If Honda wants to lure in more buyers under 25, it must rely on the Element to bring them in. Not that the Element is a guaranteed winner in terms of content.
"There are worries about the Element," said Dan Gorrell, vice president at Strategic Vision.
"Having no six-cylinder version will hurt with younger performance types. And its open layout means it has a chance of becoming a big car with older, disabled people, not the best way to lure in younger buyers. Honda needs to market the Element to a mind-set, not an age group."
One possible pitfall for the Element launch could be Honda's crowded new-product calendar.
Honda and its ad agency, Rubin Postaer & Associates of Santa Monica, Calif., already are under strain preparing for the launches of the redesigned flagship Accord in the fall and the Pilot, Honda's first home-sourced compact sport-utility, this summer.
Honda obviously cannot afford a misfire on either of those key products. That may mean that important resources are diverted from the Element, a niche vehicle aimed at selling 50,000 units annually.
Bonawitz said Honda still is brainstorming its marketing effort for the Element and nothing is final in terms of linking it to different sports, events and activities.
"We've looked at dirt-boarding and mountain biking. We've talked about doing a Webcast of a road trip to Mexico. But nothing is final," Bonawitz said.
"We definitely can't forget about it because it is quite a departure for the Honda brand."
Added Bill Hagelstein, executive vice president of Rubin Postaer & Associates: "There is a temptation to chart a new course with nontraditional techniques. We're looking at media Honda hasn't been in before, pushing the envelope with college magazines and surfer magazines. But we also need a solid platform for a high degree of success."
Hagelstein said the agency is doing the same amount of account planning with the Element as it is with the Accord.