By on June 5, 2012
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The ad, like all ads today, is aspirational, not reflective.  It is showing you something you want to be, not “a person like you would like these products.”  

The rest of the article talks about a sort of “aspirational fantasy” (my term, not theirs). JC Penny is trying to do it in their ad (discussed in the article) and Acura is trying to do it here. The problem is they haven’t quite got it.

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The ad shows the middle age female fantasy of home: family, kids, but still retaining decor, cleanliness, fun. Beautiful furniture, nice clothes, well groomed, stable relationship, everyone’s together. 

The under-35 male Generation Why fantasy isn’t too far off. Decor, fun, beautiful furniture, nice clothes, well-groomed, everyone’s together. Don’t believe me? Look where the ads are set. A hip hotel/hangout spot and a trendy lounge. The guys are cool, handsome in an without looking like they should star in a fragrance ad, wearing clothes that are stylish and fashion forward without their look coming off as contrived and repugnant. Think GQ fashion spread versus “Hypebeast“.

I understand that they’re trying to show the duality of work and play for a modern young male consumer, but that cliche is as tired as putting “I like to work hard and play hard” in your online dating profile. We still don’t know anything about the car, just what kind of person drives the car. That works when your brand is as strong as BMW or Audi. When you’re Acura, you still have to let everyone know why your car is better than everyone else’s. From watching this ad, I don’t really know anything about the ILX, that it can be had as a hybrid, that it’s a decent value, that it has any kind of performance or luxury credentials. Which is somewhat representative of Acura as a whole, when you think about it.

 

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61 Comments on “Generation Why: The Acura ILX And The Aspirational Advertisement...”


  • avatar
    dave-the-rave

    They tell you it’s an Acura, and that it’s “affordable” entry into the world of upscale, luxury cars. Given that it’s a pimped-out Civic, what else do you want them to say?

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      I used to rag mercilessly on GM & Ford for their lame badge engineering, but given the truth of what you just stated, I honestly can’t think of any automotive company that spread the price and marketing so far and wide (like fertilizer) on what are essentially the same products as the Honda and Acura twins.

      At least Toyota, as just one example, will add better trim pieces, different suspension geometry and extra sound deadening material to the Lexus ES350 vs their Camry.

      p.s. – Marketing ‘professionals’ have a special place in hell reserved for their ilk:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDW_Hj2K0wo

      • 0 avatar
        carguy

        I’d have to agree. Acura has never been much more than a halfhearted branding exercise for the Honda Accord and Odyssey platforms.

      • 0 avatar
        carlisimo

        They’re not THAT similar.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        The H250h was a tarted up Corolla with a Camry hybrid system and no trunk. Toyota is equally guilty – thankfully for Toyota, not many buyers elected to purchase the Lexus Cimmaron.

      • 0 avatar
        carguy

        @APaGttH: Toyota does some badge engineering with Lexus but they are committed enough to the brand to also give them the LS, GS and IS and LF-A which are unique to the brand. Acura only does thinly veiled re-badges: they sell the European Accord as the TSX and then makes derivative models RL and TL from the American Accord. The SUVs are based on the Honda Pilot/Odyssey and now the ILX from the Civic. There is also no halo car – no full hybrid, V8 or anything else that stands out except re-badges with the same two engines that every Honda also has.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        What adds insult to the injury that is Acura’s badge engineering is the massive fall from grace their actual products have suffered.

        Not only do they look worse, in their new beak-esque genre, but they have numb steering, crap suspensions, fewer real word availability of manual transmissions (and what ones they do have are worse than the Hondas/Acuras of yore), and the salt in the wound; they have been on a relative decline in reliability according to Consumer Reports (while most are still half red circle-above average, a few are blank circles, and I don’t believe that any are the full red circle of reliability that almost all Acuras used to be).

        How far Acura has fallen down. Sack the management ASAP.

  • avatar

    I’m not in Generation Why by several decades, but went to look at this car over the weekend. It’s actually a really good shot at a small luxury car, but is priced so close to the bigger brother TSX one wonders what the hell they were thinking. It really was delightful to sit in the car and find virtually no Civic DNA, a very nice Acura stack and high quality materials. It drives well and is reasonably quiet given where it started (and I’m well aware that my 335 starts as a 316 vinyl-clad stripper in Germany), but as usual Honda has no clue of who their target market might be. Then again, check out the CT200h, a handsome car but a miniature Lexus in virtually every regard.

