Is hate so bad? What if it made us
mad enough to change something?
Isn’t that positive hate? This piece of
thinking not only inspired the
creative work for the Honda Diesel
campaign, the thinking was part of
the creativity of the creative work.
Hate doesn’t always
GOLD & GRAND PRIX
Wieden & Kennedy
Campaigns for established product brands (over £2m)
sponsor: Millward Brown
Planned by: Stuart Smith
Agency: Wieden & Kennedy
In America a couple of weeks ago, I saw this t-shirt:
(it helps if you read it in an American accent)
That t-shirt was of the opinion that hate isn’t a terribly
And it felt quite strongly about it.
It’s an opinion shared by the average man in the street,
like this man:
He’ll probably tell you that hate is bad.
He may even hate hate.
But wait a minute
Doesn’t even hate deserve a second chance?
This is a paper that speaks up for hate.
It’s a paper about finding hate’s good side,
and using that to create a very different campaign.
It’s a paper that suggests that hate is something we can love.
It’s a paper about the odd-sounding but simple idea of:
Let's rewind a little bit first
Honda love engines.
Big ones, little ones, car ones, bike ones - anything ones, really.
Even engines to make other engines.
But Honda had never made diesel engines.
Honda regarded them as clunkier and smellier than their petrol half-brothers.
Yet diesel engines now make up almost half of the European car market.
For Honda to be poo-pooing half of the whole market was becoming
So Honda made a shiny new diesel engine.
Here it is:
Our brief was to tell diesel-considerers that it existed.
And that it was good.
In fact, it was really good.
So good, in fact, that we started thinking that this was more
than just a nuts-and-bolts story. We saw this as a juicy
opportunity to make a big statement about the
It struck us that there could be a brand story in just how far
Honda’s diesel was from most people’s view of diesels.
We wanted to encourage explicit comparison between two very
• how most people saw diesels
• Honda’s new diesel
We created mood boards for the creative brief, designed to
maximise contrast between the two.
As you can probably guess, this one was trying to represent the
world of bad old boo-hiss diesels:
This one was trying to set the mood of the Honda diesel world:
Outlining (and then colouring-in) this contrast proved to be vital,
when you look at the final creative work.
But whilst this contrast created the tonal context for the message,
we still needed inspiration to get us to the message itself.
This is Kenichi Nagahiro:
He’s the hero of this story. Kenichi Naga-hero, if you will.
Kenichi is Honda’s chief engineer. We went to see him give a speech
in Offenbach, Germany (Honda’s European Research and Development
HQ). It turned out to be a trip worth miles more than just air miles.
Kenichi rose to his feet and launched into an impassioned rant about
diesel engines. Words like ‘dirty’ and ‘noisy’ were polluting the room.
But it was another word that pressed our ‘ooh-that’s-interesting’
That word was ‘hate’.
Kenichi said, “I hate diesels”.
Kenichi had laid down some ground rules. He’d only agreed to build a Honda diesel
engine on the condition that he could completely start from scratch.
So that’s what he did.
He even invented new manufacturing materials and processes.
In all, Honda applied for over 100 patents. The result was an engine that’s hugely powerful,
yet vibration free, extremely quiet and has very low emissions.
And it was made with aluminium.
It was a diesel engine like no other, all because Kenichi had hated the others.
We felt a tingle. Why not make our brief about hatred? The overall Honda communications
strategy is about simply getting the truths of Honda out there. It felt like we had found an
the diesel engine from the company that hated diesel engines
We had our contrasting worlds and we had our ‘hate’ thing.
But we weren’t totally happy with our starter thought of
the diesel engine from the company that hated diesel engines.
We felt we needed to ‘Honda it up a little’.
Honda campaigns try to provoke a bit of thought, where possible,
and a defining part of Honda is their optimistic thinking.
Accordingly, we try to paint all Honda communications with
So, in this case, we wanted to combine hate with optimism, and
the big idea became all about
Wrong is right
We liked the idea of a strategy about hate. We thought it would disarm.
Get us noticed.
Hate felt conspicuous.
At school, we’re often told off for using the word.
We liked the idea of bringing hate and positivity together even more. Like
potassium and water, or Den and Angie, we felt that mixing the two would create
a combustible reaction.
Above all, we liked the idea of positive hate, because it sounded wrong.
The logical support bit
But we still needed to close the strategic loop. You can’t just
shove hate and optimism together, willy nilly. You need a reason
why it’s OK to be optimistic about hate.
Why can hate be a good thing?
We fannied around for a while on this, to be honest, until the
penny dropped. Or until the Euro dropped, actually, as the
answer came from Berlin.
