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Avik’s blog: Collective communication

Team Fast Bikes

Automobile industry and social communication

Have you ever wondered why the automobile industry, as a unified body, does not undertake any social communication? No? Well, I have… and on numerous occasions. Have expressed the same to a few good friends in the advertising industry [so that they ‘sell’ this concept], once tried undertaking such a project myself [and failed miserably!] and also requested a few colleagues of mine within the industry [when I was employed by it] for an initiative on these lines. Watching the Hero Duet television commercial that encourages people to pool on two-wheelers [extremely relevant and clever], the topic got re-kindled. There have been occasions when specific automotive brands, from cars to tyres to engine oils, have taken to mainline media to communicate about social issues, primarily safety. But never as an industry. Like how the insurance, banking and a few other industries do – undertake above the line communication to educate the general population about issues most relevant to them.

Even if the entire automotive industry does not come together, given their over-inflated egos and misplaced sense of singular importance, the two-wheeler industry can surely come together and undertake such a campaign on the specific aspects that impact the riders most, like safety, conservation etc. I am reminded of the path-breaking Honda Cub communication campaign of 1963 in the US that said, “You meet the nicest people on a Honda.” That communication broke the stereotype of the biker typified by the Hogs and Hell’s Angels. Similarly, the stereotype of the Indian twowheeler rider needs to change… both in advertising and in behaviour.

“You meet the nicest people on a Honda.”

And to ignite that painstaking change it has to be a collective effort, united in the common cause, to gradually transform their millions of customers to “Be the nicest people on the roads”. Here’s my six-step guide:

  1. All the two-wheeler companies coming together and crafting a common social charter on making Indian roads better, addressing issues like safety, conservation, discipline and decorum.
  2. Each issue to have a set of communication activities and on-ground initiatives that will have a common national thread, with local aspects/sensitivities incorporated.
  3. Each company embarking on a multi-faceted campaign across their ‘home’ cities to start with, in 2018-19 and then adding one city each year.
  4. On-ground activities in the form of education clinics, training, monitoring, community sensitivity workshops need to be planned through the year.
  5. School engagement will be a critical factor, with kids becoming key influencers for their parents, almost aiming to have “My dad is the nicest person on the road/My mom is the nicest person on the road.”
  6. Have a strong recognition programme where individuals who are setting good examples on the roads are highlighted through various media platforms, especially digital social networks.

Being a role model for the car owner

The man and woman on the two-wheeler can be a role model for the car owners. To admire, learn from and emulate. Here again, it is time to break the stereotype that it is the car owner who is always ‘looked up to’. It is time to invert the equation. And it can all start with all the two-wheeler companies coming together once, just once, communicate collectively for the imperative to create, encourage and recognise the nicest people on the Indian roads!