Can a Man Be Cool Driving a Minivan?

An intriguing commercial for a 2011 Honda Odyssey recently caught my attention.  I thought to myself,  “Could  I actually be considering a minivan for a future purchase.” This thought was coming from a guy who has only driven trucks and a mustang convertible over the past 20 years.

The creative commercial jarred my preexisting perception of the minivan as a boring utility vehicle for “Soccer Moms.”  From a branding and marketing perspective the commercial was done well, capturing my attention from the start with exploding pyrotechnics and the flash and roar of a panther for no particular reason.  The ad’s imagery and soundtrack, a heavy-metal Judas Priest song, “Hellion,” were more reminiscent of rock concerts I attended in the 80’s (band names to be withheld) than a minivan ad.

A Minivan for Guys

The commercial entitled “Rock Van,” was created by the advertising firm RPA.  The commercial was part of its campaign, “Vantasies,” and clearly focused on targeting men, like me, from Generations X and Y.

As a former Mustang owner and Jeep driver, I never thought I would ever even consider driving a minivan, but this commercial made the minivan seem “cool” (the van in the commercial being black, of course, with all the tech gizmos).  The commercial smartly focused on the Odyssey’s technology package offerings: premium speakers (for the best of the 80’s heavy metal) dual-screen DVD players, GPS navigation and the ever- important remote control that gives a man the power to open and close the rear hatch and sliding doors with the press of a button.  The ad was successful and blatant in its appeal to a man’s obsession with technology, gadgets and gizmos.

Marketing professionals are often faced with the concept of branding or rebranding a product, person or service.  Can this be accomplished?  We have seen many examples of failure; remember Coca Cola’s change to its traditional recipe or the GAP’s recent attempt to launch a new logo?  In the case the minivan, the market for the product has changed. Generations X and Y are growing up, and are in search of more sensible, family-friendly vehicle options that meet domestic needs as well as “guy” needs.    

For years I said to my wife, “You will never get me in a minivan.”  However, over the holidays, I was forced to rent a minivan to help me cart around our 14-month old twins, my wife, my mother-in-law and our mountain of accessories and holiday gifts.   There were no waling, screaming heavy-metal vocals or guitar solos, but the experience was more pleasant than I thought it would be.  I guess I am susceptible to branding messages too, and although I don’t think the minivan is in my near future, the possibility is not out of the question.  Honda’s commercial is a rockin’ example of how creative branding and advertising can change perceptions and drive sales to a new target audience.

Honda Odyssey “Rock Van” as link:

RPA “Vantasies” press release

Let me know if you would drive this minivan?


3 Responses

  1. That commercial also got my attention. However, from the pyrotechnics, through the soundtrack, to the panther, the whole thing played as a farce to me.

    It was as if the agency assigned to churn out creative to sell minivans to men decided – that’s impossible, so let’s take it WAY over the top … just for fun!

    What minivan makers really need is for a minivan – make and model are irrelevant to the broader cause – to play a key role in a video game, television show or film.

    They’re fighting a HUGE battle, where the Odyssey spot can only pick off individuals.

    Worth noting: regardless of our different reads, we’re both talking about the spot, which I regard as one form of win for minivans, Honda and the Odyssey.


  2. Bill:
    Your post brought to mind John Travolta in “Get Shorty” when he gets stuck with a minivan at a car rental in LA and he’s so cool that pretty soon everyone in Hollywood is driving one. This link takes you to more on that story and the point you raised on minivans and men


  3. When I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband and I came to terms with the fact that we need another car and I suggested a minivan but he didn’t want any part of it. Still don’t have a minivan but I know the day will come…maybe I will send the video link to my husband.


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