Blog: Dave LeggettHonda Zoomer

Dave Leggett | 12 August 2005

One of my favourite pastimes at this time of the year is to stand outside a pub on a warm evening and watch the world go by. The traffic – human and mechanical – can be very fascinating to watch. It's an easy pleasure. Last night I found myself standing outside a pub in central London (very near St James’s Park Tube station, to be precise) eyeing up the motorbikes and scooters parked up outside and engaging in a debate about which of the two-wheeled contraptions were cool and which weren’t.

The BMW C1 with its protective cage won some respect for being different, but the overall feeling was that the rider-wrapped-in-cotton-wool message sent out by the protective cage bestowed a substantial element of uncool.

What about the beaten-up piece of easy-rider style (but not a Harley, you understand) machinery that looked like it had been assembled, Frankenstein-style, from bits off a junkyard or was perhaps a leftover from the Mad Max 2 set? It was clichéd perhaps, but kind of cool and we spotted the rider a mile off, as he had the full on rebel-without-a-proper-job look (though he was probably an ad agency creative) to go with the bike. Gnarled and noisy. Old Triumph? Unquestionably cool.

The scooters and mopeds were a mixed bag. A shopping basket on the front of your wheels is a no-no in my book. And some of the modern machines lacked character in spite of their clean lines. But the old cream coloured Vespa – that was pure retro cool.

I was reminded of Honda’s Zoomer – a scooter that it has recently introduced – and the cleverness of the marketing campaign. Honda’s agency (called Naked) gave away twenty Zoomers to various people, encouraging them to customise them. The results were publicised on an online ‘fanzine’ (www.zoomerzine.co.uk) and the story was placed in various lifestyle magazines, with the fanzine URL sent to some 8,000 people on a lifestyle database.

The URL was rapidly passed around and Honda says that it has been deluged with celebrity agents trying to get Zoomers for their clients. All of Honda’s ’05 UK allocation of the 50cc Zoomers, some 400 units, is apparently sold out without the bike even appearing on Honda’s own UK website.

Interesting marketing case study.

And the product scores as cool on the basic proposition – it’s cheap to run, practical, minimalist in style, easy on the eye, functional, appeals to the young and young-at-heart and with such a small engine is environmentally friendly around town. Plus it’s fun. And, what’s more, you can customise it.

Anything in four wheels come close? The Citroen 2CV springs to mind.

Honda Zoomer fanzine


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