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How Honda helped save the American drive-in

iMedia Editors
How Honda helped save the American drive-in iMedia Editors
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The problem and the campaign


In 2013, the classic American drive-in movie theater business faced a critical and potentially devastating ordeal -- converting from 35mm film projectors to digital technology. The problem? Those new digital projectors cost roughly $80,000 each, and many drive-ins could not afford it. After all, the majority of these businesses have been around since the mid-twentieth century and don't make much in the way of profit. They exist as legacy businesses, usually are family owned, and serve to perpetuate the great American tradition of drive-in movie culture. Several of these drive-ins faced extinction. That's when Honda decided to do something about it.


 


Image source here.


Honda's brand philosophy propelled the company into action to help define the future of the drive-in institution. Honda started "Project Drive-In," a national campaign to not only spread the word about this under-reported issue, but actually save dozens of drive-in theaters by directly donating projectors and activating crowdsourced campaigns. The brand started the Honda Drive-In Fund to give people an easy outlet for donating money to save struggling drive-ins. Honda donated five projectors directly using votes from the public to determine where they would go. The brand started a website to centralize the message and guide visitors through the problem and solution. Honda also encouraged people to watch at least one movie at their local drive-in to help their community and rescue this classic institution. This massive emotional public display of affection by Honda sparked a national movement by everyday Americans and helped spread the word to help struggling theaters across the country.


iMedia traveled to thinkLA's Automotive Breakfast where David Zaleski spoke to Alicia Jones, Honda's national manager of Honda and Acura social media marketing, about this amazing campaign and how the brand helped start a national outcry.


Social media and celebrities


The way Honda utilized social media to influence the public and get people excited about this cause was impressive. Not only did the brand dedicate resources to creating a custom website (projectdrivein.com) but it activated socially in a multitude of unique ways. First, Honda created an emotional and powerful video to help describe the problem and launch a voting campaign to determine where Honda will give away five digital projectors. The video also included several tangible steps the public could take to help rescue this American institution and become a participant in the cause. So far it has received more than 1.2 million views.


Honda launched #savethedrivein, which trended on Twitter and helped funnel the passion of the social media community into action. The brand created and distributed a drive-in toolkit to hundreds of drive-ins across America, which included posters, flyers, buttons, digital assets, email templates, PR help, and tips for igniting local communities to participate in the cause. Honda also broadcasted the first-ever live Twitter and Vine auction hosted by celebrity film critic Leonard Maltin. The brand successfully auctioned off eight items by having users tweet to #DriveInAuction.


Alicia Jones continues our conversation at thinkLA's Automotive Breakfast and speaks about the genesis of this passionate campaign.


The results, success, and metrics


In all, Honda was able to save 27 drive-ins and garner a huge list of success metrics for both the cause and the brand. Its website received over 3.6 million visits and activated more than $55,000 in contributions. The brand enjoyed 370,000 social shares and received 2.6 million votes from people determining where Honda's five donated digital projectors would end up. Not only that, but Honda received an astounding 183 million social media impressions and 682 million earned impressions throughout the campaign. The influencer activity from actors, athletes, and musicians was also tremendous, earning 35,230 mentions. The campaign received a 92 percent favorable campaign sentiment rate and a 3.55 percent engagement rate. Lastly, Honda was able to grow its fan and follower base by a mind-blowing 22 percent.



Image source here.


This campaign serves as a prime example of how brands can conduct innovative marketing campaigns and make a real difference for consumers at the same time. Honda was able to tap into the nostalgia and emotions of people all across the country with simple social media tactics, moderate investment, and a core message that resonated with the public. The campaign proves that marketing can go hand in hand with making a difference. For brand marketers, succeeding in this ultimately means high brand loyalty, metrics, favorability, and even a real lift in sales.



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Videos edited by associate media producer Brian Waters.


"Couple at Drive-In Theatre" image via Shutterstock.

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