In May 2014, Honda Canada Inc. was planning to relaunch the Honda Fit—its entry-level car. The purpose of the relaunch was to kick-start growth in sales of the Honda Fit, which had fallen from 14,836 units in the launch year of 2008 to 9,512 units in 2013. A lot had changed since Honda launched the Fit in its home market of Japan in 2001, where it was an instant hit in the subcompact category.
Navigating the 2008 Canadian launch was Kate Lucek, manager of Customer Conquest Management. Lucek needed to be successful without cannibalizing sales of the Civic, and key to this success was attracting the young adults who comprised the tail-end of Generation X. The 2014 relaunch at Honda Canada looked to be an even more difficult task, since Lucek would now need to target the millennials. Central to the case is Lucek's decision on how Honda Canada should connect with the elusive segment, and what communication medium could do so effectively.
But connecting with millennials means attracting customers who are anything but ideal. In the same way that Generation X was liberated by the car, the millennials were liberated by the smartphone. For the car to continue being an extension of the self, it has to integrate with technology, even in a value-oriented category such as subcompacts.
Millennials are also on their way to becoming the largest buyer segment moving into prime working and spending years, but they are faced with significant debt and high rates of unemployment, which often delays traditional life cycle events such as buying a car. Case author June Cotte, a professor of marketing at Ivey Business School, explained why winning over millennials was key for Honda despite these challenges:
"If you can build brand loyalty (which may be more difficult in this segment) then you are starting early in their consumption life cycle. Honda and other large brands know that connecting early can often mean lifetime customers, or at the very least repeat customers."
Professor Cotte has written a number of cases recently that feature female protagonists, including Burberry's New Challenges (Ivey Publishing product # 9B17A014), Marketing Twitter: Competing as a Social Media Platform (9B17A005), and SickKids Hospital and Dairy Queen: Miracles from Treats? (9B13A002). We asked Cotte about the importance of showing students that women from a variety of backgrounds manage some of the biggest brands on earth, and what more educators can do to address the gender gap:
"Female students often comment on the novelty of seeing women featured in cases, which is unfortunate. In addition, I am often surprised by students commenting that they haven’t had a female professor before. This obviously needs to change, and role models at the front of the class, and in cases, are a good way to start."
To review or purchase the case for your marketing course, view the abstract at the link below:
Honda Canada: Relaunching Honda Fit (9B17A060)
Honda Canada: Relaunching Honda Fit - Teaching Note