    Sadly, Acura really has lost their way despite making some very decent cars. Most of the people who buy a BMW do not care that it’s rear wheel drive, but want a modicum of prestige and excellent styling. While Bangle did his damndest to eliminate the latter, BMW seems to have recovered. It remains to be seen if Acura will survive “the beak”.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      They’re resolving the TSX cannibalism problem by discontinuing the TSX in America. (They can’t discontinue it in Europe; there, it’s the Accord.)

      • 0 avatar
        carlisimo

        I thought they were discontinuing the TSX because they’re discontinuing the Euro Accord. Europe’s getting used to larger sedans, so the next Accord will be a single global design (potentially slightly smaller than the current USDM one).

        I could be wrong, though. I’m behind on the rumor mill.

  • avatar
    redav

    Acura is in a spot where they have to advertise the *brand* and not just the car. That’s what these do–they introduce people to the notion that Acura is respectable for professional/bussiness environement, but it’s also a fun brand, but not fun in a low-brow, trashy way.

    I can’t say that they work well, though.

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    I agree, it doesn’t grab you, but you have to give credit, the cinematography is nice in these ads.

    (Great advertising doesn’t have to hit you over the head. I miss the old DDB era of Honda advertising, the spiritual successor to the old VW Beetle campaigns.)

    Having checked one out recently, I can honestly say that “pimped out Civic” is an unfair slight. The feel and atmosphere inside the car is different (albeit less airy) and it really does have a sub-TSX feel.

    However, if it doesn’t do well, it will have nothing to do with marketing, the biggest thing wrong is the price, it’s just to expensive, and on top of list, Acura charges extra for Freight/PDI (at least here in Canada). So in CDN, a fully loaded navi-spec comes out to $38k list after taxes. That’s a deal breaker.

    Either they have to charge less, or they need to bump the bhp for each trim level. The 2.0l r20 doesn’t make much sense, unless they were dead set on meeting an EPG goal. The R20 makes much more sense in the Civic EX-L, where it already sees duty in other markets. The base ILX really should have gotten the Accord EX-R spec K24, and the current 200hp K24spec ILX should have gotten navi bundled with it.

    Basic product has lots of latent virtues, execution is muddled.

  • avatar
    mjz

    Reminds me too much of a fancy Dodge Avenger with an Acura “beak” grafted on. I’d rather buy a Civic with $10,000 in the trunk.

  • avatar
    WaftableTorque

    I’m in the wrong generational cohort, but I think the ad is effective. IMO, it has several things going for it. One, its not like every other car ad that’s saying it’s the ultimate driving machine or $199/month on good credit; two, it counters the potential issue of the ILX being a chick car early in the product cycle; and three, aspirational market works for a significant segment of the population.

    My favorite aspirational ad was the Jaguar “Gorgeous” campaign from maybe 4-5 years ago, and it still resonates with me even though those cars have changed over.

  • avatar
    DearS

    I’m 27, have a suit and tie, and I’m very handsome, lol. No really. I cannot afford a new car though. So I’ve worked on my self-esteem a bit. I can hang out confidently with CEOs and Mayors,(just did) pretty girls from stable families, while ordering a Sombrero drink from the open bar said individuals pay for. I don’t aspire to own a car to look good, I aspire to own a car that works well for my needs and enjoyment. Well I own an old 5-series (e34), I can work at it, and keep it in this economy. Its pretty decent.

    To quote Enrique Iguesias “Oh yes I like it” (my life).

  • avatar
    Madroc

    As a thirtysomething professional I’m right in this car’s wheelhouse. I even drive a first-gen TSX (and, having driven one, have no intention of owning the current generation). And I was pretty excited when the details first started coming out. A more-refined Civic Si that doesn’t look like a child’s toy and omits that horrid bi-level Civic dashboard? Sold, I thought.

    But it’s overpriced. “Premium package” or not, thirty grand for the 6MT (assuming the dealers have any to begin with) is a bit too much when the Si costs $7500 less. I’m having trouble seeing the value proposition over a GLI. If it included nav, maybe, but I’d still rather pay $27.5 and ditch the touchscreen. Maybe I’ll drive one when I buy my next car in a year or so, but I’m skeptical (unless there’s money on the hood, which Honda doesn’t really do). Oh well :-(

  • avatar
    Pch101

    “When you’re Acura, you still have to let everyone know why your car is better than everyone else’s.”

    The product lineup makes that difficult. Honda doesn’t really get luxury branding, which has resulted in a vehicle lineup that isn’t well suited to being positioned within the context of a luxury brand.

