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Tell Your Story Like Honda

October 29, 2012

Honda is the latest example of an automotive company getting it right when it comes to social engagement. Storytelling is key to a positive, high-visibility brand image, and Honda is using social media more and more to tell their story – and very importantly, the stories of their customers. If people really do value “kindness over exclusivity,” every dealership and company (automotive or not) should be working to tell their story more effectively every day. How are you getting your dealership’s message out?

Honda cranks up social media storytelling

Mark Rechtin

Automotive News — October 19, 2012


LOS ANGELES — While it may not represent the bulk of its marketing spending, Honda is using more social media to further its brand message through storytelling.

Honda had great social media response telling the tale of “Million Mile Joe” — the Maine man celebrated for his very durable Accord. That success has spurred similar viral stories to be promoted by the automaker, said John Watts, American Honda senior manager of digital marketing.

“People are valuing kindness over exclusivity in a brand,” Watts said at the Advertising Age Social Engagement Conference here. Advertising Age is an affiliate of Automotive News.

“Your storytelling must be an extension of your brand,” Watts added. “Authenticity is not reality. Authenticity is not testimonials. Authenticity is not a spokesperson, a celebrity who may not even buy your product. Authenticity must be earned.”

Through its Facebook and YouTube pages, Honda has profiled Tim Mings, the last remaining shade-tree mechanic who works on the original Honda N600 hatchback. It’s not quite advertising, but it builds the brand.

“If you don’t tell stories that are authentic and true, your audience will have their guard up,” said Joe Baratelli, chief creative officer for RPA, Honda’s longtime ad agency.

More recently, Honda launched the “Honda loves you back” campaign, showing gestures grand and small to people who express devotion to their Hondas.

One big gesture involved the earnest young band Monsters Calling Home, which filmed a video in its Honda — if only out of sheer necessity for its quiet interior. Honda was so flattered that it “hired” the band for a corporate gig for 600 employees in Los Angeles.

But when no employees showed up — something about “meetings running late” — Honda turned the band members’ disappointment into glee by taking them across the street to play on the “Jimmy Kimmel Live” TV show. The video is on Honda’s Facebook page.

Sometimes the “Honda loves you back” gesture is smaller, but reflects genuine reciprocity. When a besotted Honda owner named Chris mowed the Honda logo into his lawn, Honda mowed “Chris” into the lawn of its corporate headquarters. When a Honda Fit owner sent Honda a painting of her car, Honda put a self-portrait of the woman in its headquarters lobby. After a customer proclaimed his love for Honda’s VTEC engines by shaving the logo into his hairstyle, a Honda employee did the same with the customer’s name. Photo evidence is posted on Honda’s Facebook page.

Watts cautions that, in using social media, the stories need to be engrossing and quirky enough that word-of-mouth spreads the tale.

“You have to go with your gut,” Watts said. “If you just listen to best practices, you will be safe and sorry. If they don’t care, they won’t share.”

You can reach Mark Rechtin at — Follow Mark on Twitter

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