Honda’s New ‘Crave’ Campaign Missing Search?

Honda has redesigned its bestselling CRV sport utility vehicle. There’s a snazzy flash-based site featuring the new car and a user-generated/social media component there too. People can post their “craves.”

But this otherwise sophisticated campaign, which includes outdoor and other traditional media, is apparently missing search.

One of the things you’d have thought that marketers learned over the past 12-24 months is the centrality of search in the consumer product research experience. Here’s Chris Sherman’s Search Day piece on comScore research that shows the importance of search in the car-buying process.

What typically happens with consumers is that they are made aware of something via word of mouth or traditional offline media and then they go to a search engine to find out more information or otherwise conduct research.

That’s exactly what I did. I was having lunch at Yahoo! yesterday and driving back to my office saw a billboard that featured the new Honda and simply the word “Crave.”

What did I do when I got back? I went to a search engine and plugged in the word “Crave.” (I didn’t know that Honda was the maker of the car so I didn’t go straight to the Honda site.) Here are the results of that search on Google, Yahoo, Windows Live: nothing, nothing and nothing.

How foolish is that?

Now, let’s talk about price. The term “SUV” (according to Yahoo) is worth $5.03 per click. Both Ford and Honda are bidding that same amount. Given that they’re competing at that price they’re probably paying it too. By contrast, the top bid for the term “Crave” is $.20.

One of the things that traditional media can do is create demand (or more precisely search inventory) for terms that are unique or cheaper to buy.

I should have been able to plug in “Crave” and see a paid add for the new Honda CRV and been taken to their cool new interactive site. But because Honda’s agency doesn’t fully understand consumer behavior it’s missing an important campaign component and an opportunity to build awareness of the new redesign very cheaply.

Bad agency. Time to put the account up for review?

Postscript: I was informed by AdWeek that RPA is Honda’s general interactive agency. These guys are very smart and won Yahoo’s first “Searchlight Award” based on their integration of search into an overall campaign. I was a panelist at that event and was very impressed with their work.

If the information is correct and RPA is handling the new “Crave” campaign online, my question remains: why aren’t they buying a word so central to the campaign?

Postscript 2 – Mike Margolin responds in detail to this post below:

Wow, Greg, ouch. Initially, I’m a bit disappointed that the SEW Blog apparently doesn’t allow comments to posts. I’ve long held the belief the blogging is meant to be a two-way medium and that it’s important to give readers a voice. The only thing that I can imagine is that, in an effort to control the sheer amount of opinions that might be generated on any given topic, SEW decided to disable this function.

So about the campaign. You are correct that we (at this early stage) made the oversight and forgot to include the keyword, “crave”. Frankly, I’m a little surprised that we did, considering the amount of keyword brainstorming that was done to support the central theme of the campaign (more on that below). I even recall a specific conversation that we had with one of the search networks where we talked about copy strategy for the keyword. I’ll liken the omission to turning over every book and pillow in your house looking for your sunglasses, but realizing that, d’oh, they were in your jacket pocket all along. Thanks to your suggestion, we’ll add the keyword to the campaign today. But I won’t lose too much sleep over the missed opportunity as here’s what we’ve actually done with this campaign so far:

Earlier in the year, shortly after the “CRaVe” creative concept was approved, we went to work on the on the website and marketing strategy. Right off the bat, we felt that search marketing (both search and content-targeting) could play a big role in driving visits from the right psychographic profile to an experiential site leveraging user-generated content. In fact, our search marketing team actually had a big voice in web site strategy meetings, explaining how the site would need to function in order to make the best use of cost-effective search traffic. And when all was said and done, we developed a strategy that targeted thousands of non-automotive keywords which could easily be turned into craves. For example, one of the initial site users uploaded “celebrity gossip” as something that she craves. Well, now when someone searches “celebrity” gossip on Yahoo!, they now see this ad:

Crave Celebrity Gossip?
Tell us what else you crave and see what others are craving.

And when someone searches for yakitori (which, BTW, is one of the things that I crave as well), we show this ad:

Do You Crave Yakitori?
Where can you find the best? Tell us or see where others go.

All told, there are thousands of crave-related keywords in the campaign, ranging from “ice cream” and “barbecue ribs” to “Labradors” and “surfing”. And while the search portion of Yahoo! Search Marketing’s campaign has been very important, Google’s content targeting has been even more valuable. The result: a combination of these crave-related keywords and SUV category keywords have already generated nearly œ of a million visits to the site (it should be noted that that the total number of searches on the keyword “crave” across the Yahoo! network during the prior month was a whopping 9,750 – that’s roughly the same amount of people searching for “banana split”). And because of the breadth of words which can be spun into the “crave” concept and how valuable those keywords have been to this initiative, the average CPC of our campaign has ended up being a very, very small fraction of the $5.00 CPC that you pointed out in your blog post. That’s the problem with scrutinizing search marketing initiatives from the outside; not every campaign strategy will be immediately apparent, mainly because of the purchasing/placement models with Google and Yahoo! across both search and content properties. It’s just not always as simple as searching on a couple keywords and determining whether the campaign was a rousing success or a miserable failure.

And frankly, while I hope I’m wrong, I just don’t see a ton of people outside of the search marketing world seeing a CRaVe-themed billboard for the new Honda CR-V and then typing “crave” into their search engine to look for more on the theme or the vehicle. Google Trends shows virtually no lift in search volume for that keyword since the campaign began, which suggests that the 9,750 number above isn’t likely to change much. The lift on “2007 Honda CRV” is much more interesting. If people are intrigued enough to carry their interest from an outdoor ad or TV spot over to a search engine, they’ll more likely search for “Honda CRV” or even ”Honda Crave” (and we have highly visible SE presence for both).

Was it an oversight to not get covered off on this keyword? Yep. And I’m a bit chafed at myself for missing such an obvious word. But was it a missed opportunity to the extent that we’re “stupid”, a “Bad agency” and worthy of Honda putting the account “up for review”? I just don’t think so. We might’ve missed out on a couple thousand clicks to the site. But not for much longer.

Postscript From Danny: Comments are very welcomed. We have a How To Comment link in our left-hand navigation that explains that discusison happens in our Search Engine Watch Forums, so we aren’t having discussions run in two different places. I’ll look to make that link perhaps more prominent under posts themselves, in the future.

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