How Acura uses pop culture to reach younger, diverse U.S. consumers

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ATLANTA — Acura, striving to return to 200,000 annual U.S. sales, is counting on a new crop of younger and racially and culturally diverse customers to help it meet that goal.

To reach those potential buyers, Honda’s premium brand has turned to pop culture platforms such as music and anime. The strategy coincides with the recent revival of its compact sporty Integra, which starts at $31,895, including shipping. An extra $5,000 gets buyers the A-Spec w/Technology trim and a six-speed manual transmission. The entry-level Integra replaces the ILX.

“We’re trying to attract that next-generation premium buyer, and that means those millennials, Gen Z. And when you think about that group, we know that that population today is majority multicultural and very diverse,” said Meliza Humphrey, senior manager of Acura marketing, during a presentation to members of the media here. “So everything we do is to target that audience. Not only that, who they are, where they are and what they’re into.

“The thing we want to get into now,” she continued, “is pop culture — and really getting to where our target audience is.”

The campaign’s first effort was the brand’s first ever anime series.

In January, Acura launched “Type S: Chiaki’s Journey,” a four-part YouTube series of one-minute episodes featuring a heroine and Type S versions of the MDX crossover, TLX sedan and NSX exotic car. The background music is performed by the all-female Japanese metal band Nemophila, and each video has a Spanish-language version. Combined, the four clips amassed more than 24 million views by the end of June.

The last time the brand surpassed its current goal of 200,000 U.S sales was 2006. Amid the dual COVID-19 and microchip crises, Acura recorded 157,408 sales in 2021.

The current age of the average Acura buyer is 48, and the Integra — which coincidentally was last in the market in 2006 — is one of the keys to achieving that sales target.

“As the gateway to our performance brand, Integra is targeting a next-gen Acura buyer who is heavily millennial (26-41),” Humphrey told Automotive News. “The next-gen Acura customer is ambitious, confident, genuine and fun-loving. They know what they want and surround themselves with like-minded and self-assured high-achievers.”

“We also want these young and diverse customers to see Acura as a fun brand by tapping into music and entertainment programming, including hip-hop, anime and innovative creative that appeals to a broad range of interests,” she said.

Among the entertainers teaming with Acura is 36-year-old New Orleans jazz musician and singer Trombone Shorty, who played here with his band in Atlanta’s affluent Buckhead neighborhood late last month and is currently touring the country.

“In 2016, Acura became the official automotive partner of the Trombone Shorty Foundation as well as the presenting sponsor of Shorty Fest, the foundation’s largest fund-raising event,” Humphrey said. “Through Acura’s partnership with the Shorty Foundation, we continue to support traditional jazz music education, instruction, mentorship and performance in New Orleans.”

Acura’s other entertainment-themed diversity marketing efforts include:

  • A campaign featuring California hip-hop artist Vince Staples, 29, and the Integra. “Staples had a role in the creative development of the new campaign, and tracks from his latest album are featured in the new spots,” Humphrey said.
  • Partnering with Tao Group Hospitality and the Story Nightclub in Miami Beach, Fla., on a four-day music event for the Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix weekend in May. DJ Khalid, DJ Snake, Martin Garrix and Gunna were featured artists.
  • Teaming with Genius, a platform for song lyrics and music knowledge, and showcasing emerging artists with showcases in Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta and Miami.
  • Sponsoring the annual Sundance Film Festival in Utah since 2010. “Through our sponsorship we are able to elevate up-and-coming multicultural directors and talent,” Humphrey said.

Humphrey, a Pontiac, Mich., native who is of Puerto Rican descent, has been with American Honda for 18 years — the last seven to eight of them in marketing. She said her personal experience and career background are hugely instrumental in informing her role today.

“Growing up in a diverse city like Pontiac with a large, extended family spending every holiday and celebration together, played a huge role in my understanding of the importance of culture and family,” she said. “Puerto Rican culture, music, food, were part of everything our family did growing up, and being able to share those experiences with friends and learn about other cultures and traditions while living in Pontiac greatly shaped my understanding of diverse cultures.

“My first opportunity to be in advertising with a background of market research, was actually in Honda’s multicultural marketing department,” she said. “That was where I had the opportunity to work in multicultural marketing. And I felt like for me personally, it’s coming full circle with my career, or just my personal life.”

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