The morning school drop-off. The karate classes, piano lessons, and swim meets. On average, American families spend at least four hours a week in the car. Mark the miles with more than just the odometer and make every drive an opportunity for young minds to grow.
American Honda Co. and Blackstone (the largest independent audio book publisher in the U.S.) partner in the “Road Readers” program to provide children’s audio books free for all Honda owners.
How does the “Road Readers” program work? Honda owners download the free Road Readers app to their IOS or Android phone and scan a Honda Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to access 200 select titles from Blackstone’s digital library. Each Honda owner can choose 4 free audio books per VIN per year, and everyone who downloads the Road Readers app powered by Downpour (Blackstone) automatically receives “Peter Pan” for free. Drivers can easily purchase more audio book downloads through Blackstone and Downpour. This service is available for all Honda owners in the U.S., regardless of the car’s year, for free.
Honda and innovation are synonyms in many circles. Jeffery Rothfeder, journalist and author of the book “Driving Honda,” named the car company the most innovative in the world. Beyond their low-emission and fuel-efficient cars, Honda has a signature, slow but steady approach to growing market share. Honda also carved a place in social media by demonstrating the mutual loyalty between American Honda Co. and Honda drivers.
“Road Readers” expresses appreciation for Honda drivers, similar to Honda’s 2013 “Start Something Special” campaign. Honda drivers sent stories, photographs and videos explaining why they loved their Honda. The #StartSomethingSpecial hashtag became so popular that Honda responded with the “Honda Loves You Back” campaign, sharing photos that expressed their love for fans. For “Road Readers,” Honda offers stories rather than requesting them.
The goal of the program is to combine entertainment with education for a better driving experience, according to Susie Rossick, Assistant Vice President, Honda/Acura Regional Media and Marketing at American Honda Motor Co., Inc.
“This effort is a powerful demonstration of our commitment to the brand’s ‘Power of Dreams’ philosophy by encouraging our customers and their families to dream big together,” Rossick said.
A recent study commissioned by Honda indicated that parents understood the importance of storytelling in child development, and felt their children spent too much time immersed in television, video games, or social media. Honda consulted with the National Teacher of the Year Program to select titles which foster young imaginations. Many include questions to further encourage family discussions and critical-thinking.
“Students learn best when they have enthusiastic teachers, and parents are a child’s first and most important teacher,” said Rebecca Mieliwocki, the 2012 National Teacher of the Year. Strickland Gillilan may have had a reading mother, but Honda owners have reading cars.
The free audio books are DRM encrypted, meaning users cannot replicate or share the books, and can only access them via the Road Readers app. Honda owners can access other audio books purchased through Blackstone’s audiobook site, downpour.com, through their Road Readers app by logging in to their Downpour account on their phone, tablet, or computer and changing a setting in the parental controls.
Blackstone (formerly Blackstone Audio) is the largest independent audio book publisher in the country. Established in 1987 by Craig and Michelle Black, Blackstone is a family-run company based in Ashland, Ore. which offers more than 60,000 audio books on their website, downpour.com. Blackstone was the first audio book publisher to provide the condensed MP3 format for audio books. The company has won numerous awards (including a 2015 Audio Publisher’s Association Award for Lily King’s “Euphoria”) and expanded into printing paperback books earlier in 2015. The partnership with Honda is an opportunity to continue extending Blackstone’s market.
“We need to take some more risks with our marketing; initiatives that aren’t just trying to move metal but [are trying to] establish deeper connection with customers and give them a reason to be our brand ambassador.”
“Road Readers” is not part of a campaign to sell more cars (at least not immediately), and with 75% of the cars Honda built over the last 25 years still driving strong an appreciation-campaign of this magnitude seems like a financial risk. However, connecting with drivers on the levels of family values, childhood literacy, and a retroactive gift-with-purchase helps forge the connection Accavitti describes, and Honda looks for. The “Road Readers” program is another reason to love Honda.
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