    The marketers don’t have much choice, given their client’s production choices. Honda doesn’t understand that aspiration is only as strong as the top tier product, even if most of the customers never buy it. The Germans have mastered the good/ better/ best business model, and HMC just doesn’t grasp how very important that is.

  • avatar
    tparkit

    I find aspirational lifestyle ads offensive. It’s as though the sellers believe I’m such a simpleton, and so easily manipulated, that they can tell me who I want to become. Do they really think I believe I can be like a hip, confident model or actor strolling unstoppably toward my glittering, always-young future of having-it-all?

    That said, “WaftableTorque” above writes that lifestyle advertising works for a significant portion of the population. Maybe so. But I wonder if that was a credit-bubble phenomenon that will come crashing down as the world spirals into economic depression.

    Regarding the car, I like that Acura ditched the 2-tier Civic dash. Doesn’t matter if that was because of the need to avoid comparison by removing Civic markers, or because the humped Civic dash significantly reduces forward vision and is the Civic’s single biggest drawback.

    • 0 avatar
      DearS

      Most all do have low self-esteem imo, so I feel its a perpetuating issue, The economy may not change confidence that much, cause the poor have the same issues.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      tparkit,

      Are you four feet tall or do you effect a gangster slouch when you drive? If the Civic’s dash is obstructing your view, you are doing something very wrong. I can see the windshield wiper arm over the full width of the instrument panel in my Civic, so the dash doesn’t obstruct my view. Obviously, the Civic’s biggest drawback is that it sneaks into neighboring houses at night and dopes their water supply with birth control.

  • avatar
    200k-min

    So this is marketing aimed at me?! Forgetting for a moment that I follow anything in the automotive world, this ad tells me exactly nothing. Spot on that the Acura brand isn’t strong enough to sell a lifestyle, they’ve gotta sell a car first.

    Acura is a forgotten/overlooked brand. They really need to start from square one with their marketing. I think to those Lexus commericals in the early 90′s – balancing champagne glasses on the hood, rolling a marble along the body panels, etc. They all talked about how their vehicle was superior. “The Pursuit of Perfection” is how they branded it. Hey, it got people in the showroom and the vehicles were good enough to get that world of mouth going. Lexus today is a whole other discussion, but Acura needs to start over and get this 30-something professional in the door with marketing a product, not lifestyle. “Move up, without settling down” Ha!

  • avatar
    bryanska

    “That works when your brand is as strong as BMW or Audi”… and your customer is over thirty.

    Being in marketing at a Fortune 100 firm, I can say all our research (and that of highly paid firms) indicates that millenials are not as brand-conscious as previous generations.

    They are more product- and app-receptive. The current analogy is that of personal productivity software. No Millenial cares who makes Facebook, it’s just that good. Ditto Instagram and Scrobbler.

    Yes, the ILX could definitely be better featured, but if Acura is trying to build a brand with millenials it could do worse than showing a stable, balanced life. That’s definitely aspirational for millenials. BMW and Audi have the unfortunate baggage of always having been big-money. Millenials, on the whole, do not relate positively to big money. Even if Audi’s mojo is only about 01 years old.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Going from a ’98 Civic DX to an ’09 Civic EX was upmarket (and expensive) enough for THIS under-35 male.

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    Not sure they appeal to me, but then again my tastes were never what you’d call ‘mainstream’. They are a damn site better than Acura’s last load of advertising though. A middle aged man playing golf. Wow. Just wow. It reminded me more of a Viagra commercial than a commercial for a car brand.

  • avatar

    No offense Derek, but it seems like you know very little about branding. Selling on features is exactly what you don’t do. If features were all that mattered everyone would buy a Hyundai and call it a day. The reason you buy an ILX is not because it is a better car, you buy it because of what the brand says about you. What it does for your personal identity. Think of it this way, for non-car buffs nobody cares that this is a tarted up Civic. If they see you in a Civic they think, just-out-of-college guy. If the see you in an Acura they think, young professional who has his act together but isn’t blowing all his money on a BMW. That is what cars like this are for.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      young professional who has his act together but isn’t blowing all his money on a BMW.

      I think you’ve nailed it. Acura needs to go after the 1950s-70s Buick/1980s Volvo/1990′s Lexus buyers. Relatively affluent folks who, for whatever reason, don’t feel comfortable in a Lexus, Mercedes or BMW.

