- The nicest person of all - Christmas Honda (Honda Motorcycles Poster)

Honda's iconic advert and how it changed opinion

A very brief history of the little Honda motorcycle advert in 1962 that changed America's perception of the face of motorcycling

'You meet the nicest people on a Honda' the famous slogan used by Honda to advertise its Super Cub in the 1960s and 70s is still well known today. The Super Cub's US advertising campaign had a lasting impact on Honda's image and on American attitudes to motorcycling and was so successful it has been used as a marketing case study.

Are you on the nice list? You might get a Honda.

The image of the motorcyclist in early 60s America was much more James Dean and gang related than Santa or a nice lady in a headscarf. Grey Advertising were asked by Honda to produce ideas for a US campaign in 1961 and it was they who proposed 'You Meet the Nicest People on a Honda' which ran from 1962 targeting eleven western states initially. Honda US were aware that they needed to broaden their appeal in order to sell more motorcycles and they knew a good slogan when they saw one.

Nice people from around the world like a SuperCub was Honda's successful message. (Honda Motorcycles Poster)

Nice people from around the world like a SuperCub was Honda's successful message. (Honda Motorcycles Poster)

Several versions of the advert ran in the 1960s and slowly the perception that nice people could have motorcycles sank into the American psyche. Even ladies of a certain age coming back from the garden centre could have one said the picture in the advert.

You could even take your dog apparently (Honda Motorcycles Poster)

You could even take your dog apparently (Honda Motorcycles Poster)

The Academy Awards - forward thinking advertising to new markets

American Honda's chief executive Kihachiro Kawashima was forward looking in his advertising strategies and decided to become a sponsor of the Academy Awards in 1964, paying $ 300,000 for two adverts during the TV broadcast, the first foreign corporation to do so. No motorcycle company had ever sponsored the event and so it created a buzz about the brand and generated considerable interest.

Over the next few years more adverts on the intial theme were released and the campaign was used in other countries. The Honda 50 became so popular in the US that it was asked for as a present for birthdays and Christmas. A widening sector of the public from students and housewives to businessmen saw the benefits of the small motorcycle and it felt acceptable to them because of the tone of the advertising. The motorcycle had moved from being a counter culture thing to be wary of to being main stream and 'cool'.

This advert from 1966 shows how a very nice lady indeed can do the school run on the bike, change into a nice outfit, meet her husband for lunch and then be back to pick up her son and solve his romantic problems with the local posh girl. Nice.

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Christmas Advertising

As I mentioned above the Honda 50 had become a popular Christmas request and as this is the season as they say in some other vaguely successful advert, I thought I'd look at some of Honda's Christmas adverts. Of course Santa is the nicest person and so he must have a Honda Cub.

Ho Ho Honda (Honda Motorcycles Poster)

Ho Ho Honda (Honda Motorcycles Poster)

The idea that Hondas were ridden by nice people broadened to other models, with this next advert being for the CA95 (called the C95 in the UK).

Surely she's an elf starter...sorry. (Honda Motorcycles Poster)

Surely she's an elf starter...sorry. (Honda Motorcycles Poster)

Over a period of time the range of bikes desirable as Christmas presents widened. The introduction of the monkey bike, originally conceived to get children to like Hondas at their theme park in Japan but popular with adults the world over, saw that become a popular Christmas item too. Eventually Honda were even going as far as providing a stocking large enough to cover the bike which could be ordered for Christmas deliveries.

Christmas Monkey Bike (Honda Motorcycles Poster)

Christmas Monkey Bike (Honda Motorcycles Poster)

Being different works in advertising

The 'nicest people' campaign shows that properly targeted advertising does work and it can change perceptions, being willing to risk different strategies pays off and Honda have certainly done that over the years. Do you fancy a giant stocking to cover your motorcycle shaped Christmas wish? You might not, but enough people did and in the end that's what matters.

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Comments (3)

  • Somehow this reminded me to the Honda girl in Vanishing point. So much better product placement... :)))

      1 year ago
  • Yes. This was my wayward youth, riding and owning lots of motorcycles (35 to date). I’ve been cross country on a CB 550F, and up to Griffith park thousands of times when I lived in Los Angeles. I’ve ridden other brands, but keep coming back to Honda. I now have a 2014 Gold Wing F6BD bagger. And if Cancer hadn’t happened I’d be out there today.

      1 year ago
  • Honda's timing and message were perfect in the US. We simply weren't making anything like the Cub. (Well, maybe Cushman). It was either a bicycle or a big motorcycle. Add the "bad biker" image that Honda neatly sidestepped. The Cub was as much a scooter as it was a light motorcycle. It was an approachable, capable, two wheeled "friend". Even the motor sounded friendly.

      1 year ago
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