Preparing for this paper was both educational and upsetting. My original plan was to compile information about the marketing strategies pertaining to my company, Golden American Life Insurance. In doing so, I retrieved information from the marketing department and the sales force. As I continued my research, I began interviewing upper management in both the marketing and sales departments; this is where I ran into a problem. It seems that the information related to the marketing strategy of Golden American Life is private and confidential; thus I would not be able to write my paper on what I had originally planned. My next thought was to write a fictitious paper on how I would handle the marketing strategies at Golden American Life. However, I decided against this because I dont want to put my job in jeopardy in any way, shape or form.
I personally feel this could compromise my job or at least the trust I have built up with my superiors and I feel it would be best to steer clear of this subject all together. Having decided not to write about the marketing strategies related to the company I work for; the next step was to decide what I should write about. I started to look for some recourses that I had easy access to. My brother-in-law races motorcycles and has access to various marketing materials and personal knowledge about Honda motorcycles. I also was able to find information on the Internet about motorcycles and about Honda.
I felt that because I had a personal interest in the subject, it would be educational and simulating to do my final research paper about Honda motorcycles. I also feel that the trust I have built with the company I work for will not be violated. In 1948, armed with only $3200, Soichiro Honda opened The Honda Motor Company. Shortly thereafter, in 1959 he opened The American Honda Motor Company so that he could bring to pass his dream of building a high performance motorcycle and marketing it to the world. During the 1960’s the type of motorcycles bought by Americans changed considerably.
The sales of motorcycles also changed; increasing by over 800,000 from 1960 to 1965. In the early 60’s the major competitors were Harley-Davidson of U.S.A, BSA, Triumph and Norton of the UK, and Motto-Guzzi of Italy. Out of these competitors, Harley-Davidson held the largest market share with sales in 1959 totaling 6.6 million dollars. Many of the motorcycles produced by these companies were large and bulky, which helped lead to the stereotypical image of a motorcycle rider; someone who wears a leather jacket and is looking for trouble. The Boston Consulting Group ( BCG ) report was initiated by the British government to study the decline in British motorcycle companies around the world, especially in the USA where sales had dropped from 49% in 1959 to 9% in 1973.
The two key factors the report identified were: market share loss and profitability decline; and large scale disadvantages in technology, distribution, and manufacturing. The BCG report showed that the success of the Japanese manufacturers started with the growth of their own domestic markets. The high production for domestic demand led Honda to experience economies of scale proportion as the cost of producing motorbikes declined with the level of output. This allowed Honda to achieve a highly competitive cost position which they used to penetrate into the US market. The basic philosophy of the Japanese manufacture is that high volumes per model provide the potential for high productivity.
They also believe in putting capital back into production and using highly automated techniques. Thus, their marketing strategies are directed towards developing these high model volumes, hence the careful attention that we have observed them giving to growth and market share. The report goes on to show how Honda built up engineering competencies through the innovation of Mr. Honda. They also distinguished themselves from other companies by deciding to set up their headquarters in the west coast of America and not relying on distributors to sell their product.
The BCG found that the motorcycles available before Honda entered the market were designed and marketed toward a limited group of people such as the police, army etc. However, because Honda had a policy of selling, they marketed their product toward members of the general public, people who had never before given a second thought to a motorcycle, rather than toward confirmed motorcyclists. The bike designed for this part of the market was the Honda Super Cub. It was a small, lightweight bike that sold for under $250 dollars. Its leading competitors were the bigger American and British machines which retailed at $1000 to $1500.
Another distinguishing characteristic that helped Honda become the leading competitor in its field was the addition of staff members. In 1960 Honda’s research team consisted of about 700 design and engineer members; whereas its competitors staffed only about 100 employees. Hondas willingness to hire so many employees shows how strongly they valued innovation. Production per man-year was 159 units in 1962, a figure not reached by Harley-Davidson until 1974. Enlarging their staff was not the only strategy that Honda was using in order to increase sales.
They were also following a strategy of developing region by region. Over a period of four to five years they moved from the west coast of America to the east coast. Along with expanding their market, they also began to place a great deal of emphasis on advertising. The company spent heavily on the advertising theme you meet the nicest people on a Honda.” A theme that was meant to disassociate themselves from the rowdy, hell’s angels type of people. Essentially the BCG is portraying Honda as a firm dedicated to being a low cost producer, utilizing its dominant position in Japan to force entry into the U.S market, redefining that market by putting up the nicest people image and exploiting its comparative advantage via aggressive advertising and pricing. Pascale tends to disagree with many points of the BCG report.
The report suggests that Honda made a smooth entry into the U.S market and this led to instant success. Pascale argues that Honda entered the American market at the end of the motorcycle trade season showing their inability to carry out research in the new market. Because they entered the market at the wrong time, sales were not as good as they should have been and any success wa …