SAN FRANCISCO -- American Honda aims to improve the way it sells to minority consumers by changing the way it handles its minority advertising agencies.
Muse Communications, which handles African-American campaigns, and Orci, Honda's Hispanic agency, will report through umbrella agency Rubin Postaer & Associates. That changes the long-standing tradition of reporting directly to Honda managers.
The move is meant to deliver a more effective, unified brand message and a more consistent marketing strategy, said Steve Center, American Honda Motor Co.'s vice president of marketing operations. It likely also means more money will be spent in more ways in the minority community.
"This allows us to have the Honda and Acura brand managers responsible for the overall communications plan and for sales objectives and product launches," Center said. "Within that framework, we can then look at different audiences."
He said that having mainstream and minority agencies report through different channels at Honda led to confusion -- and some missteps. The core message and strategy that Honda wanted in the market were not always achieved because of poor communication and a lack of budget.
In some cases, products were not targeted properly at Hispanic and black consumers. For instance, Center said, Hispanics are more interested in minivans than black consumers, while blacks have a greater interest in mid-sized cars. But those preferences sometimes clash with Honda's overall brand message and product launch timing.
Rubin Postaer "now shows the plan, and the creative directors from the other agencies can come up with the creative strategy," Center said here at the launch of the CR-Z hybrid hatchback. "The car has to mean the same thing to all audiences, but how you say it is based on the lens you filter it through."
Also, the slimmer budgets and more retail-oriented focus of minority campaigns meant Honda was in danger of missing out on soccer's World Cup, which has a massive Hispanic audience. By realigning the branding and budgeting process through Rubin Postaer, Honda could afford to have Hispanic-focused ads during Univision broadcasts of the tournament.
Hector Orci, CEO of Orci, believes the new method has advantages.
"This is an opportunity to make it more cohesive and efficient," he said. "Campaigns today have to travel seamlessly across channels and audiences.
Center thinks the changes will benefit all parties: "While we may not be writing a direct check to the [minority] agency, we'll end up spending more on minority advertising."