Extreme niche marketing

The best advertising doesn’t just talk about a product; it demonstrates how the product makes the user’s life better. People connect with advertising and brands when they feel the emotional satisfaction of having a need fulfilled.

Honda and their brand marketing partner RPA know how to do affective marketing, but the current Civic work falls short. It’s not because the cars fail to satisfy, but because the people whose needs are being satisfied are hard to identify with.

The campaign for 5 new Civic models are designed to match the lifestyles of 5 sadly underserved subsets of the car buyer market:

  • Lumberjacks
  • Ninja
  • Luchadors
  • Monsters
  • Zombies

Commercials and web highlight how one model is ideal for each of these buyers. Two of them I understood right off. One I got after visiting Civic.Honda.com. The last 2 leave me baffled.

Jack, the “Urban Woodsman” is the ultimate crunchy granola type. He’s a lumberjack with a pet fox and birds living in his enormous beard. His love of nature is sincere even though he lives in the downtown core. The fuel-efficient Civic Hybrid makes perfect sense for him.




Fast, nimble and flexible  is the Civic Si. So is Aiki, the bubble-gum ninja assassin with the candy colored apartment. Lethal but cute Aiki uses her Civic to make quick get-aways by entering through the sunroof. Ninjas are also amoral and deadly—does that mean they used to drive Ford Pintos?



The man in the suited and masked man eating cereal in a very luxe home, in the intro commercial is not a mystery CEO gaining vigilante justice for wronged billionaires (defender of the oppressed super wealthy is the vocation of Governor Rick Scott) he is Cesar, Mexico’s greatest wrestler (luchador). If you read his brief bio from Honda you’ll discover that he combines style with power—just like the Civic Coupe.


Teeny the Co-ed Monster lives on a budget at the cutting edge of the culture but still likes girly things. (She used to date Neil LaBute and was his inspiration for Reasons To Be Pretty). Civic HF is the perfect match because  budget conscious and has a sick sound system. That’s a good basis for a relationship, but a relationship with a monster?

What does it really say about the Civic HF that its perfect driver is the college-age offspring of Big Foot and a schnauzer? That it’s only ugly on the outside? That’s it’s perfect for people who are as wide as they are tall? Or does it protect you from billy goats who try to knock you off bridges?

Mitch the Zombie. This is the most confusing of the 5 Civic messages. What does a spokes-zombie tell us?

  • “Civics are for people who don’t know they’re dead?”
  • “If you’re prone to lose body parts, have we got a car for you!”
  • “This is not your grandfather’s Honda—it’s your great-grandfather’s!”

RPA connects Mitch to his Honda by its navigation system, bluetooth enablement and other gadgets. He’s telling us “You may lose your arms, but you’ll never get lost!”

Why oh why  would any marketer connect a product with being dead? The dead are old, they look awful, they smell horrible and are so past their expiration date that they are, well, dead. Yes, zombies are hot these days, but please.

It wouldn’t be so bad if Mitch was only just dead. With his corporate job and golf outings he’s a yuppie (oh the horror!). RPA is saying that living this life style is to be among the walking dead. Is this an anti-marketing campaign?

Or maybe this model Civic is intended for ancestor-worshippers. GE products captured a huge market share in China when they mistranslated “We Bring Good Things to Life” as “GE raises your ancestors from the dead.”


Schifino Lee

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