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The End of Pretension in Advertising?

June 10th, 2008 by Bob Bly

For years, auto makers have been selling used cars under the semi-pretentious label of “pre-owned vehicle.”

So I was shocked yesterday when I heard a radio spot for Honda talking about their “certified used cars.”

The whole reason the industry switched from “used car” to “pre-owned vehicle” was to avoid the negative image of the used car industry — in particular used car dealers.

So does Honda know something we don’t? Have they conducted market research that indicates consumers are wary of — or see through — the high-fatutin B.S. of the whole “certified pre-owned vehicle” thing?

Will the market eagerly rush to by Honda’s used cars because of the refreshing honesty of their new commercial?

Or will consumers say “no thanks” to used cars — and stick with pre-owned vehicles instead?

Your thoughts?


This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 10th, 2008 at 9:00 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

26 responses about “The End of Pretension in Advertising?”

  1. Lou Wasser said:

    In difficult economic times, a buyer’s pretension gives way to available cash, and ex-purchasers of pre-owned vehicles are all of a sudden only too glad to scurry across town in their certified clunkers.

  2. ElizabethAdamsDirect said:

    Hello, Bob …

    This reminds me of a shop sign I saw recently:

    “Vintage Reusables”

    They used to be a second-hand store!

    Whether such euphemisms increase sales or not, I couldn’t say. But there’s a nifty article about this very thing over at

    It’s called “How to Increase Your Blog Subscription Rate by 254%” and discusses the tests the author performed to see which worked better …

    “Subscribe by Email” and “Subscribe by RSS”


    “Get Jobs by Email” and “Get Jobs by RSS”

    The answer may surprise you!

    Regards, Elizabeth …


  3. Dianna Huff said:

    A search expert I know told me that few people use the phrase “pre-owned” when searching for used cars. Instead, they use the phrase “used cars” plus the brand name.

    I would guess that Honda is using the phrase most of us use on a daily basis. The whole, “Write the way your customers talk” thing.

  4. ElizabethAdamsDirect said:

    Hello, Dianna …

    Keywords! Of course!

    How very clever of you!

    I haven’t checked, but it
    wouldn’t surprise me if more
    people search on “used cars”
    than “pre-owned vehicles” !!!

    Regards, Elizabeth …


  5. Frank said:

    According to Google Trends, “pre-owned vehicles” hardly registers at all when compared to search volume for “used cars”.

  6. Dianna Huff said:

    Frank, Of course. When was the last time you used “pre-owned vehicle” in the course of conversation?

  7. RonniC said:

    A rose by any other name surely? However, here in Johannesburg, South Africa, pretension is taken a step further. A leading ‘used car’ salesroom (we refer to these vehicles as ‘secondhand’ in conversation)is advertising ‘Previously Loved Cars’!

  8. Bob Bly said:

    Dianna, Frank: Is whether the term is used in search always a consideration? Mont Blanc has built a brand calling their products “writing instruments,” and I doubt many people search that term.

  9. Dianna Huff said:

    Bob, Of course not. I also don’t own a Mont Blanc writing instrument — probably because I prefer a more pedistrian pen, hahahaha.

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