The funny 2012 Super-Bowl commercial from Honda, called “Matthew’s Day Off” is one of the best I’ve seen so far. I’ll break it down here, so you can see how it hits on so many persuasion tactics.
First, watch the commercial:
Why Does This Commercial Work?
This commercial is going to sell a lot of cars for Honda. That is the ultimate reason I like it, and why you should study it.
First of all, Honda has done its research, and started with the number one question: “Who is the customer for this product?”
I would say, demographically, they are targeting middle-age customers, probably from 35 years old to about 55.
These people will instantly relate to the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” because it was a popular movie when these people where in their teen-to-twentysomething years. This is a super-charged time period in everyone’s lives, as the memories are more vivid than in any other time period of their lives. I don’t know why the brain makes so many strong neuron connections during that period, but it does.
Anything that happened to the customers during this time period will be easily recalled, and Honda is smart to make the connection.
We buy stuff we have a connection to.
In other words, if we feel familiar with something, we are more likely to purchase that product. This is why brands are so powerful. We have connection and a relationship with the brand. It is a short-cut in our brain that by buying that item in the future, we won’t be surprised by things we don’t like.
What Honda is doing in this commercial is tying our familiarity with the Ferris Bueller with the new car they are trying to sell. This is brilliant!
Hypnotic Story Telling
The theme of the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” is that a high-school student that ditches school for a day, and explores life. This funny 2012 super-bowl commercial picks up on the story line, even though it is close to 30 years later.
This is a great example of the Hypnotic sales technique of “telling a story.” Stories draw us in, and make us part of the adventure. We probably wondered what had happened to Ferris after all these years, and now we get to find out. Continuing the story line keeps us engaged – we’ll watch the FULL commercial to the end, which is great for an advertiser that wants to get it’s message across.
Again, using this hypnotic technique of telling a story is a great persuasion technique, and I applaud Honda for using this technique.
Sell The Emotion
The next thing this commercial does well is to sell an emotion.
Selling an emotion is an absolute “must” in running any advertisement, as emotions carry-over, even after the image of the product have faded from view. This was proven a few years ago in a study by Bryan Gibson (Central Michigan University). He attached a positive or a negative emotion to a product (in this case, it was a can of pop) and then distracted the participant. Afterwards, the participants in the study were offered a beverage of their choice. Of course, they choose the beverage that had the positive emotion attached to it.
I also talk about this in my 99-cent Kindle book: Emotional Copywriting Revealed. You must choose the emotion you want to attach to your product, because it is the real reason that people will remember to buy your product when they finally get to the store.
What emotions are being evoked here in this commercial?
Surprise – There are several scenes in the commercial where you are surprised, like when the boss pulls up along-side him in traffic, and he quickly puts the stuffed animal in the driver’s seat next to him. Surprise worked!
Enjoyment – This is the major theme of the commercial. How much enjoyment you’ll get by driving your new Honda to various activities. It isn’t so much the enjoyment of the vehicle, but what the vehicle gets you to enjoy. In other words, the car becomes the “path” or the “tool” to build your own enjoyment.
I like this, and I think it is very clever. The car doesn’t bring you joy – the use of the car does. We all know that cars get old. They get dinged up and scratched. But what the commercial is saying is that the usefulness of the car is more important than the shininess of the metal or the chrome it’s made from. In other words, it doesn’t insult the intelligence of the customer. They are buying something that is a tool for building their own dreams.
Fear and Shame – There is a little bit of fear-and-shame involved in this commercial too. You see the fear when Matthew pulls up alongside his boss. You know he’s experiencing shame, because he is doing something that he shouldn’t be doing. He told his boss a lie (about being sick), and now he is a little remorseful about it.
The treatment of these negative emotions is very well done and makes a great case-study on how to do it for other advertisers. These emotions must be snuffed out quickly – or it will destroy the ability to create sales of the car.
How are they snuffed out? First of all, he has banked a little bit of leniency in the hearts of the viewers. This occurred at the beginning of the commercial when his boss calls him a “Diva” just after he hangs up the phone; in reference to Matthew’s desire for a day off.
But skipping a day of work is a big deal, so we viewers need to see some type of punishment. And we do. We see karma get retribution late in the commercial when the valet drives off with his car and does a little joy riding. You saw his car spew sparks when the valet jump it while going over a hill, right?
So all is good… the shame and the deceitfulness has been “paid-in-full.” These negative emotions have been sufficiently suffocated.
This actually transfers over to you too, as a buyer. Whatever shame you might feel by buying this car has been pre-paid by Matthew in this commercial. That’s cool, huh? You don’t have to have any shame or regrets about buying the car and building memories while you drive it around.
The key thing is that Honda is hitting several emotions, and that is ULTRA-SUPER-POWERFUL!
You have to read Emotional Copywriting Revealed to see other examples of this technique.
Subliminal Advertising In Action
You may have known that Honda purposely hid a lot of references to the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Their YouTube Channel even begs you to go and find them (a smart marketing move to get you to watch the commercial over and over). They say:
“Think you’re a true fan of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? We hid over two dozen references to the movie throughout the commercial. Some are obvious, some are VERY subtle. See how many you can find. #dayoff”
That in itself is some excellent subliminal marketing – getting you to watch it over and over. They got me on that one too!
