Honda’s Jessica Fini shares how she and her team executed their multi-channel “Safety for Everyone” video series that spotlighted real Honda users

We started to think about making this supplementary set of videos where real people who have experienced collisions in their Hondas tell their stories. Jessica Fini
According to American Honda's Head of Social Media, Jessica Fini, Honda has been focusing on “Safety for Everyone” as an initiative for the past 10 years. But, these past few months, Jessica and her team decided to punctuate that theme with a social media campaign.

That campaign (which is still in progress) began with a national television commercial that aired this past September and was shared on Honda's YouTube and modified for social media channels. To go along with that September spot that drove home their theme, “safety affects everyone,” she and her team wanted to develop a complementary campaign specifically designed for their social channels.

The campaign started to take shape when they noticed people writing to Honda on social about how their vehicles saved their lives when they got in a collision.

“In those posts, they talk about their family members and how the collision affected many people in their lives,” said Jessica. “So, we started to think about making this supplementary set of videos, where real people who have experienced collisions in their Hondas tell their stories.”

We wanted to choose people who were in newer models to showcase those products. Jessica Fini
She said the stories they were receiving brought an emotional dimension, which they wanted to capture.

“On social in particular, it can be difficult because you have to capture that emotion in 30, 15, eight, or six seconds,” said Jessica. “We wanted to accomplish that by getting key soundbites and that emotional look and feel from the participants.”

But, Jessica said, when finding the right people to tell those stories, there were a lot of factors to consider.

“We wanted to choose people who were in newer models to showcase those products,” she said. “And, when dealing with people in collisions, there are regulatory considerations because, while the cars are meant to withstand accidents, sometimes luck is also a factor. You have to find that fine line of what the vehicle could actually do.”

She said accidents also involve legal and insurance considerations. “We had to find people who are free of legal issues and were also free and available to participate for a day of filming out in Los Angeles,” said Jessica.

Jessica said it was also important for them to center the videos around Honda's holistic idea of “safety for everyone.”

“That was the theme of our national spot in September because we wanted to show that an accident doesn't just impact the driver and the passengers, but also the loved ones,” she said. “We wanted to carry that theme through these videos by featuring not only the driver, but also their loved ones impacted by the collision.”

They also added a visual component of dominoes falling to showcase how one thing impacts many people — in a social media-friendly way.

They ended up with three stories, which they began rolling out in late October.

Jessica said they worked with their creative agency RPA and production company, Unit 9, to start putting everything together.

We wanted to carry that theme through these videos by featuring not only the driver, but also their loved ones impacted by the collision. Jessica Fini
“They came up with a compelling treatment to integrate the stories and the dominoes together,” she said. “Then, Unit9 and RPA arranged for the three different individuals to come out to L.A. for a day of filming in September.”

After filming with the individuals was done, their agency worked with domino specialists in London for a four-day shoot for the domino segment.

Jessica said everything was finalized the week before the first video went out. “It was a pretty short timeline between filming and finishing,” she said. “Our ‘real people stories' came together two days before filming started. There were a lot of steps to go through to vet using real people, which takes longer than hiring actors.”

According to Jessica, finding the Honda users for the series was a collaborative effort.

“We worked with our customer service team who log every social post tagging ‘Honda' through a case,” she said. “We gave them some parameters and they sent us some potential candidates who had reached out to us about their experiences.”

We worked with our customer service team who log every social post tagging 'Honda' through a case. Jessica Fini
From there, Jessica and her team contacted them through direct messages on social media or email.

“Our first one, Nicole, had reached out to us a couple of months ago because she was in a bad collision and wanted to thank Honda for making such a safe vehicle,” she said. “Our PR team reached out to her and asked her to participate in a media interview for Car and Driver because her story was so compelling. We were able to reach back out to her and she, her fiancé, and brother were also available to come out for this series.”

Their next user, Kyle, wrote to them on Facebook at the end of the year thanking them for making safe vehicles after he was in a bad collision in his Honda Civic — so, Jessica and her team connected with him via Facebook message. And their third story, Franklin, came to them by way of their production company.

For the rollout of the series, Jessica and her team are combining paid and organic efforts across their social channels.

The videos themselves will go on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn, with the longer form domino video also posted on IGTV and YouTube. Additionally on LinkedIn, a thought leadership piece authored by the Head of Product Planning at American Honda helped tell the safety story to a more business-minded, technology focused audience.

The experiences we're showcasing aren't unique. Other people have gone through it, which makes it even more engaging. Jessica Fini
She said they are also rolling out paid ads on Facebook and Instagram until the end of November. “We first rolled out the September commercial on our channels to set the tone of the campaign,” said Jessica. “Then, we followed that up with a more emotional storytelling piece from our Chief Safety Engineer to lay the groundwork on Honda's philosophy around safety.”

To build some organic excitement, they're launching Kyle, their second story, around the L.A. Auto Show on November 20th, because he'll be there to meet the safety engineer who built the Civic safety systems.

“After we launch Kyle, we're going to pause on safety from a paid perspective as we go into our Happy Honda Days sales event,” she said. “Then we'll relaunch our safety series with our third story, Franklin, with some highlights from Kyle and Nicole in the first two months of 2020.”

Jessica said they've already started seeing results come in from the campaign – exceeding view rates and engagement benchmarks.

“Starting with the spot in September, we've already seen a 20-fold uptick in people engaging with us on social telling their own stories of being in a collision,” she said. “It makes me think this topic and this way of storytelling is really resonating with our audience. The experiences we're showcasing aren't unique. Other people have gone through it, which makes it even more engaging.”

She said the campaign has given them insights into utilizing real people and real stories from social — and all the benefits from that.

We've gotten great emotional storytelling from our fan base, which is amazing. Jessica Fini
“We've gotten great emotional storytelling from our fan base, which is amazing,” she said. “But, there are hurdles you have to go through in terms of the vetting and trying to contact them. We are interested in pursuing this further, if it continues to get a good reception. We think this campaign has legs, and it feels very authentic to Honda and our social behavior.”

For these kinds of campaigns, Jessica emphasized the importance of acknowledging the power of what your audience is telling you.

“Our audience was communicating to us about their safety stories and thanking us for making safe vehicles,” she said. “We took that insight and translated it into people telling their powerful safety stories. Now, we've seen the community responding back with their own stories again, proving that this loop can be really powerful.”

Jessica Fini has been a member of SocialMedia.org since 2017. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter.