Corporate Branding Case Study: ‘Power of Dreams’ Campaign by Honda

In 2002 Honda Motor Company was the number-three Japanese automobile manufacturer in the world, behind Toyota and Nissan. While Honda’s automobile sales in Japan and the United States were considered strong, sales in the United Kingdom and mainland Europe were thought to be weak, even though automobile production in the United Kingdom had been ongoing for a decade. Further, Honda vehicle sales had been declining in these regions since 1998. In response to these problems Honda hired ad agency Wieden+Kennedy London office to create an advertising campaign that would directly address the issues.

‘‘The Power of Dreams,’’ released in 2002, was an omnipresent campaign in the United Kingdom and beyond, using television, direct mail, radio, posters, press, interactive television, cinema, magazines, motor shows, press launches, dealerships, postcards, beermats (coasters), and even traffic cones. It built upon Honda’s company slogan, ‘‘Yume No Chikara,’’ which was first endorsed in the 1940s by the company’s founder, Soichiro Honda. Translated into English, it meant to ‘‘see’’ one’s dreams. Wieden+Kennedy used this phrase as the basis of its question to consumers: ‘‘Do you believe in the power of dreams?’’ The global campaign, which centered on this tagline, included print and television components starring ASIMO, a humanoid robot developed by Honda. While the ASIMO ads gained widespread recognition, the 2003 television commercial called ‘‘Cog’’ was clearly a pinnacle of the campaign. In a single take with no special effects, more than 85 individual parts of the new Accord interacted in a complicated chain reaction. The spot won 37 advertising awards. Honda considered ‘‘The Power of Dreams’’ an advertising success. Worldwide sales of Honda vehicles rose dramatically from 2002 through 2005, from 2.6 million units per year to 3.2 million units per year. In the United Kingdom sales improved by 28 percent. In Europe sales in 2002 increased from 170,000 to 196,000, which rose to 217,000 in 2003. The campaign also won IPA Advertising Effectiveness awards, British Television Advertising awards, and even a 2003 Gold Lion at the Cannes International Advertising Festival.

honda power of dreams campaign

Historical Context of Power of Dreams Campaign

In April 1964 Honda spent $300,000 to sponsor the Academy Awards, becoming the first foreign corporate sponsor in the event’s history. With the tagline ‘‘You Meet the Nicest People on a Honda,’’ the Honda advertising campaign was a success, becoming one of the bestremembered advertising campaigns in the company’s history. Nevertheless, although the campaign promoted Honda’s motorcycles well, it did little to sell Honda vehicles. The reality was that Honda was better known for its motorcycles than it was for its cars. This long remained the case in most of the countries where Hondas were sold. In Japan, where big-splash promotional efforts for Honda’s cars were common, the problem was not so severe. The 1981 campaign to promote Honda’s model the City, for one, was omnipresent in Japan, incorporating large-scale TV, radio, and print advertising. There was even a variety of City novelty goods for sale and a specialty magazine called City Press. Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, Honda automobile production had yet to begin. Honda cars had been available there as imports, but not enough units were ordered to establish a presence. Further, the prices of imported cars could not compete with that of vehicles manufactured within the country. Thus, at the time, any sales push in the area focused on Honda motorbikes. In 1992, when Honda automobile production began in the United Kingdom, the shift toward promoting Honda automobiles there began, albeit slowly. But the potential market for the new manufacturing plant was huge: located in Swindon, England, it was responsible for producing vehicles well beyond the United Kingdom, including mainland Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. As such, Honda felt the need to begin a major campaign within the United Kingdom. Eventually it happened. ‘‘The Power of Dreams’’ replaced the 1999 global tagline ‘‘Do You Have a Honda?’’ This earlier campaign employed print, radio, and television, and portrayed the dreams of Honda’s founder, Soichiro Honda, who envisioned providing the world with all the possible means of travel. Soichiro Honda himself had repaired and created bicycles and motorcycles as well as both road cars and racing vehicles. The ‘‘Do You Have a Honda?’’ ads thus incorporated images of all of these means of transportation as well as more creative means, including a hot-air balloon and a cable car. Although the ‘‘Do You Have a Honda?’’ ads spread worldwide, the United Kingdom was barely affected by the campaign. From 1998 to 1999 Honda automobile sales in Europe dropped from 240,000 to 235,000. The decline continued through 2002. In the United Kingdom, Honda auto sales began to drop in 2000. In 2002 ‘‘Do You Have a Honda?’’ was replaced with the campaign ‘‘The Power of Dreams.’’ Although the tagline was part of a larger global focus, the campaign, under the leadership of ad agency Wieden+Kennedy in London, centered on promotional efforts within the United Kingdom.

Target Market of Power of Dreams Campaign

‘‘The Power of Dreams’’ targeted a large and diverse audience. While Honda wished to attract younger buyers, they were not the company’s only focus. With a wide range of car models, from the lower-priced Civic to the higher-end Accord, Honda could potentially appeal to drivers within all age groups and socioeconomic statuses. All potential new buyers, whatever their age, represented Honda’s target market. Thus, of the many different media that ‘‘The Power of Dreams’’ employed, television advertising, with its ability to reach a wide audience, was expected to be the most effective. Further, by portraying Hondas as hip and fun, the commercials appealed to a broad range of potential buyers. Honda’s new campaign mainly focused on raising public awareness of its cars—especially in Europe and the United Kingdom, where Honda was largely associated with motorcycles—and, in particular, getting new customers to visit Honda showrooms. There was also an emphasis on pleasing return customers. The company wished to improve communications with Honda owners and thus make them feel good about their choice of Honda; this in turn would convince them to buy a Honda the next time around.

“This Honda Power of Dreams campaign is our personal way of sharing who we are and what we stand for,” said Barbara Ponce, manager of corporate advertising for American Honda Motor Co., Inc. “But, we’re not simply talking about Honda, we’re letting our actions, our products and our dreams speak for us. The home video format keeps it real, and at the same time opens new doors and perspectives that customers can discover for themselves at”

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