Corporate Eye

New Honda Tagline Focuses on Relationship Branding

honda civicHonda is rolling out a new tagline in the United States that urges consumers to “Start something special.” Mark Rechtin of Automotive News reports that the new tagline is intended to build deeper relationships between consumers and the Honda brand, and it will be used across all advertising beginning in the fall.

Ads rolling out later this year will focus on the reasons why owning a Honda is “special” with a reliance on audience psychographic data rather than solely on demographic data.

The slogan seems appropriate for the Honda brand, which is known for its reliability and trustworthiness. Many people who purchase Honda vehicles in the United States keep them for a very long time, and when they do decide to replace their cars, they choose a Honda again. This loyalty is very valuable for the Honda brand, and the “start something special,” tagline is a logical extension of the brand promise — a special driving experience that continually grows through a consumer’s long relationship with the brand.

The obvious question is whether or not this slogan does enough to position the Honda brand against one of its top competitors in the United States—Toyota. Both brands are positioned as the reliable and trustworthy brands, but there is little differentiation between them. If Toyota owns “reliable” then what word does Honda own? You could swap the two brand names in that question and it would still make complete sense.

Similarly, you could apply the “Start something special” tagline to a number of automotive brands (as well as brands in completely different industries) and it would still work. It’s not the worst tagline, but it seems a bit watered down (i.e., a victim of decision-by-committee disease).

Of course, battling over market share between Honda and Toyota would likely require a bigger marketing investment than it would to try and steal market share from competitors that occupy distinctly different positions in consumers’ minds. Shifting consumers from the “less reliable” brand with the less-than-special-relationship to Honda is likely a better investment.

It’s important to note that Honda isn’t replacing its global tagline with this new tagline. Furthermore, Honda isn’t placing any long term dependence on this new tagline. According to Rechtin’s report, if the slogan doesn’t catch on following the fall advertising push, it will be replaced. Only time and consumer reactions will tell whether or not this new Honda slogan is truly the start of something special.

What do you think?

Image: Simon Cataudo

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.