      • 0 avatar
        carguy

        The way to make a good margin as a luxury brand is to be aspirational and appeal to the irrational and emotional side of the buyer. That’s why Porsche and Aston Martin get a lot of money for what is ultimately not much car. Appealing to older value conscious buyers is a losing proposition (just ask Buick) as you have to justify your price tag with tangibles – that is not what a true luxury brand is about – that’s what economy brands do.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        “Appealing to older value conscious buyers is a losing proposition (just ask Buick)”

        I’m not talking about the current Buick, but what it was in its heyday. It’s also not about old people. They used to call Buick’s “doctors cars” cars for successful but not flash members of the community who wanted to portray an air of successful and reliable prudence.

        Today you still have such a class of people (not so much doctors) who make decent money and want a nice comfortable car with good dealer service – but they work in jobs or live in areas where something like a Mercedes or BMW would be frowned upon.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      @nathaniel: “If features were all that mattered everyone would buy a Hyundai and call it a day.”

      To be fair, MOST people do!

      That’s why Hyundai, Toyota, and Honda sell so well. Their cars have the features (maybe not the latest luxury features, but way better than your last car), the comfort (also way better than your last car), the reliability, and the price.

      The trick here (and it really is a trick) is to get people who can to pay more for a product with roughly the same practical benefits. And I guess these commercials are how you do that?!?

      (It doesn’t appeal to me — my 10-year-old Ford Escape with leather seats, a sunroof, power windows, and remote keyless entry is pretty damn luxurious to me. I never really aspired to hanging around with CEOs, but I do it regularly these days — and it’s just like hanging around with any other group of highly driven people. I *aspire* to own an electric car, for both greenie and geeky reasons.)

      • 0 avatar

        To be fair these brands also sell well because of their own brand characteristics. If a Dodge has the same features as a Camry, why spend more on the Camry? The reason is perceived value and brand recognition. For example, plenty of people still think that owning a Korean car is embarrassing, despite the huge improvements they have made.

        If you are a professional meeting with CEO’s what will they think of you if you show up to a meeting in an old beat up Subaru? Of course it isn’t the most important detail, but first impressions matter and it is better to start out on the right track than to have to make up for what could be more easily be perceived as a weakness.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @nethaniel:

        It depend on the CEO. Some are shallow and image-conscious, I guess. The ones I’ve met are practical and driven. If you were going to hang out with the late Sam Walton or the current Wal Mart brass, then I hear you’d best leave the BMW at home. Warren Buffet comes across as a guy who values getting the important things right the first time and sticking with it long-term, so if you wanted to act like him, you probably shouldn’t bring your unreliable Ferrari play-toy. If you bring actual substance to the table, then that old beat up Subaru is just fine — just so long as it doesn’t make you late.

        I drive a very-comfortable-but-old Escape (the American Subaru), and a well-worn Prius. Both vehicles are well-maintained. I’ve never been at the table with high-level people because of my car, nor known anyone who has been at the table because of their car. The reason I’ve been at the table with those high-level people is because my job-skills and knowledge that happened to be relevant to a discussion they were having that day.

        If I want to be considered for a CEO job, being yet another well-dressed guy with a nice car is just a way to blend in to the salesey-looking woodwork. A much better way to do that is to be a valuable member of the high-level team with skills and knowledge that range from technical details to strategy (and across the major functions of the organization), and to contribute non-stop to tha team for years. Either that, or grow a set and build your own business.

        In real life, though, being on-time and prepared is vastly more important than what you drive. The rest is a myth that sells cars.

        You may be right about the image for people who haven’t had these experiences — this stuff is all foreign to the majority of people who’ve never even been in the room with a CEO, much less sat at the table. And those are the people whose opinions are up for grabs, I guess. And this stuff probably does matter for partying with the other “aspirational” people. But it certainly does *not* matter when you’re traveling on business and it’s time to go drinking with the people you came to see — everyone’s driving rental cars, if they’re driving anything. And the real test is if you can continue to be personable while still delivering the company line, after few drinks.

        But, seriously, for the 3rd time, being on time and prepared for a meeting with a CEO is important — and what you drive is not important. Unless your car so unreliable that it makes you late.

        P.S. The thing that makes people spend more on a Camry than a Avenger is the reputation for reliability. But you can actually quantify that through True Delta or consumer Reports and see if that’s worth it to you. (Just scanning through True Delta’s site, Camry wins, even if they want you to sign up to find out by how much.)

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @nathaniel: “If you are a professional meeting with CEO’s what will they think of you if you show up to a meeting in an old beat up Subaru?”

