Failure is definitely an option

A Japanese car company exalts the principle of doing things wrong -- until you get it right.

Published January 30, 2009 4:38PM (EST)

Neelakantan at Interim Thoughts points to a remarkable series of hypnotic Honda commercials -- or, to employ Honda's branding: "documentaries."

Yes, car commercials. As slickly produced as anything I've ever seen, designed as propaganda to push an image of Honda as innovative and flat-out cool. And they work. Delivered via Honda's YouTube channel, they go as long as eight or nine minutes, but I found it hard to stop watching. One of them, "Mobility 2088," asks a range of people, from architects to Honda engineers to science fiction writers and even actor/humorist Christopher Guest, for their predictions as to how people will move around in 2088. It's remarkable for a number of reasons, not least how little Honda itself is mentioned, and how critical the primary message is of cars as a means of transportation.

But my favorite is "Failure -- the Secret to Success." The message here is that failure is not a bad thing -- it's a necessary step towards achieving something that works. I have no idea whether Honda actually encourages its employees to make mistakes, but an advertising campaign exalting failure is a fresh breath of air from the auto industry. Perhaps if Detroit had more aggressively attempted to develop hybrids and electric cars -- accepting mistakes and setbacks along the way -- rather than complaining that tighter fuel standards would make it impossible for it to compete, the Big 3 wouldn't be on their death beds.


"Mobility 2088:"

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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