Bob Garfield

How Honda helped save the American drive-in

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Can your brand effect national change? Here's an amazing case study about how one automotive manufacturer helped rescue an American institution.

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.