        A more direct answer to this question: Just like everyone else, the CEO will probably think I’m a young dad who lives within his means. That’s the image that I’m going for with my car, and it’s reflected in the way I’ve outfitted and maintained the car. That also reflectivs the persona I’m going to present at the meeting — skilled professional, early 30s, wedding ring, diligent, prepared, competent.

        Watching the commercial just makes me tired. Been there, done that. After either of the activities portrayed in the video, I’m physically and emotionally exhausted, and I just want tog get the hell home and read my kid a story.

        Not very “millennial” of me, but anyone who is the least bit non-extroverted and who has actually has spent a few days on the road living the lifestyle that’s depicted in the commercial probably isn’t up for grabs by that kind of advertising anyway. But, then again, the commercial is probably targeting the poseurs demographic anyway. My parents generation (the ’80s power-suit people) valued both the posing and the substance — but I don’t have to prove that I belong in that world, so I can pass on the posing and focus on the substance. And I’m suspect of the people who put too much work into posing, because I fear that they might be forgetting the substance…

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        Luke42: A more direct answer to this question: Just like everyone else, the CEO will probably think I’m a young dad who lives within his means.

        Having worked in both corporate America and state government, I can tell you that showing up in a BEAT-UP old car will definitely generate some comments, and not positive ones.

        It’s one thing to show up in a well-maintained and clean older car, but showing up in clunker is another matter entirely. If you want to be taken seriously, you need to buy a new, or at least a NEWER, car.

        The car you regularly drive to work should not be dented, rusty, etc., unless you are parking at a location (parking garage or lot) away from the office where no one can see your car.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        @geeber:

        I agree with your points about dents and rust creating a negative impression. Just like showing up in clothes that have holes in them — it shows that you don’t have your $#!t together. The car does need to be nice enough to not attract attention.

        My 2002 Escape cost me around $6k, and it fits the bill just fine. It’s nice enough that it doesn’t attract attention, and reliable enough that it won’t make me late. It doesn’t have to be expensive, and it fits in to the traffic in my part of the country (the Midwest) — and just about everywhere in North America, really.

        Just so long as your car and your clothes don’t attract attention, but your positive contributions to the meetings and the work do attract attention, then that meeting with the CEO will go fine. Substance + hygiene == success.

        People who make financially irrational decisions in orderto create an image often broadcast exactly that. CEOs, and other people who are involved in hiring and firing, are pretty good at guessing what people make. When you’ve got a feel for the proportion of someone’s income went into that luxury car, you can’t help but wonder what they’ve given up in their personal life in order to create that image — and then you have to wonder what kind of person would give that up for an image…

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      “Selling on features is exactly what you don’t do.”

      Agreed. But that isn’t the argument that is being made.

      The point is that the product has to support the branding story, and the product is a component of the branding.

      A lifestyle message without the goods to back it up is just an empty promise. A sub near-luxury car is not a good path for building a competitive luxury brand.

      • 0 avatar

        What is an A4 other than a tarted up VW? These days every car as amazing features that a few short years ago would only have been seen on the most exclusive automobiles.

        I would say that the only thing missing from the Acura brand is brand perception. Owning an Acura doesn’t really mean anything special right now. They need to start from the bottom, young aspirational buyers, and turn them into loyal brand advocates. So starting with the entry level luxury buyer is the right move. Obviously they aren’t the only one’s who think so because Infinity is about to jump in as well.

        It’s going to take years and conviction to pull off, but I do believe it is their only play.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “What is an A4 other than a tarted up VW?”

        The A4 doesn’t share a platform with VW branded cars. But even if it did, that would be off the mark.

        “I would say that the only thing missing from the Acura brand is brand perception.”

        No offense, but it seems like you know very little about branding. For the brand to work as a luxury brand, it needs to provide a ladder of aspiration for the customer to climb, even if most customers will never climb it.

        The ladder should have three rungs. Acura offers no ladder. The RL doesn’t cast a halo, the TL isn’t the logical next step up the ladder after the TSX, and the TSX doesn’t provide an entry point that assures the TL and RL buyers that they have indeed arrived.

        This is an example of a legacy cost for HMC. Toyota formed Lexus in order to create a credible rival to the Germans at the high end; in contrast, Acura began as an exercise to squeeze more margin out of US-market captive imports when the Reagan-era “voluntary quotas” constrained their sales volumes.

        Since Acura was formed, near-luxury brands have taken a beating. It’s not enough to make a decent car in a vacuum; it is more important than ever for automakers to cultivate luxury brands with vehicles that are clearly connected to each other. The Germans do this better than anyone else; Acura doesn’t come close.

