I'm continuing my series on Empoprises Rule of Brand Loyalty Disruption. If you missed the rule, here it is:
No single event is sufficient to disrupt a person's brand loyalty. Multiple events must occur.
This example also has to do with autos, but it's a little bigger than a headlight bulb. This has to do with an entire auto, a much more expensive item. And again in this case, I can't say with absolute certainty that I'd never buy a Honda again. But hear me out.
A little over a decade ago, I bought a Honda automobile. I had heard about Hondas for years - their reliability, their awards, their quality. Initially I was just going to get a used Honda, but I ended up buying a new one and not paying an incredible amount of money for it. And things went well for several years, and for well over 100,000 miles...
...when the transmission gave out. I was a little disappointed, since at the time I also owned an older Ford Taurus that was still humming along (and would continue to hum along for several more years). I sold the Honda for cheap rather than repairing the transmission, and drove the Ford for a while. And despite the failure of this particular Honda, I wasn't averse to buying a Honda again. Except that...
...those advertisements about Honda quality and reliability faded away, replaced with advertisements about the Helpful Honda Persons (at least here in southern California). These people, dressed in blue, would meet in secret locations and figure out ways to be helpful. Now I don't object to promoting the people associated with a company, and I understand that Honda was trying to erase negative perceptions about car salespeople, but Honda was doing it at the expense of the product. Any marketing messages about the quality of the automobiles were drowned out by cute stories about salespeople doing silly things.
But then Honda changed its advertising campaign - and made it worse. Rather than talking about secret meetings of helpful Honda people, the company began airing commercials in which real helpful Honda people (not actors) talked to real live customers and engaged in random acts of helpfulness. They sounded something like this:
Hello. Is this John?
John, I'm Sylvia. And I'm a helpful Honda person.
John, I understand that you like Slim Whitman.
YES I DO, SYLVIA. I SAW SLIM IN CONCERT IN THE EARLY 1980S IN PORTLAND, AND THAT WAS THE BEST CONCERT THAT I HAVE EVER SEEN! EVER!
So John, I guess that you really like Slim Whitman.
SLIM IS ONE OF THE GREATEST MUSICIANS EVER!
So I take it that you were sad when Slim finally passed away.
YES. I'LL NEVER GET TO SEE HIM AGAIN.
Well, John, because I'm a helpful Honda person, I'm going to engage in a random act of helpfulness. Honda is giving you an all expenses paid trip to Middleburg, Florida, so that you can see Slim Whitman's grave!
THANK YOU HONDA! THIS MEANS SO MUCH TO ME!
OK, perhaps that's a bit of an exaggeration. But not much. In essence, the ads are concentrating on everything EXCEPT the car that the helpful Honda people are supposed to be selling.
So now, when I think of Honda, I don't think of cars any more. I think of "who can help me get a cat down from a tree?"
And I don't own a cat.
And what of the Honda dealers elsewhere in the country, who concentrate their advertising on...oh, their cars?
Honda Satellite-Linked Navigation System with voice recognition: the way to find the best spots to watch the #July4th fireworks.
They seem to be doing fine - even if they don't have marketing folks drooling over their every move. Like what happened when Coca-Cola came up with a really creative advertising campaign - so clever that one viewer thought that the campaign would do a lot of good for Pepsi. Whoops...
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