Today, I deconstruct the Honda Odyssey “The Van Beckons” Ad, and together we’ll learn why your message must resonate with your customer in order to drive sales. Miss the mark, even by a smidgen, and you’re in big, BIG trouble.
First Mental Image (FMI):
Average Joe walking out of a supermarket, late in the evening, carrying a bag of groceries. While standing in the parking lot, our main character finds himself mesmerized by the Honda Odyssey minivan, which happens to be in full rock concert mode.
Yes, the FMI surprises and grabs your attention. But that’s about it, because, as you’ll soon learn, the ad’s message falls short of hitting the mark.
Jam-packed with high-tech wizardry, the Honda Odyssey minivan obviously rocks, and is cool to drive.
Creative and entertaining? Yes. But there are two crushing reasons why the ad’s message fails to persuade.
2 Crushing Reasons Why the Honda Odyssey “The Van Beckons” Message Fails to Persuade:
1.) The ad answers a question no one was asking. The message is a HUGE disconnect for the viewer. I mean — who buys a minivan because it’s cool? Not a soul.
Moms and dads buy minivans because they’re practical and affordable. Well, most dads are probably dragged along for the ride. (Ladies, I’m only joking 😉 ) And never mind, for the moment, that the Touring Elite model shown in the commercial is priced at $43,250. Ouch!
Frankly, minivans are anything but sexy — even when you consider the Odyssey’s high-tech wizardry. Hey, we’re not talking about driving a Ferrari, okay? And there’s absolutely nothing Honda — or any other car company — can do to dress up a minivan and make it sexy to drive. Nadathing.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the old adage, “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.”
Now, I’m not suggesting that the Honda Odyssey is a bad product. Nor do I intend to offend any minivan drivers out there. I’m just saying you can’t arm-twist your customer into believing that your product is something it’s clearly not.
Think I’m wrong?
Here are a handful of viewer comments about the commercial that I found on the Internet:
- ddrhero says, “This guy’s in some deep s#!t. He’s already is so castrated by his hell-spawn of a wife that he finds a minivan exciting, NOW he dropped the milk. she’s gonna f#&@in’ kill him!”
- Abandoned Ship adds, “I would NEVER buy/drive a van. If you put a gun to my head tho, this is what I would buy.”
- Knightsport wisely advises, “Save yourself. Van abstinence is the way, the truth and the light. Amen.”
- GoLowDrew says, “Since I’m married, nothing that adventurous for me. However, I do take my power-nap in the afternoon sometimes to help me get through the 2nd half of the work day.”
Heard enough? I rest my case.
2.) Creativity comes at the expense of clarity. Judas Priest music rockin’… pyrotechnics… special effects (Did you catch the van transforming into a black panther, and Redemption road listed on the navigational system?).
Clearly, the Honda Odyssey “The Van Beckons” ad worships at the altar of creativity — a decision that lowers the clarity of its message.
Sure, we catch a glimpse of the Odyssey’s DVD players, and its navigation system. But is there a point of differentiation that makes these gadgets worth mentioning?
Clearly, we need more details than visuals can provide. But the ad’s creativity gets in the way.
Last Mental Image (LMI):
The van beckons like no van before. The technology-packed, all-new Honda Odyssey.
Not a bad last mental image — if the message wasn’t so off target. It’s worth noting that the LMI does a nice job circling back to the idea introduced by the FMI.
The ad has all the qualities of a chest-thumping, head-bobbin’, lighters-waving-in-the-air rock concert:
Judas Priest music blaring.
The only thing that’s missing is a plastic cup of $8 draft beer… and, well, a car that matches the defining characteristics of a rock concert.
This ad would have been more appropriate if the it were promoting the Dodge Challenger with its roaring Hemi engine. It just proves that unless you nail the message — nothing else matters.
Last time, with the Domino’s “Rate our Chicken” ad, we learned how a credible and relevant message can rescue an ad from a weak first and last mental image.
But persuasion cannot be achieved the other way around. In other words, an irrelevant message will never persuade — no matter the strength of your first and last mental image.
Never forget that the purpose of advertising is to make the cash register ring. And as I’ve said before, you can create the most entertaining ad in the world, but if you’re not speaking to the customer’s felt need, you won’t sell a lick of product. End of story.