It’s time to talk about a campaign that failed miserably. This is one of those!
Given the amount of money and time that goes into designing a new car it is easy to get blind-sighted by your own ego and lose the ability to evaluate your product objectively. It also didn’t help much that the marketing wheel of the industry was a closed loop and controlled for limiting any dissenting view of a new product.
Car manufacturers had a fairly simple marketing cycle for their cars, they would unveil their cars at international shows, have specialized publications which depended on handouts from the industry review their cars and make sure that the reviews are gentle and not scathing, and then wait for the people to decide with their bucks whether the car will flop or not.
The internet and social media changed everything, now everyone and anyone is a critic and if you are at the bad side of your audience on the internet then the whole world will know about it. So when car manufacturers like Ford and Honda tested the waters of social media marketing some of them forgot that on social media the audience is in control.
What is it about?
Honda was very excited about its new cross-over car, the Accord Crosstour. A car targeting empty nesters, parents who already sent away their kids and don’t need a bulky SUV and rather have a “sleek” CUV. So they wanted to test social media marketing and decided to give Facebook ago. Given how a Facebook fanpage is a fairly basic endeavor, they created the page, uploaded the images and waited for the crowds to start the conversation, and boy did they wish the conversation had never started.
The car conjured specters of the Pontiac Aztek’s aesthetics in commentator’s eyes, and fans expressed vehemently how opposed they are to the cars looks. Some expressed how they are jealous of Stevie Wonder because they had to bear the sight of this car, while others called it “the mutant redheaded offspring of a Chrysler Crossfire and Pontiac Aztek“. The “fan” page ended up being flooded with negative comments; while Honda’s PR team kept silent.
Then the storm took a life of its own when Eddie Okubo, a manager at Honda, complemented the car without disclosing his affiliation to the company, you can simply say that he was flayed alive for it. Shortly after the PR team decided to step in, they deleted the comment made by Eddie and released a response that was not only weak, it was deemed to insult the intelligence of the commentators. It is best exemplified by this quote:
“The photos: Arguably, the two studio photos we posted didn’t give you enough detail, nor were they the best to showcase the vehicle. There are more photos on the way. Maybe it’s like a bad yearbook photo or something, and we think the new photos will clear things up.”
The damage control mode was even more damaging to the car and the Honda brand so I believe that at that point Honda took the decision to ride out the storm. Eventually positive comments started to filter in after people saw the car in reality and buyers started expressing their delight with the way it drives. Now mostly positive comments are seen on the fanpage which they capitalized on by featuring some of those commentators in their “Everybody knows somebody who loves a Honda” marketing campaign.
Given the horrible way this campaign was handled by Honda, a lot of bloggers picked it up and ran with it. It even has some go further and point out the corruption of automobile publications and their dependence on the industry.
Facebook Fanpage: (Honda Accord Crosstour): 7,000+ fans (not that impressive)
Why did it do what it did?
It was safe to say that this campaign will serve as an excellent case study for how “to not run a social media campaign”. In general there are many mistakes that were committed by Honda here, but chief among them;
- In Social Media campaigns always accept negative feedback, that will reflect well on your brand. Accepting feedback without lashing out at your customers will paint your company as open minded and concerned about their customer’s views.
- Never delete comments, that usually indicates that you have something to hide. Censorship is kryptonite to the internet, and you don’t want to be associated with that.
- Whip your entire company into delivering a unified message, users of social media that are affiliated with a company are spokesperson’s to it. Develop a policy to govern their behavior on social media sites and ensure they stick to campaign messages and don’t fall out of line.
Honda managed to recover eventually from the marketing gaffe. It is still not clear whether the negative storm on Facebook affected the Crosstour sale numbers but we’ll have to wait and see for that.
What do you think Honda did wrong in the campaign? What is the best way to handle an out of control social media campaign ? Let us hear your thoughts.