Social Storytelling: 5 Questions With Honda Manager Alicia Jones


Honda Serial One

Honda is in the midst of launching one of its sleekest-styled and most interesting newest vehicles this week: the coupe version of the Honda Civic. But it’s also starting a new social media campaign that is a reminder of the brand’s early presence in the US market.

Honda is following the restoration of Serial One, the initial version of the N600, which was the very first Honda sold in America in 1969. Consumers can follow the progress of the restoration with weekly updates as N600 mechanic Tim Mings brings the vehicle back to life.

It’s just 122 inches long and actually fits between the wheels of some full-size vehicles in the US, with an alloy engine that could reach only 81 mph—but it was very fuel-efficient.

“We’re so proud to bring the story of Honda’s roots in the US to life through the restoration of this vehicle,” Alicia Jones, social media manager for American Honda, said in a press release. It “really embodies the Honda Spirit.”

Mings owns an N600 and has restored more than 1,000 vehicles. The Serial One had collected dust in a “junk pile” for almost 50 years, Honda said, but a “twist of fate” has helped bring it alive in this series.

brandchannel spoke with Jones for more insights on Serial One and Honda’s social marketing strategy.

Honda Serial One Tim Mings

bc: Of all the things you could have done to boost the brand socially at this point, why Serial One?

Alicia Jones Honda

Alicia Jones: We’ve been wanting to bring this to light for almost two years. We found the right time and the right moment and felt like it was a great opportunity to tell another Honda “Power of Dreams” story because there is such a tight connection between Tim’s story, the car and the brand.

bc: How does this effort compare to other parts of the “Power of Dreams” campaign, like the award-winning “Paper” ad, which uses paper art to tell the history of Honda?

Jones: This gives us the opportunity to have content that lives for a long period of time, in iterative stages. Restoring a car takes quite a while and we’ve been capturing content along the way and will be showing it for 34 weeks via our social channels. So this is a social media-led campaign, and our intention is to tell the longer, emotionally driven, personal story of Tim and his vehicle—through all these different pieces of content we’re going to create through a video series, GIFs and a Serial One site.

It gives us an opportunity to drive engagement. There are a lot of passionate people who love the brand, and this is an opportunity to instill that passion.

bc: As a leader in social media marketing, are you trying to make it a differentiator for Honda?

Jones: It’s all very strategically driven—it’s definitely not by accident. We work really hard to create social content on an ongoing basis that is primarily driving engagement and wanting people to comment and share. That’s ongoing. But then we have these greater opportunities and we seek out these greater storytelling opportunities, that’s why we seem to do things differently.

Every year, we’re looking for a great storytelling-based opportunity to talk about the brand. It’s hard to try to communicate brand meaning in a 30-second spot. But with Tim’s personal connection, this story has a hook that puts people in a more emotional place with the brand.

Honda Serial One

bc: Is this a luxury given that you’ve got some important immediate needs, like ramping up Civic?

Jones: We are doing social media support for Civic. This N600 campaign is intended to support the brand as a whole. It gets to the roots of what social is all about—our opportunity to have a direct, one-to-one relationship with customers instead of relying on them to take their Honda into a service bay.

bc: What do you think is Honda’s greatest overall need right now: reflecting on the brand or promoting your great new products like Civic and Ridgeline?

Jones: New product goes hand-in-hand with what people think about the brand. But we’re in a great place with lots of fabulous new vehicles being released right now, and we’ve also had these great storytelling opportunities in social. You can’t separate them.

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