We realised that it was a bit like when the Berlin Wall came
down. Or when statues of Sadaam were toppled. We showed
the creatives footage of the glee on people’s faces as they
physically attacked these symbols of hatred. They were doing
something positive about their hate.
Let's get back to Honda
It’s fairly obvious now, when you look back on it, because
that’s exactly how Kenichi Nagahiro used his hatred for
diesels. Not in the sense that he’d advanced the cause of
world peace, of course, but in the sense that his hatred had
ultimately been positive;
He hated diesels so much, that it made him change them
for the better.
So we had our brief. Next stop - the creative work.
Song in the key of Grrr
Honda creative work had always strived to get more of
the brand voice out there, but do so very differently
This was no exception.
It started with the writing of a completely new song.
There are songs about love, why not songs about hate?
Or perhaps a love song about hate?
This song became the radio ad that launched the
Liberace's golf course
We also needed something visual, for all the other media we wanted to
use to create a big and integrated splash.
Just art directing the word ‘hate’, optimistically, seemed interesting.
We also thought about dirty black diesel oil drops. If you look at them in
the right light, you see a rainbow. So a world was created. A rainbow-
drenched world of positive hate, with the product right slap-bang in the
middle of it.
A world of sharp contrast; between the coughing and spluttering dirty
bully, and Honda’s polite and well-turned out new boy.
A world where symbols of positivity used their hatred for something bad,
to change it to something better.
The APG Awards aren't really about results,
The campaign generated some fantastic reaction, like 42% more visitors to honda.co.uk.
During the campaign, Honda went from having the 5th most visited car website, to
number 1. Over 20,000 punched-in their details with the interactive TV ad. 68,000
played the online game.
Tracking indices showed:
Spontaneous brand awareness +62%, brand liking +29% and preference +33%.
Campaign of The Year (Campaign), Commercial of The Year (BTAA), Platinum (Creative
Circle) and the Epica D’Or are just some of the awards the campaign’s won so far.
Then there was some less glitzy recognition. A drug rehabilitation clinic took the
message of this campaign to further the cause of their own.
Oh, and who won Top Gear’s Man of the Year? Kenichi Nagahiro.
The work that led to the work
This wasn’t a case where planning created the brief, laminated it, then handed it
over and waited for the magic beans to sprout something. Planning was actively
involved throughout; including the client presentation (not just by helping with
the backing whistling) to animation development.
But the focus of this paper is the thinking earlier in the process, which can be
clearly seen in the creative work that emerged at the end of it:
This is what the old diesel world looks like, and this is what the Honda diesel
world looks like.
Hmm, maybe we could use this “I hate diesels” thing somehow.
In fact, what if we take that hatred, and chuck positivity in there with it?
Look at these guys attacking the Berlin Wall with pick-axes;
that’s what ‘positive hate’ is.
Maybe hate doesn't always
Maybe that t-shirt could have said this:
Honda have realised the growing importance of diesels in the European market, so they’ve finally built one., Being Honda, they
decided it would have to be the best in the world. So, they got the master engine builder, Kenichi Nagahiro (the creator of the
VTEC engine) to build it.
Nagahiro always hated diesels. He felt them to be smelly, slow, dirty and noisy. He decided to start with a totally blank sheet of
paper and design a diesel engine that was none of these things. He invented manufacturing materials and processes like Semi-
Solid casting for the aluminium engine block, intelligent combustion control and pendulum cradles. In all, Honda applied for over
100 patents for the creation of this engine. The result is a 2.2i engine that is almost vibration free and very quiet. It’s also very
powerful, delivering a long range of torque over 2000 rpm and a 0-100kph of 9.3 seconds, with very low emissions. It already
conforms to strict 2004 legislation. It is just like a petrol engine, in fact.
It seems that Nagahiro’s dream for the best diesel engine in the world has come true. The journalists in the trade press are in love
with this new diesel from Honda, and praise it for the revolutionary engine it is.
People considering a diesel. The corporate audience is particularly important; diesels do well as company cars.
However, this campaign is aimed at everyone who has ever been sceptical about diesel engines (see mood board) and, moreover,
everyone who doesn’t know just how revolutionary Honda is in its engine production.
To generate interest in Honda’s new diesel engine, whilst further building the brand.
To dramatise the fact that this is a diesel engine from the company that hated diesel engines. Honda used this hatred positively.
Kenichi Nagahiro hated diesels so much that he only agreed to make one if he could start from scratch.
It’s like when you see people bringing down symbols of hatred, like The Berlin Wall or Saddam statues.
Like Kenichi, they used their hatred positively; to change things.