Honda’s new smartphone app prevents you from texting whilst driving (video/download).

Good or bad?

In ‘Safemode’, the Honda app certainly delivers branded utility*.

But do we want paternalistic car brands?

The case for yes is simple; we’re addicted to texting, and exhibit a Pavlovian desire to reply immediately whenever we hear that IM ping – even whilst driving.  The result is that  is that texting and driving is six times more dangerous than drinking and driving, and in one market where Honda’s app has been launched (Thailand), 25% of all car accidents involve texting whilst driving.  So the Honda app saves us from ourselves…  And of course, if you don’t want the app, don’t install it!

The case against is potential conflict with brand values; the Honda brand, like all car brands, sells autonomy and freedom and here’s Honda taking that freedom and autonomy away from us (whatever good intentions).  Does Honda really want to position itself as a policeman?

Lord Reith who headed up the BBC famously said that the role of his brand was “to give the public something slightly better than they think they want”.  Honda is taking a similar approach to brand utility.  Interfering or inspired?

* Branded utility (marketing that is useful, including apps that are designed principally to generate media coverage – as opposed to ‘brand utility’ – brands simply being useful and helpful – which in our view, is the way all brands should be…)