpse or any potential buyers. During the first half of the ad we see a number of shots showing interesting engineering solutions to a kite, to a fun swing setup, the ASIMO robot, a folding bike, a surfer, and a projection keyboard on a smartphone. All of these have one thing in common, they are all designed to get a, “that’s cool” reaction from the armchair engineer in all of us. It’s a bit bold, but what Honda is saying is, if you like elegant design, if you like thinking outside of the box, if you like simple solutions to problems, then you are our customer.

Positioning: Positioning here couldn’t be clearer and it hits us in big letters at 14 seconds, “Things can always be better.” It is a very interesting way of saying, “sorry, we got the 2012 wrong, but we addressed those issues.” Additionally the closing line, “introducing the best Honda Civic sedan yet, made possible, by Honda,” is a strong statement that not only have we made it better, we’ve made it the best.

Price: It is never mentioned, never in small print, not even when the small print shown indicates the model in the advertisement at 19 seconds. The same was in the 2012 campaign. Honda isn’t selling on price, they never have (look at incentive compared to the competition and fleet sale consumption). They are selling purely on position, “things can always be better.”

Packaging: Packing in marketing doesn’t mean the box your cereal comes in, but how do you wrap up the product, present it to the persona, giving them the positioning in the market. The Honda Civic is revealed at 17 seconds and we get eight seconds of clips.
We finally see the product at 17 seconds, and only get 8 seconds of actual product shots. Honda did an extremely good job here. The split dashboard is a subject of controversy in the Civic, and Honda clings to it. But the angles, shots, and features they show, put the dashboard in the most positive light. Unlike the 2012 Civic ad which showed interaction with the touch screen and our zombie making a phone call (did he want to eat Gary’s brain), this ad shows one thin, driving. This is a driver’s car, and the swelling music, camera angle, and purposeful gauge shots reinforce that.

Just as the 2013 refreshed Civic is better than the 2012 model it is replacing, the advertising campaign is also vastly better. I give the ad a B+, which is vastly better to the F I would give the previous ad campaign. What say you Best & Brightest?
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