There are times when the hype surrounding a story overtakes the story itself. In regards to the Honda Accord Crosstour, this is one of those times. First, here is the actual story: Later this year, Honda is going to start selling the Accord Crosstour. As the name sort of implies, it is a crossover riding atop Accord sedan mechanicals. Interesting that Honda is taking their beloved Accord name in a new direction, perhaps, but that’s about it, right?
Wrong. In an effort to create public interest in the Crosstour, Honda set up a page on one of the most popular social networking sites there is: Facebook. Honda advertised the site, and allowed people interested in learning more to become a “fan” and receive updates. Everything was fine-until Honda released the above picture. The reaction came quick, and the consensus was, to put it nicely, that the Accord Crosstour was one ugly looking car. The response to the Crosstour was bad, but the story took another turn in this ongoing PR nightmare. Autoblog broke the story about a Facebook member who posted a positive response to the Crosstour, but the comment was from Honda employee Eddie Okubo-Manager of Product Planning. Within minutes of Eddie’s post, people following the Crosstour knew exactly who he was, and called him out. Honda deleted Eddie’s comments citing that they did so because he did not identify himself as an employee of Honda, and is not a spokesperson for the company.
With Honda now in damage-control mode, the picture above was posted on the Crosstour Facebook page to counter the negativity. Honda likened the first shots to a “bad yearbook photo” so it’s no surprise to see the Crosstour in a bolder color in a natural setting. Checking the comments tonight, there are some positive ones, but most seem negative.
Autoblog speculated, and I fully agree-that what just happened here is something that will be discussed in college marketing classes for years to come. Honda put themselves out there in the open, perhaps not knowing what response the Crosstour would generate, but I doubt comparisons to the Pontiac Aztek was among them. Honda defends the Crosstour by stating they know it is not for everyone, but “tests well for people shopping for a crossover.”
The situation of a company employee, personally commenting on a vehicle his company is about to sell is a whole other matter. Say Eddie Okubo walked into a bar, and started talking to everyone about a new crossover Honda was about to sell. Would that have been a big deal? No. In that setting, would it have mattered that he never said he worked for Honda? Not really. So how was this different? For one, this was a forum maintained by his employer. They control the message. When Eddie posted-in defense of his product-Honda lost control of their message. Worse, people immediately recognized his name and position with Honda, and therefore his motivation. Honda had no choice but to delete his comments. I feel bad-I am willing to bet this guy lies awake at night, cursing himself for posting.
In the current world of Facebook and blogs, this is reality, and these are the risks a manufacturer takes when they dive into the pool. That is now the story of the Accord Crosstour. In the coming months before the public release, you better believe Honda will do all they can to reverse the damage. Only time will tell how this story will unfold, but we will keep you posted.