Honda is competing in a U.S. market where sales have been cooling off from record levels in 2016. In the brand’s arsenal: One of the most solid brand reputations in the business; a fleet of fuel-efficient, stylish, high-quality vehicles; and a sterling sedan nameplate in the latest version of the venerable Honda Accord. And as the “Trophy City” campaign for the 10th generation Accord attests, Honda isn’t resting on its laurels.
“You have to start with a great product and a strong brand to have success in [the] journey,” Tom Peyton, assistant vice president of U.S. marketing operations for Honda, told brandchannel. “Honda continues to work very hard to have a better product and a better experience in the market, and that gets lost a little bit in today’s smart tech world. It still all starts with a great product and a great brand.”
Count Honda’s dealers and customer experience among the brand’s advantages, too, and one that Peyton and his colleagues are working hard to enhance—as Peyton will discuss at the upcoming Automotive CX Summit Series hosted by Thought Leadership Summits on June 19-21 in Marina Del Rey, California.
He shares more about the Honda customer experience and marketing one of the industry’s great marques in our latest Q&A:
Tom, what is the importance of the customer experience to Honda—and how has it evolved?
That’s two-fold. There’s the standard one view of the customer response, and we’re doing that, a holistic view of the customer. We’ve gone to great efforts to tie in our e-CRM systems and databases and further inclusion of dealers as we go through this process, and ultimately serving up communications that are seamless from the start of the process, with shopping, to the conclusion of the process, with service reminders. And we’re putting all the technologies and databases in place to achieve that. We’re down that road and hoping to get there sooner rather than later.
How are you leveraging technologies to strengthen and grow the brand experience?
From a marketing standpoint, customized messaging is important. That’s going to be more appealing to the consumer: timely messages to people who are in-market or not in-market for a car. Being smarter and anticipating customer needs—in the world of telematics, it’ll make us better and smarter in sending service reminders, not just sending an email. And there are mobile apps and websites where we do a better job of dynamically serving up information and content to the consumer as they engage with us. We can do better. Other industries frankly are leading the way on that, and we want to be a fast follower.
U.S. sales for the industry as a whole have leveled off. How has that affected Honda?
Sales are still trending toward record highs. They’re really good. That’s not to say that consumer trends aren’t changing, though, and that’s requiring us and others to make adjustments. But we’re still in the high 16 [million dollars of sales annually] and low 17s … that’s still a very healthy industry. We’re happy to be part of it. The good news is the forecasts are good for that going forward. We’re managing our business to capitalize on that market strength. But there are changes.
Accord and Civic sedans are core to the Honda brand, and you’ve got a new Accord that you’re marketing. How is Americans’ turn away from sedans affecting you?
Accord is a great product—we’re excited about it, customers love it. We’re still in the early phases. We continue to have an aggressive marketing plan for it. Just as our new Civic when it came out a few years back, we’re able to help drive interest in the segment to some degree and hoping our quality products will continue to do that.
Speaking of Civic, you’ve put a lot behind the Honda Civic music tour and other experiential music marketing. How’s that working for you?
We have invested a lot between Honda Stage and the Civic Tour and the video (the Honda Stage and Honda Backstage series). They continue to perform very well for us. More traditional advertising isn’t as effective as it was for 35-and-under consumers. Music has been a fantastic pillar to reach that. We try to do it in a more authentic and organic way, and have had great success in doing it.