Until August, Honda had been reticent about using social media platforms in a big way. The company had a MySpace page for the Element, and started dabbling in Facebook with the Fit compact car, and more recently, the Insight hybrid. Then, this year, Honda told its agency, Santa Monica, Calif.-based RPA, that it needed a plan to talk about Honda's core values but on a tight budget.
Thus began the Facebook-centric "Everybody Knows Somebody Who Loves a Honda" effort launched in August without ad support. Last month, the Torrance, Calif. automaker added traditional media directing consumers to Facebook. Ads show real Honda owners talking about themselves and their cars in sliding pane-like frames that go from one owner to the next. Each owner is somehow connected to the previous one.
The ads illustrate the Facebook page's operating principle: that Honda owners can use the site to link to friends and acquaintances, creating a global web, demonstrating how everyone who owns a Honda is connected to everyone else.
Joe Baratelli, SVP and creative director, and Jeff Moohr, management supervisor, both at RPA, say the effort, which has garnered some 250,000 Honda "fans" and 360,000 of their friends, will continue: there will be new interactive elements on Facebook, new online ads and new vehicle-specific pages on the social media site. "There's a real potential for continued communication; this is just beginning," Moohr tells Marketing Daily.
He says that member numbers jumped after Honda added one-day takeovers of sites like YouTube, Yahoo, CNN and Facebook. The company is also touting it prominently on its own site.
"It really is an awareness campaign on a limited budget," adds Baratelli. "It's also illustrating that Honda can be successful at a two-way dialogue. [Honda] was reticent about that kind of dialogue. You open yourself up; it's risky, but with the success of Fit and Insight with Facebook, they were able to see the advantage."
Moohr says the goal is not about feeding offers or using Facebook to do CRM. "It's about outreach and building community, or 'tribes'."
The just-launched second phase of the program is an app developed with Facebook that shows an exploded, interactive view of each person's web of contacts. Baratelli says the next phase will involve new apps using fan stats. "And we will keep doing ads, mostly online," he says.
But the key will be to let the site's members do what they will without Honda adding offers, ads, or one-to-one marketing. Honda will be doing much more of this kind of work going forward. "It's always gong to be part of the mix from this point on," says Baratelli, "whether it starts out as the center of the campaign or not."