      • 0 avatar

        Pch101: What you are talking about is product, not brand. Yes one informs the other, but they aren’t entirely the same entity.

        You are right in that Acura’s product hasn’t been very cohesive, and I am not disagreeing with you on that. What I am saying is that the reason their product hasn’t been very inspiring is because they don’t know who they are or what they want to be (brand). Chicken and egg scenario perhaps, but in my mind the what and why comes first. You need to know what you are building and why, for it to have any success in coming out as something good that customers can connect with.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Feature/function advertisement resonates well with engineers and technical folks but not the average consumer.

      Feature/function ads are “lazy marketing,” and a sign of, “we got nothing to work with.”

      Classic product marketing relies on the five Ps

      Product – if you don’t have a good product, you’re screwed

      Persona – who are your buyers REALLY (this will also dictate addressable market)

      Positioning – not in feature/function speak but in marketing speak (and not pointless marketing speak, that’s where you go when you don’t have a viable product and/or you don’t know your personas) what are the key benefits of your product, that resonates with your personas. It either solves a problem for them, helps them achieve “the perfect day,” or addresses a major fear/concern

      Pricing – you have to have the right price. The right price isn’t just what will motivate buyers to buy (and/or under cutting your competition) but how much margin can you make to pay the bills and work on product refinement. This is a never ending cycle

      Packaging – packaging isn’t the box it comes in, it is how you present this to your customers through your various channels. Web, social media, traditional media, guerrilla marketing, etc. You can have the perfect product, you can know your personas perfectly, you can have your positioning spot on, you can have the right price nailed down, but if your addressable market doesn’t know that it exists, or it isn’t packaged right in its segment(s) you’re dead in the water.

      ===========================================

      Product – Acura has some issues. The platform is a good one but it is a tarted up Civic with the same engine options at the bottom and the top. It isn’t a disaster, but it doesn’t make the job easy

      Persona – the advertising they are running indicates to me they know their persona well. Male, multicultural, single/dating, no kids, 25 to 39, college educated, newly minted professional, with some disposable income, aspirations of being upwardly mobile in life and career

      Positioning – actually pretty darn good. This is a heavily male focused campaign. They are addressing two things in positioning. “The perfect day,” which is shown very well in the ad. Leaving work after what is a good day, ogling some eye candy, nothing in your way, your car surrounded by an empty lot with nothing but the road in front of you. You push the button and surprise, it just works! The tag line on the end addresses a fear, “move up, without settling down.” Hey, I’m free, I’m single, and I want to keep it that way. Generation Y and Millenials have a very dim view on marriage. They grew up watching their parents divorce at a rate of 50% and a large minority watched either mom or dad get hauled off in handcuffs (thanks in large part to mandatory arrest laws/protocols) in a DV incident. None of that here if you buy our product. This is pretty slick.

      Pricing – it’s priced too high. The only competitor in this class is Buick and the car is seriously undercut. Additionally compared to its Civic under pinnings, it is mucho expensive. Generation Y and Millenials don’t like to be deceived or feel like they’ve played a shell game. They grew up in an era of stained dresses, impeachment, we went to war why, what weapons of mass destruction, and are cynical by nature. The pricing strategy is risky and could have a backlash if the broader, “tarted up Civic,” message gets into the social media sphere. If I were the product manager, I would be most worried about this and would want to be out in front of that.

      Packaging – The ad above lacks one vital thing in advertisement. A call to action. Lexus is AWESOME at this. Every single Lexus ad always ends with a call to action, “visit your Lexus dealer.” That may seem so, so-what, it is critical in every ad. Hey, that’s interesting, now what do I do. It doesn’t have to be, “visit your Lexus dealer,” it could be a URL, a social media site, or look for us here. But the ad does lack that call to action. Acura as a company is very weak in packaging. Alphabet soup in product naming doesn’t help, but they don’t do a great job of wrapping up their overall product line. Years ago when Acura was a young brand they ran excellent ads explaining the caliper logo, showing the tolerances of fit and finish, showing how they offer a superior product at a reasonable price. This was the glory days when the NSX was new and the Integra was THE AutoX car to own. Acura has completely lost its way, has been diluted, and desperately needs a new north star to align to.

      This isn’t the fault of ISX, but it hurts its launch and packaging strategy.

      Anyway, as a marketing professional, that’s my take on it.

      • 0 avatar

        Great post, thank you. I have a follow-up tomorrow, I’d love for you and Nathaniel to chime in on it.

