Can the Grinch save Honda’s U.S. sales?

Honda’s year-end sales will be key to shoring up its U.S. performance. Photo credit: HONDA

American Honda is hoping a new Grinch-themed holiday ad campaign can rebuild the automaker’s sales momentum going into the end of the year.

Following NBC’s “Today with Kathy Lee and Hoda” on Tuesday, Honda releasedanother 30-second spot in the campaign, titled The Grinch Returns Happy Honda Days and featuring the Grinch turning the lights back on at a Honda dealership and returning everything he stole. The once-vacant dealership is then filled with Honda vehicles, trimmings, presents and, yes, even doughnuts.

“Happy Honda Days is back on, and now is a great ‘steal’ on a new Honda, so hurry in,” a voice-over says during the spot. Simultaneously, the Grinch’s heart grows three times bigger, and he hands Honda back its Twitter account.

Success is crucial

Honda’s year-end sales will be key to shoring up its U.S. performance as it grapples with the rapid consumer move away from traditional sedans to crossovers and SUVs. Through October, Honda brand sales fell 2.5 percent to 1.2 million vehicles. Acura sales inched up 1 percent to 128,107 vehicles.

Nearly all of Honda’s sedan nameplates — even its leading sellers Accord and Civic — are down by double digits this year. Honda’s top-selling U.S. vehicle through October was the CR-V crossover, down 1.1 percent to 305,446 deliveries.

The ad campaign called the #GrinchTakeover — in a partnership with Universal Pictures and Illumination’s Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch — began during the automaker’s Sunday TV programming, including NFL matchups.

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The first 30-second commercial, titled “The Grinch Steals Happy Honda Days,” features the Grinch turning off the lights of the Honda dealership and leaving it vacant because he thinks the automaker’s annual holiday sales event is too cheery. The Grinch decides to cancel the event, changing the dealership’s banner from “Happy Honda Days” to “UNHappy Honda Days.”

As decorations are tossed into the dealership’s elevator, Mr. Grinch sticks his tongue out and says no to decorations, deals, doughnuts and the “surprisingly comfortable” chairs in the dealership. In addition, he says no to discounts, firm handshakes, exciting test drives and cars.

Photo credit: HONDA

Breaking through clutter

Susie Rossick, assistant vice president for marketing at Honda, wrote in an email that the automaker was looking for a partnership that would break through the clutter of traditional holiday advertising.

“The objective of the campaign is to use Honda’s co-branded ‘The Grinch’ creative to increase awareness and memorability of the ‘Happy Honda Days’ sales event early on in the campaign,” said Rossick. “We want to drive traffic to our websites and our dealers’ showrooms.”

Rossick also said the partnership complemented Honda’s integrated Happy Honda Days “Toys” 2.0 campaign that started this month. According to Honda, “Toys” 2.0 is a follow-up to the automaker’s 2014 Happy Honda Days campaign that featured classic childhood toys from the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s as spokespeople for Honda products such as the Clarity Plug-In Hybrid, CR-V, Accord, Pilot and Ridgeline.

The integrated marketing campaign also spreads word of the Grinch’s Twitter takeover through Honda’s other social media channels, including Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and YouTube.

“Months of planning went into creating the social content,” said Rossick. “Honda worked with their advertising agency, RPA, to develop a robust social plan as well as being ready to respond as ‘The Grinch’ in real time during the takeover.”

The Snapchat media campaign for “E! News’ The Rundown” will run until Dec. 31. Monday’s “Rundown” featured an in-show integration, and Rossick said another was scheduled for Wednesday. She also said the campaign with the Grinch ends Wednesday, however, Happy Honda Days will continue through the holiday season.

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