Powered by Tweets: Honda puts customers in the driver's seat with #WantNewCar


Want to engage new customers and reward the loyalty of existing ones? Take a page from Honda: Listen to what they want.

During its annual clearance event this summer, Honda invited Twitter users to share why they were in the market for a new ride by using the hashtag #WantNewCar. Then Honda responded to customer Tweets in real time on Vine. The six-second video responses were witty, on brand and personal. Honda also made real customer Tweets the stars of a TV and print campaign.

We asked Alicia Jones, Manager of Honda & Acura Social Marketing, to share why Honda “hearts” Twitter, what’s fun about Vine and how a customer-centric campaign has been good for their business.

Twitter Advertising (TA): How did you develop the #WantNewCar campaign?

Alicia Jones (AJ): Our strategy on social platforms is to participate in existing conversations rather than trying to create new ones. This ensures whatever we do is relevant to our audience.

With this campaign, we identified an organic trend on Twitter around the #wantnewcar hashtag and presented Honda as an obvious solution. We featured actual customer Tweets so genuine customer interactions are at the heart of the campaign.

TA: Why Twitter and Vine?

AJ: We’re very fortunate to have a deep base of loyal customers and fans who love the brand. Twitter gives us a way to humanize our brand and show them our fun, inventive personality. We can also directly acknowledge their enthusiasm and loyalty to build on relationships over time.

In this campaign, we wanted to amplify what we were hearing from real customers in a fun, entertaining way. One of the pillars of our brand is fun. So we look for ways to portray that in our tone.

That’s why we chose Vine. It’s fun. It’s just you, a smartphone and six seconds. Its limitations level the playing field and allow the message to shine through. It’s just very engaging.

TA: Tell us about your team’s creative process on Vine.

AJ: We would have loved to respond to everyone, but the final selection process usually came down to which Tweets inspired us with a fun Vine concept. Tweets mentioning zombies, Vegas and birds sparked our imaginations and rose to the top.

It was a coordinated team effort with small teams on the ground doing the creative concepting for Vine. They collaborated with a handful of other folks that reviewed content, kept up with incoming Tweets and did the actual posting. Back at the office, we had another team looking for those unique conversation opportunities such as the Tweets from Bejeweled, Neil Patrick Harris and Oreo.

TA: We loved your Tweet to Oreo. How do you approach real-time opportunities like that?

AJ: Real-time marketing is obviously a trend on Twitter but it can be misused. Our focus is creating relevant interactions that have a direct connection to Honda marketing objectives. Oreo opened the door with a Tweet that referenced vans.

Encouraging others to share is a big focus for many of our campaigns. People enjoy seeing brands engage with one another so interactions like the one with Oreo can generate interesting content that people want to share.

TA: Why was integrating Tweets across print and TV important to Honda?

AJ: TV is one-to-many, which is powerful for reach and awareness. And so are Twitter and Vine. They allow us to have dialogue that is one-to-one and one-to-many simultaneously. You can respond individually and be personal. That resonates with people.

In the past, we only talked to customers when they visited a dealership. Twitter has created an immediate, powerful touchpoint for us that never existed. Twitter is unique among social platforms because the emphasis is on the conversation versus the publishing.

TA: How does Honda measure success on Twitter?

AJ: It depends on campaign objectives which can vary. We strive to generate engagement at scale. Impressions have value, but only if accompanied by highly positive sentiment. We also want to continue growing our community so follower acquisition is important.

During the #wantnewcar days and the #Hondalove Promoted Trend day, we generated over 32M Tweet impressions, 11k Twitter mentions and gained nearly 4k new followers.

We’re also increasingly measuring vehicle research and shopping activity on the Honda website which originated from Twitter activity. At the end of the day, we want to sell more cars. We can’t draw a direct cause and effect relationship because, of course, there are always several marketing efforts at play.

But I can say that we had a great sales month in July. We saw a 20% sales gain in July compared with July 2012. All of our core models (Civic, Accord, Odyssey and CR-V) showed double-digit gains.