Honda Insight vs. Toyota Prius on Madison Avenue
In my last post, I looked at a commercial for a recent entry in the hybrid space: the Honda Insight. One of the commentors to the post liked the ad because it downplayed the fact that it was a hybrid.
Honda is apparent selling the Insight as a vehicle for the masses, even using the phrase in "Beach," another .30 commercial for the Insight: "The hybrid for everyone is here. The Insight. Designed and priced for us all."
In stark contrast is the commercial for the 3rd Generation Toyota Prius Hybrid that I've been seeing so much on the NBA Finals. Rather than muting its hybrid-ness, the commercial "Harmony" celebrates it. See for yourself:
As you can see Toyota is taking exactly the opposite approach of Honda to sell their newest hybrid. In "Harmony," the announcer intones: "You get more power and more space. The world gets fewer smog-forming emissions. The third generation Prius. It's harmony between man, nature and machine." (Jalopnik called it creepy and mesmerizing).
Many stories (Autopia, Jalopnik, Forbes, thedailygreen, New York Times, etc.) have been written already about the Prius vs. the Insight. But whether you the think the Insight is Biblically terrible or a Prius killer is irrelevant to this post. What I think is particularly interesting is that the two companies are selling a car with similar green technologies using very different messages.
Toyota, the incumbent in the hybrid space is going with green as a niche theme targeting those who already care about the environment and are willing to pay more for a car that uses less gasoline and is better for the environment (even if they couldn't bring themselves to say "greenhouse gas emissions" in their ad, opting for "smog-forming emissions instead. Could it be because climate change polls last in a list of important issues with the public?)
Honda is opting for the approach of selling a hybrid as, what Green Marketing Manifesto author John Grant calls, a secondary benefit. It's how we make green the "new normal" so it can be made attractive for the masses.
The differences are even evident in the PR for the two hybrids, with the Insight garnering stories about its mpg or the affordable cost while the Prius is touting new energy-saving ad-ons like a solar-powered sunroof and LED headlights.
So, which approach will sell more hybrids? A recent Associated Press story said that the Honda Insight was the top-selling automobile in Japan in April - a first for a hybrid (is their messaging strategy working?). As for the Prius, a week ago they'd received 80,000 advance orders. With both of these vehicles hitting the market at fairly similar times with opposing marketing strategies, it's like we were gifted a controlled experiment in green marketing. What's your bet to sell more: niche green or mass appeal?