But they have also hidden subliminal messages that are pure persuasion techniques in the commercial.
For example, what does the vanity license plate on the car say? I’m sure you caught that one. It was: SOCHOIC, which implies that the car is “so choice” (meaning it is a wise choice and very sexy).
Another one is that the Chinese parade is probably a reference to the “year of the dragon” which is supposed to be super lucky. Cool, huh? Very subliminal.
Here is a big one that you might not pick up one. Another subliminal persuasion tactic is to cause a brief distraction, and then immediately follow up with written message. And Honda uses this tactic too.
About three-quarters the way into the video, where Matthew is at the Chinese parade, you see a scene of three construction workers dancing up on a platform between a couple of buildings. This has nothing to do with the commercial. It is only there to distract you momentarily. Immediately following this is the image of a man wearing a sash across his chest that says “Honored Guest.”
The phrase “honored guest” is what Honda wants to get across to you. When you go into a dealership, they want you to feel like you will be treated special. They are priming you with that message.
I’m sure there are a lot of subliminal messages in the commercial, and I’ll have to go back through it again and again (they want us to, right?)
Jedi Mind Trick
But here is one more subliminal message. At the very end of the commercial, Matthew comes back out and says: “Are you still here? Don’t you have anything better to do? Go on… Get Going. Go.”
This final command phrase, and the jedi mind-trick of sweeping his hand downward (two fingers pointing together) is another hypnotic persuasion tactic. He is giving you a command to “go” out and buy a car, so you can go on your own day of fun in your new Honda car.
The subliminal aspects of this commercial will be studied for years, and I hope that one of the producers will tell us what other secrets they used in the making of this ad.
Which Personality Type Will Enjoy This Ad?
Honda hit a home run with this commercial, because it targets all four personality types. Here are some examples of the types of tactics used:
The Warriors will like this ad because of the pounding music score. “Oh Yea…” This was used in the original “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” movie, but it really activates the Warriors more than the other personality types.
The Warriors will also love that phrase that Matthew says: “Life is packed with things you have to do. But sometimes you have to live a little.” This is the life-style of the Warriors, and they love hearing other people give them permission to live it up.
Did you notice the references to luck and gambling? That’s for the Warriors benefit too. He had a lot of luck when throwing the ring-toss game and landing on a bottle (I’ve NEVER been able to do that). And when he was at the horse track; of course his horse won, and he was kissed by a complete stranger.
The Warriors will also love the scene where he’s running around and screaming with children at the museum of natural history. They crave the opportunity to “break societal rules.”
Also… “How Can I Resist” is the phrase he uttered when he saw the Chinese parade. Warriors love chaos and especially chaos mixed with celebration. He is telling the Warriors to NOT resist. Go for it!
Logistical Personality Types
The Logisticals are the very stoic people that always feel obligated to do the work, even when they don’t want to. At the beginning of the video, we’re supposed to get this impression of Matthew as being a logistical personality type when he says: “don’t cancel the video shoot. People are depending on me.”
But then, how do you pacify a Logisitcal’s concern of shirking their duties by taking the day off? Well you have to give them a pass for a “one-time indulgence.”
Matthew says: “Life is packed with things you HAVE to do. But sometimes you have to live a little.”
And that is what you see in this commercial. Buyers of the Honda are allowed to take one day off and go out and have some fun.
Another persuasion tactic that works well on the Logistical buyers in particular, is to compliment them on their purchase. As Matthew exits the hotel to pick up his car, he sees a woman that is driving a similar vehicle. What does he say? He compliments her: “You have excellent tastes in Automobiles.”
Strategist Persuasion Tactics
The Strategists will love this funny 2012 super bowl commercial too. The first great tactic is Matthew’s self-narration. Mathew gives play-by-play description of the thoughts going through his mind.
This is so classic of Strategists. They don’t want to be conned and fear that they aren’t being told the truth. What could be more “true” than the actual thoughts that someone is thinking. The self verbalization is a great technique for Strategists. They want to know what people are thinking.
There is a lot of high-brow humor in this ad, which appeals to the Strategist. For example, Matthew has a staring contest with a stuffed Walrus. Now, how could you ever win a contest like that? You know you will always lose. That is what makes it funny to a Strategist.
Morale Officers are Persuaded Too
The Morale Officer personality types are included with this ad too. For starters, Matthew Broderick is a Morale Officer personality type. So he will attract other Morale Officers because they already feel an affiliation to him.
But then you also have appreciation for the Arts by having him go to the museum, and performing some type of Yoga on the beach. Plus there is the scenic drive along the ocean and the classic violin music that plays when he is at the museum. On top of all that, there is singing and dancing at the parade, and Matthew even sings in a foreign language, which appeals to the Morale Officer personality types.
This is Ad is A Home Run!
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better persuasive advertisement than this one. I’m sure it is going to succeed, even if you don’t like the subliminal persuasion attempts they put in the ad. Most other subliminal ads use sex as the driver of persuasion, so I think this one was very tastefully done.
If you’d like to learn more about how to make appeals that are creative like this ad, I recommend the Personality Marketing Manual. It gives you insight into the minds of customers that you can’t get anywhere else.
Until next time, “Be Fruitful.”