Tuesday, June 28, 2011
In April 1964 Honda spent $300,000 to sponsor the Academy Awards, becoming the first foreign corporate sponsor in the event’s history. With the tagline ‘‘You Meet the Nicest People on a Honda,’’ the Honda advertising campaign was a success, becoming one of the bestremembered advertising campaigns in the company’s history. Nevertheless, although the campaign promoted Honda’s motorcycles well, it did little to sell Honda vehicles. The reality was that Honda was better known for its motorcycles than it was for its cars. This long remained the case in most of the countries where Hondas were sold. In Japan, where big-splash promotional efforts for Honda’s cars were common, the problem was not so severe. The 1981 campaign to promote Honda’s model the City, for one, was omnipresent in Japan, incorporating large-scale TV, radio, and print advertising. There was even a variety of City novelty goods for sale and a specialty magazine called City Press. Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, Honda automobile production had yet to begin. Honda cars had been available there as imports, but not enough units were ordered to establish a presence. Further, the prices of imported cars could not compete with that of vehicles manufactured within the country. Thus, at the time, any sales push in the area focused on Honda motorbikes. In 1992, when Honda automobile production began in the United Kingdom, the shift toward promoting Honda automobiles there began, albeit slowly. But the potential market for the new manufacturing plant was huge: located in Swindon, England, it was responsible for producing vehicles well beyond the United Kingdom, including mainland Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. As such, Honda felt the need to begin a major campaign within the United Kingdom. Eventually it happened. ‘‘The Power of Dreams’’ replaced the 1999 global tagline ‘‘Do You Have a Honda?’’ This earlier campaign employed print, radio, and television, and portrayed the dreams of Honda’s founder, Soichiro Honda, who envisioned providing the world with all the possible means of travel. Soichiro Honda himself had repaired and created bicycles and motorcycles as well as both road cars and racing vehicles. The ‘‘Do You Have a Honda?’’ ads thus incorporated images of all of these means of transportation as well as more creative means, including a hot-air balloon and a cable car. Although the ‘‘Do You Have a Honda?’’ ads spread worldwide, the United Kingdom was barely affected by the campaign. From 1998 to 1999 Honda automobile sales in Europe dropped from 240,000 to 235,000. The decline continued through 2002. In the United Kingdom, Honda auto sales began to drop in 2000. In 2002 ‘‘Do You Have a Honda?’’ was replaced with the campaign ‘‘The Power ofDreams.’’ Although the tagline was part of a larger global focus, the campaign, under the leadership of ad agency Wieden+Kennedy in London, centered on promotional efforts within the United Kingdom.