      • 0 avatar

        Adjusting for inflation, the ILX is on par with what an Integra sold for back in the day, if not a bit less expensive. The Integra is remembered fondly, but what was it other than a Civic in drag? So the ILX is nothing new.

        The least expensive way to get a 4-door car with a luxury brand on it.

        I agree that the real problem is the Acura brand itself. What does it stand for? Who is it for? This advertising at least is starting to paint that picture.

      • 0 avatar
        iantm

        The Integra was an awesome car. It was more than a tarted up Civic. It was essentially, at least in the USDM, Honda taking the same forumla Ford used to turn the Falcon into the Mustang and applied it to the Civic. The main difference being that the Integra was available in the sporty three door and practical, respectable “I’m a working professional” four door sedan. No matter which Integra you chose – you got an insanely fun car. I don’t get that feeling with the ILX. It just, well, doesn’t feel as special. The Integra, while a tarted up Civic, was cutting edge back in 86 with a DOHC engine, 4 wheel disc brakes, awesome driving dynamics, and light weight. The new ILX, has three different engine choices – with the base motor being SOHC. Acura got popular by appealing to people who enjoy driving and cars. When the Integra/RSX was axed – they basically sent the signal that folks like us aren’t wanted at their dealership anymore. Yes, the typical Integra/RSX buyer was younger, but they also became insanely loyal to the brand. After the Integra was killed and the post y2k rot began to set in at Honda, I went to Ford for driving dynamics.

    • 0 avatar

      You don’t have to be a chef to know when the food tastes bad

      • 0 avatar
        SherbornSean

        As I recall, the original Integra was a Quint in drag, a J-market 5-door hatch which was between the Civic and the Accord.

      • 0 avatar

        The Integra was always derived from the Civic chassis, but with bigger brakes and no drums. Actually the same is true today, the ILX just comes standard with better brakes.

      • 0 avatar
        WheelMcCoy

        In addition to bigger brakes and discs all around, the 1986/87 Integra introduced the dohc engine. The Civic had sohc. But yeah, the Civic and Integra shared a lot. I’ve read even their doors were interchangeable.

        But besides driving dynamics, the Integra was interesting because it was available as a 3 and 5 door hatch / sportback. And the Integra was an entry level bargain. The ILX is available only as a sedan and it’s not clear to me it’s a bargain.

        If there were a spiritual successor to the Integra for grownups, the TSX Wagon — with its Eurospec Accord chassis, double wishbones in front, and 5 doors — comes closer.

  • avatar
    fredtal

    At 60 years old I pretty much know who I am and what I want. Advertising like this doesn’t really effect me, that is unless it has a powerful submiminal message that I’m not picking up on.

    • 0 avatar
      carlisimo

      I’m 30 and I don’t know what I want, so this ad is more likely to work with me. Unfortunately, I’m a car nerd so I’m not looking for a ‘nice car’ with four doors. Most of my friends are, though.

  • avatar
    tekdemon

    I’m pretty much the target demographic and I thought it was a pretty cool ad if for no reason other than the neat cinematography.
    Would probably still not buy the car, but I could see it being more appealing if one wasn’t a car enthusiast.
    I think if you take yourself out of the car enthusiast frame of mind it’s actually quite a good ad.

    • 0 avatar
      B.C.

      I’m also in the target demographic, I think. In particular, I owned, liked, and wish I had kept a 2006 TSX.

      Like the cinematography. Hate the subliminal pandering and lifestyle marketing. Hate the message that … well, economy’s got you down but you want something with a badge on it? Here! Which wouldn’t be so bad if the ILX were a bit more inspiring to behold, but it ain’t.

      They’ve tried the aspirational yuppie message before — look for the 2009 TSX commercial on youtube. Same manure, slightly reheated before being served.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    As far as I’m concerned, my affiliation with Acura would be the first gen Acura and if money were growing on trees in 1986, I’d have bought one, most likely the 3 door LS with sunroof in the blue on blue with the 5spd manual tranny even though it was largely based on the Civic (blue on blue due to its almost identical color combo to the ’76 Accord my Dad had, if not that, then the red would suffice).

    Having ACTUALLY owned an ’83 Civic, it WAS a good base to derive the Integra from back in the day.

    I still find the overall design details of that first gen Integra still works even today, never mind the angular, wedge look it sported (similar to the 86-90 Accord, and even used it’s door handles and I should know as I got one from a wrecked Integra to replace a broken door handle on my ’88 Accord).

