Gen Y marketing: Honda teases with the Element

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American Honda Motor Co. breaks a teaser campaign on national cable and spot TV tonight for a youth-targeted sport utility vehicle the company calls "a dorm room on wheels."

The target for Honda's Element is active males between the ages of 18 and 24 who favor outdoor sports. The 15-second commercials, from independent Rubin Postaer & Associates, Santa Monica, Calif., show young men surfing, biking and kayaking as seen through the vehicle's open "swing-wide" cargo doors.

Doug Hoffman, national brand manager, said the vehicle has other functional features including rear seats that fold down for beds, up against the vehicle's sides to maximize space or can be removed entirely. And the floors are "urethane-coated," allowing them to be hosed out. He declined to discuss the campaign's ad budget.

Honda's initial annual sales target for the Element is 50,000 units, he said.

The teasers will air until mid-December, when :30 TV spots begin for the vehicle's launch. Similar-looking teaser print ads broke recently in outdoor-sports enthusiast titles.

In recent weeks, Honda has taken the Element to its target buyers as sponsor of the 24 Hours of Moab mountain-biking event and the aerial-biking BMX U.S. Championship.

Marketing consultant Todd Turner, president of CarConcepts, predicted Honda will have no problem hitting its sales target for the Element. But he was skeptical whether the vehicle will gain wide acceptance with elusive Gen Y males, adding that he expects most Element buyers will be in their late 20s to mid-30s. "You can't tell a kid what's cool," he said.

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