Monday, August 20, 2007


Over the past three or four years, Honda must rank as one of the most improved and best run brands here in the UK. The old image of a Honda driver as a staid older person has not totally disappeared but has been adapted to a message of reasoned excellence that complements the historical positioning of reliability.

For many, the commercial that helped start their reassessment of the Honda brand was the infamous multi award winning "Cog".

"Cog" is a fantastic piece of communication and rightly won a whole heap of awards. It plays on the sensible aspect of the purchase but by adding the funky music (try thinking of this commercial running with a Vivaldi soundtrack to see the difference) they managed to broaden the appeal for a wider audience.

After "Cog" came a few other similar messages that were then followed up by "The Impossible Dream" commercial that focused on Honda as an all encompassing brand rather than just being a car company.

In addition to these great commercials were the famous "Choir" and "Hate something, change something" commercials. From a media planning point of view, the Honda commercials were excellent because they focused on finding epic spots in big events where these commercials would stand out. Whereas everyone else was running 30 second traditional spots across multiple networks, Honda focused on delivering 120 second ad break ownership in key spots. Then the ads went viral and Honda got their value for money. These campaigns were great integrated works - people could access extra content via CDs and I'd love to know how many new contacts Honda made.

So having established a fantastic track record in terms of creativity and re branding, Honda launched a campaign this year called "Hondamentalism" focusing on a new idea - Honda as a brand representing fundamental engineering excellence.

This campaign apparently launched earlier in the year and whilst the TV commercial passed me by, the associated online campaign really caught my attention (see This site represents a lovely piece of creative online communication and will no doubt win some awards. However there is a bigger question here. Do Honda believe that they have done enough to reestablish their brand in order to rely on online and direct mail for the majority of their communications budgets?

My belief is that Honda are now spending far less on ATL activities and have shifted money to these below the line activities to build on the engagement that they hope to have generated with the brand. The logic behind this appears sound but what is yet to be seen is whether small levels of mass communication can keep the customer pipeline full.

To round off, many people argue that one sign of truly great communication comes when other brands copy your style - i.e. the parody. Would any brand have tried to copy a Honda commercial back in the mid 1990's? Oh - wait. Both Honda and 118118 (the Number) had Naked as their strategic media agency at the you think this was also a stunt?

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