    Otherwise, the Acura marque has never intrigued me in the least since and I’m in my late 40′s and old enough to have BOUGHT an ’86 Integra at the time.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      Bought the 1987 Integra RS, 5 door (for the younger folk, that’s the base model) for about $12k. Absolutely wonderful car. Now have the 2012 TSX Wagon, base model. Pretty good car. It just needs a stick!

      Going back to the ad, I’m not the target demographic, but I thought the ad was pretty cool and upbeat. Not that I would buy an ILX. Similar to ciddyguy, I’m just not very interested in the other models of the Acura lineup.

    • 0 avatar
      iantm

      My first car was an 89 Integra LS. Shaped the expectations I have from cars forever. Practical, fun to drive, semi luxurious, capable of carrying lots of stuff, and really good on gas. I don’t think I ever got less than 32 miles per gallon in that car. At the age of 18, I was really hard on my then 12 year old 200k mile Integra. The car left an impression on me. I’ve only gone back to the Integra well once – I recently bought a 93 to fix up for my little sister (she just turned 18) and now don’t want to give it to her.

      Today, I drive a Ford Focus ZX3. Not in the Honda/Acura family, but was the only sub $20k hatchback with great driving dynamics and insane versatility. I still miss that Integra. One day, I’ll find a decent non rotted first gen Integra.

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    I agree that the ads don’t quite work. It’s nice, but will work only if the car’s already well known. The ILX is a brand new product in a new (at least long abandoned) market position, so the ad didn’t really work. The car could be anything, an Impala, or Malibu, or a Studebaker Lark. Well, maybe not the Lark…

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    I re-watched the vids, and now think that we’re being unfair. The ads are pretty clear, if they seem unclear, it’s because it’s not a well received message. That doesn’t mean that the message is unclear.

    * Who is it for? The clues:
    - The nouveau Mad Men-era cinematography (You watch cable, or pretend to when you torrent. Presumably, you’re not watching Gossip Girl)
    - The stereotypical hip hop track with African American actor (Presumably ‘black’ is a code word for ‘diversity’. These ads would have been all kinds of awesome if they had switched the soundtrack)
    - You’ve experience some measure of professional and social accomplishment (Check out all of the congratulatory pats and exchanges in first few seconds of the first vid)
    - You’re serious and hardworking (The way the guy walks in the second video, and the awkwardness in the way the actor walks in the ‘casual’ split screen)
    - Your work is your life… it defines you (Notice how the body movements are synched between the split screens, implying that causal and work are the same thing)

    Working in an office staffed mostly with Gen-Y’s, this is pretty much them. It’s their first taste of professional success, and contrary to all stereotypes, they are very hard working if work and personal goals align, and a little bit unfortunately, work is their church… i’ve had a few too many tippsy Friday nights with the staff where work kept crawling into the conversation late into the night.

    * Why should you buy it?
    “Move on up, with out settling down” – I think that’s a pretty clear message. Does not imply that the car is the ultimate driving machine, but that it’s premium… key emotional words “move”, “up”. In one sense, this slogan comes close to the backhanded humility of “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I drink Dos Equis”

    So,is it aspirational advertising? Yes, it certainly falls into that category. It’s not ground breaking, but it certainly rings true, if only because they target demo readily apes what they already see on TV and advertising. In that sense, after re-watching it, I think it is clear message, but in typical Honda fashion, doesn’t hit you over the head, and wears well only in the long run. What is really aspirational about it is the price, and as I said earlier in the day, it’s the single most serious thing out of wack.

  • avatar
    White Shadow

    It seems to me that a lot of automobile manufacturers are still trying to build brand loyalty. They attract the younger buyers with their entry-level models and hope that they stick with the brand as they become older and more affluent. That seems like a reasonable strategy, but I don’t think it really works in the real world. Why do I say that? Well, I think very few people actually have any brand loyalty when it comes to the car they drive. Most people tend to mix it up a bit and try new brands. I see this ad as a way for Acura to attract the young professional to the brand, which is something I thought the TSX already covered. I do think they did a good job with the ILX as far as “hiding” its Civic roots, but at the end of the day most people will realize that the car is just a Civic wearing a suit.

  • avatar
    amac

    Derek, the first rule of advertising: sell the sizzle, not the steak. You need to speak to people’s hearts, not their heads. Features are for brochures.

  • avatar
    CRConrad

    Oh, so it’s an “ACK-ura”? Live and learn… I’d always imagined the brand was “a-CURE-a”. (Never heard it spoken before.)


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