Acura boss: ‘I’m getting schooled’ in marketing

Rapper Ludacris poses with his 1993 Acura Legend. The automaker repaired it for him after it was in a wreck. The move was a hit on social media. A modified ILX is also pictured.

DETROIT — Acura General Manager Jon Ikeda is on a learning curve.

He’s a designer by trade, but the new duties he assumed last year have nudged him into the marketing realm as Acura tries to reintroduce consumers to the brand’s performance identity and spotlight the engineering heritage that birthed the original NSX in 1990. These worlds all came together in the flashy Precision Concept that Acura showed last month at the Detroit auto show.

For the new NSX, Acura is reviving the “Precision Crafted Performance” tag line that accompanied the brand’s launch in the 1980s as Honda‘s luxury arm. Ikeda says that setting the brand’s direction by selecting the right imagery and voiceovers for its ad campaigns is one of the “fun” parts of his job.

Ikeda spoke with Staff Reporter Vince Bond Jr. during the Detroit auto show about Acura’s marketing direction as it preps to run its first Super Bowl ad in four years.

Q: Why is Acura returning to the Super Bowl?

A: It is the big house. It’s critical. We want everybody to hear our message. It’s a great venue to just hit a lot of people with who we are and what we’re trying to do. Having said that, [it’s about] Precision Crafted Performance.

The Super Bowl ad will get people excited about what Acura is trying to do, where we’re trying to go. It’s a football game, so we want the excitement to be there. We want that same level of excitement when they see the commercial and can associate that with the brand.

Why was the NSX chosen for this spot?

We wanted a campaign to push Precision Crafted Performance. It’s an interesting line because back in ’89 when I joined the company, this brand is one of the main reasons I joined. I’m a designer by trade, believe it or not, and so I’ve worked in design for 26 years before I came over to the sales side about 100 days ago.

The Precision Crafted Performance aspect of the brand back then, the performance side of it, was so strong. When we decided to re-establish that a bit stronger a couple years [ago] and made that dedication to do so, we used the NSX as a benchmark to express what Precision Crafted Performance means to us again. We’ve got a car that represents that. We want to show the world. That’s exactly why we picked the NSX.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=videoseries

How do you feel about how “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” has developed?

It’s a program that’s been going since before my time. I’m still trying to get my head around it a little bit. It’s incredible. President Obama joining a program that we’re sponsoring. We’re going to continue to find unique venues to attach our name with. Anything that’s innovative or different or something that is in line with our character that we’re trying to portray.

A good example is Sundance [Film Festival]. Sundance is something that we’ve been working with for a while now. It’s fantastic. I love it because of the creativity that drives it with the filmmaking and all. … Will we do this one thing forever? I don’t know, but we’re always looking for something interesting to touch, because you never know what you will find.

How did you feel when you heard Obama would be on the show?

That’s incredible. It’s interesting how the president of the United States would all of a sudden jump in and do things like that, which we think is so far away from what you usually think would happen. So [I’m] surprised, if anything. But then at the same time, I think it’s great for him. It makes him more real.

Right now, I’m just learning the whole marketing game. Ads and sponsorships and trying to grasp the numbers that are flying and how we measure things. I’m getting schooled in a steep way.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/video/c/embed/038075f6-afe2-11e5-b281-43c0b56f61fa

What are some recent campaigns that have been successful for Acura?

The last 90 days, it’s been more about setting up for the campaigns for 2016 than what’s been happening in 2015. … Now that we have a set direction and vision where we want to go, we want to get the right imagery, the right voiceover for our commercials, gel everything so that it’s very cohesive. It’s one of the fun things I get to do right now. Everything else is a lot of schooling. …

From a social aspect, one of the most fun [campaigns] we had was [the Specialty Equipment Market Association show]. We had Ludacris. He’s a big fan of our brand. … He would sit in his car — it was a ’93 Legend — and would come up with all of these ideas for his music. It got in an accident and was totaled, but he couldn’t throw the car away because he loved this car. So we heard about the plight. We decided, you know, we know how to fix that. We should help out with fixing that.

We got together and rebuilt his ’93 Legend for him. We showed up and put cooler rims on it. It was one of the most fun projects. It got a lot of buzz.

Obviously, digital and social, it’s all different now from when I was growing up. There are so many outlets and different ways to market now. It’s a very exciting feeling. We were also able to dress up and get our ILX out there.

We did a highly modified ILX like from The Fast and the Furious that Galpin [Auto Sports] did for us. We donated that to [the Ludacris] Foundation, so somebody is happy driving that car.

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