Honda Bets that Nick Cannon’s Got the Talent to Key New Campaign for Civic

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Nick Cannon and the Honda Civic are both having very good years. So why not put them together and see what they can accomplish in a new marketing campaign for Honda Civic that is aimed at both the African-American and general markets? Thus the launch this week of the “Best Yourself” effort starring Cannon for Civic.

The affable host of NBC’s America’s Got Talent is enjoying a good run on the show, using his charm, calm, comedic chops and athletic ability to become a main player on the show, even with strong personalities from judges Howard Stern and Heidi Klum. Cannon certainly is enjoying a better time on his reality show than wife Mariah Carey had on American Idol, where her performance as judge was pegged as one reason the Fox stalwart’s ratings tanked last season.

Meanwhile, a “midcycle” new version of Civic—replacing the one that flopped about two years ago—is finally achieving what Honda set out for one of its most important nameplates: maintain and build the brand’s strong position in the emerging small-car sweet spot of the US market. Civic broke a 13-year-old July sales record last month with a 30 percent year-on-year increase.[more]

“One reason we chose Nick” for the new promotion “is that he has universal appeal, and that’s where we’re going as a brand—to a total-market approach,” Gina Jorge, head of multicultural marketing for Honda, told brandchannel. “We’re leading with some insights in the African-American market but we’re really making a general-market appeal, and Nick Cannon is the perfect fit for that because he embodies so many attributes.”

Jorge cited not only Cannon’s work on the show but also the fact that “he is an entrepreneur, actor and philanthropist; he’s got a strong work ethic; and he’s overcome some personal challenges such as health issues. He’s a great tie-in to what we want to communicate.”

In fact, the campaign will debut during a broadcast of America’s Got Talent on Sunday with a 60-second TV-commercial version of a two-minute “Best Yourself” video that has been posted on YouTube. It shows people working toward personal goals interspersed with footage of Cannon driving the redesigned 2013 Civic and talking about the will and ambition to improve one’s self.

There’s also a #BestYourself social campaign and other aspects that, Honda said, “celebrate diversity and the drive to achieve success through non-traditional paths” as the campaign chiefly targets Millennials.

Civic has come a long way since a hugely negative reaction by consumers and reviewers in 2011 to the 2012 Civic, which Consumer Reports called “disappointing.” Honda quickly put together a “mid-cycle” replacement version that, among other things, upgraded interior materials that had hurt perceptions of the earlier version. The nameplate also has remained the only small car to the get the top safety rating by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The Best Yourself campaign indeed is an extension of the brand’s general-market campaign under the theme, “Things Can Always Be Better,” which was about the Civic and meant to boost its earlier-than-planned new iteration. Honda is adding another interpretation of its own determination to make the Civic right, after an initial stumble, through Best Yourself.

Ambition and improvement are appealing for any brand. Witness Civic, and Cannon.

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