Honda in its 'happy-go-lucky' avatar

By afaqs! news bureau , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | March 05, 2010
In its recently launched corporate campaign, Honda Motorcycles and Scooters India (HMSI) upholds the 'joy' that its customers derive from interacting with the brand

At a time when terms such as 'product recall' are doing the rounds in the Indian auto segment and many of the industry leaders, including Honda Siel Cars India Ltd (HSCI), are publicly acknowledging problems with their products, Honda Motorcycles and Scooters India (HMSI), a business division of the Honda Motor Company, is boasting of its commitment to 'quality' and thereby assuring 'happiness' in the lives of its stakeholders.

& #BANNER1 & #The recently launched corporate campaign of HMSI upholds the joy that one derives from the interaction with brand Honda. The campaign revolves around the idea that joy/happiness is contagious. It spreads. Therefore, anything that is created with happiness will be a bearer of that emotion. Accordingly, the film showcases how the joy of creation in every nut and bolt of Honda is carried through and is felt by every customer.

The TVC recasts real life situations and uses a revised version of the folk rhyme 'If you're happy and you know it clap your hands...' against the backdrop of the world of Honda to convey the creative insight. Bringing alive the point that joy and happiness are spread effortlessly from one to another, the old rhyme has been changed to say 'If you are happy and you know it pass it on'.

The casting and the voices are kept real and untrained to keep the human aspect alive and true to life. Furthermore, the film has a childlike quality that makes it all the more catchy and energetic.

Explaining the reason behind linking the happiness insight with the brand, A Kurokawa, executive vice-president, Dentsu Marcom, says, "At the core of Honda's philosophy are the 'three joys' - the joy of buying, the joy of selling and the joy of creating. So, joy is integral to Honda. We therefore thought that instead of showing the three joys as separate, we will show it as contagious.

"Not to mention that it is the Honda quality that is at the heart of this joy. The customers are happy because of the quality that they get every time they ride/buy a Honda product; the dealers are happy because if they sell good quality products, they have a growing business; and Honda is happy because making a good quality product, apart from giving pride, makes business sense," adds Kurokawa.

The positioning 'I enjoy the quality' is the raison d'être for the film, which proclaims that it is this Honda quality that brings joy to the customers, the dealers and the people at Honda, confirms Kurokawa.

It took about a month to create this campaign as a rough track had to be prepared and shot and the protagonists had to sing during the shooting process. The creative team at Dentsu behind this 60 sec TVC includes Chandana Agarwal, vice-president on the account and Titus Upputuru, executive creative director. The film has been directed by Jerald Packiasamy of Still Waters. Prime/Pixion is the post production studio and the music credit goes to Ram Sampat.

Apart from the film, about 36 posters have been released as a part of the brand campaign. Each of the posters has been associated with virtues such as honesty, team work and social concerns such as saving paper and electricity.

Kurokawa says, "SEE (Safety, Energy conservation and Environment protection) is an internal credo at Honda. Therefore, the internal message is that we find joy in creating bikes because we make bikes that are safe, that conserve energy (and therefore give better mileage) and are responsible towards the environment. This is again a part of our effort to bring alive the spirit of joy through the entire process of creation."

The creative team at Dentsu Marcom hopes that the campaign will connect with the audience at a very human level. "The film has a childlike quality that gives it a fresh appeal. The casting and the voices used are untrained and therefore relatable. The song is something that most of us have grown up hearing and is very hummable. As a result there is an exuberance that does not look staged," states Kurokawa.

Is everybody 'happy' with it?

The TVC has generated a mixed response in the ad fraternity.

According to Sujay Nanavati, chief strategy officer, Percept/H, it's a well executed ad that scores very high on 'viewability'. "I don't think people will get tired of watching this ad with repetitive views. The concept and message is fresh and new. The idea that Honda makes quality vehicles that make a difference to the lives of its customers comes out very clearly."

However, he has his doubts whether the ad will connect well with the up country customers. "The fact that Honda makes quality products is pretty well established in the minds of most consumers in big cities. If that gap is felt with upcountry customers, who may not have experienced or heard about the quality of Honda products, then this ad doesn't have the emotional appeal to be relevant to their lives," adds Nanavati.

He also observes that the TVC lacks a single high point that people will remember. To bring home his point, he mentioned the shot from the old Hamara Bajaj film, where a couple of youngsters on a bike manoeuvre it to avoid the 'rangoli' on the road, which, according to him, people still recall and talk about years after the film went off air.

Similar views were expressed by Hanoz Mogrelia, creative director, Saatchi & Saatchi Mumbai. "I like it. I am happy and I know it and I clap my hands. SFX: Clap! Clap!! The film has a killer track - it keeps playing in my head," he says.

Although he feels that the film will certainly give the Honda badge a lot of warmth, he agrees that there is no single or set of visual images that stay with the viewer. He further feels that some of the visuals could have been made less clichéd. "Internationally, some Honda films have very little to almost no car/bike. This one has many forced product shots. Do I hear the client saying, 'you must show my entire range'?"

However, Amar Wadhwa, executive director, CrystalEyes places the commercial in the "come and go without getting noticed" set. "The role of any corporate ad is to unequivocally present the brand's worldview and belief system to its consumers. This ad fails on that count. It is devoid of an insight and that is its biggest failing," he states.

He further observes that the TVC fails to create any discriminating, long term value for the brand. "Even the execution is not compelling enough to compensate for a namby-pamby thought. The situations are contrived and unreal. The final verdict - It's an opportunity gone waste," he adds.

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