21 July 2013

Someone Get Honda a New GPS — They’re Clearly Lost

by Freddy J. Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango LLC + Car Fanatic…

Remember when Honda could do no wrong? Back in the ’90s and the ’00s, it seemed like every other person in L.A. drove a Honda, and they’d never have to take their car in for repairs or recalls. Indeed, my buddy is still driving his Civic nearly 20 years and over 200,000 miles later.

What the hell happened?

Honda has hit one pothole after another: the ugly Crosstour social media fiasco, the Fit recalls, the Civic slam by Consumer Reports, the ad agency shakeup

And now this:

OK, it’s just a tweet, and a seemingly innocuous one, but it’s a fiasco on so many levels…

First it appeared on my Twitter wall as a promoted tweet. I don’t follow Honda, so they PAID for me to see this. Why?

  • I never tweeted #wantnewcar. In fact, I just bought a new car six months ago.
  • Since I hadn’t been talking with them, and have no future plans to do so, why are they wishing me “goodnight for now”?
  • I have zero plans to go to the Honda Summer Clearance Event.
  • I’m baffled by the Vine video [since deleted by Honda]. A guy sleeping in a car? I know Hondas have become boring, but did they want to advertise that?

Hmmm, I’m now wondering if I should alert Honda to the fact that their Twitter account appears to have been hacked. At least, I hope it was, because this demonstrates a level of social media incompetence that I wouldn’t expect from a giant brand. I’m guessing they may have laid off one too many experts in their ad agency shakeup.

Well, it could be worse. After 25 years, Honda’s Acura account was given to another ad agency. Hundreds of people at the old agency lost their jobs, and the new agency finally unveiled their winning new slogan for Acura (drum roll please)…

“Made for Mankind.”


Now I know why that guy was sleeping in that car.

Update 11/4/2013: Honda has now deleted the inane tweet and video. Glad to see someone’s awake at Honda HQ.

Update 6/4/2015: Honda’s latest inept move was moving their TV budget to sponsoring concerts, totally missing out that, 1) Most young people can’t afford new cars; 2) Those who can go for something sexier than a Civic; 3) People don’t think about cars at concerts. So far they’re getting “impressions” (whatever they’re worth), but their branded online content destination has been a total wreck.

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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches graduate-level marketing communication courses at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

5 Responses

  1. Would that be the same agency that came up with ‘Designed for Humans’ for Samsung? Would you say that no slogan is better than a bad one, that is, from the client’s perspective? I know the answer from the agency’s perspective…

    • Hi Chikashi: Different agency, same generic concept. That’s the problem with vague slogans: they can apply to anything, and could have been written by anyone. And from the agency perspective, that’s bad. When a multimillion dollar shop can be replaced by a junior high student or a drunk in a bar (or a drunk junior high student in a bar), then the agency has undermined its reason for existence.

      As for whether it’s good to have no slogan rather than a bad one, I’d have to ask, how bad? “Made for Mankind” is inert and vapid, but it shouldn’t do any damage. It’s just completely forgettable – it doesn’t even have enough sticking power to lodge in a braincell once it enters your eyes. If the agency were to simply delete the slogan from the ad, no one would notice, so it’s exactly the same as having no slogan at all.

      The art of slogan writing has almost completely disappeared, since everyone is trying to sound profound. Slogans these days sound more like titles of commencement speeches rather than lines to help consumers remember and love brands. And by the way, I don’t always blame agencies. I know more than a few clients that have insisted on faux profundity.

      • In the medium to long term, I agree that it does no good for the agency. In the short term, the agency had another ‘deliverable’ for which they could charge and the client can feel that they got something, particularly the type of clients that are fond of faux profundity.

        I think a worthless and forgettable slogan is harmless so long as it does not, despite being forgettable, create confusion. The Samsung slogan attracted quite a few comments for being ridiculous. It would have been forgettable but instead attracted the wrong sort of attention (so I guess it wasn’t as forgettable as one would have thought…). If Honda’s forgettable slogan happens to stick to one’s mind, then the recall may be linked to Samsung. The murky world of daft slogans…

        Speaking of faux profundity, I adore the expression ‘our corporate philosophy’ (as well as ‘my philosophy’). I like to think that it is a case of people using words that they have heard but don’t understand rather than an absence of intellectual depth. But, I might be wrong.

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