In 2017, the Super Cub series is scheduled to surpass a worldwide production milestone of 100 million units. And in 2018, Honda will be celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Super Cub's debut. Here, we’d like to introduce the history and charms of the Super Cub, which has grown to become a perennial favorite around the world since its birth in 1958.
The Super Cub’s first large-scale advertising campaign didn’t start until three years after its debut. Mr. Tsugio Ogata’s Tokyo Graphic Designers was commissioned to formulate a profoundly memorable series of advertisements. Taking Soichiro Honda’s ideas to heart, Ogata and Honda co-founder Takeo Fujisawa formed a new ‘Dynamic Duo’ who conceived a string of advertising ‘masterpieces’ that explored new demand for the revolutionary Super Cub.
Soichiro Honda did the building and Takeo Fujisawa did the selling. Honda developed into the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer due to the extraordinary meshing of these two big wheels. In the shadows, advertising also played a major supporting role in the Super Cub’s success. “Honda and Fujisawa were never arrogant or overbearing,” Ogata recalled.
The first generation C100 Super Cub. Its basic concept of delivering high power output and excellent fuel efficiency coupled with easy operation and low maintenance continues without fading to this day.
Honda released the Super Cub in 1958. Staffed by some 2,700 employees and with 720 million yen in capital, Honda was one of many companies then struggling to rebuild Japan. Only 10 years had passed since the company was established, and founder Soichiro Honda (1906 – ‘91) could often be seen covered in sweat and oil as he led his company together with partner Takeo Fujisawa (1910 – ’88).
By the time of the Super Cub’s release, Honda was already Japan’s No. 1 motorcycle manufacturer. However, the bigger dream of its two founders was to become the world’s most unique and successful manufacturer of every form of transport, whether that be motorcycles, cars or even aircraft. While Soichiro Honda, as president of the company, was a consummate engineer, it was ‘advisor’ and managing director Takeo Fujisawa who provided management guidance for both Soichiro and Honda. Both had experienced many hardships in their struggles on the way up to becoming chief executives who valued people’s sensibilities.
In pursuit of Honda’s quantum leap to greatness, Takeo Fujisawa made plans for a small, convenient and comfortable ‘mobility vehicle’ which could be easily mass-produced and which everybody — regardless of age or sex — could ride. Soichiro Honda developed the Super Cub to be precisely the sort of mobility vehicle Fujisawa had in mind.
When first released, this unique motorcycle became an instant hit, exactly as planned, and sold like nothing ever before. So it would be no exaggeration to say that both Soichiro Honda and Takeo Fujisawa had extraordinary skills and insight into both product development and marketing. In 1958, when the Super Cub was released, 24,000 units were sold in the first five months, and as many as 167,000 units were delivered to customers the following year. This occurred at a time when annual total motorcycles sales throughout Japan was around 300,000 units. Come 1961, fully three years after its release, Fujisawa started giving some thought to commencing advertising activities to promote the Super Cub on an even larger scale.Three Years After Its Release, the Super Cub's First Major Advertising Campaign Finally Begins.
This was extraordinary to say the least. Why would large-scale advertising activities only begin three years after a product had been put on the market?
Tsugio Ogata (1932 – 2012), president of Tokyo Graphic Designers, who was given sole responsibility for the Super Cub’s advertising activities in those early days, offered the following observation: “Mr. Fujisawa always said he would never rely on advertising alone to sell the Super Cub. Therefore, when the Super Cub was released, he didn’t use any mass advertising, save for a few newspaper ads. He felt strongly that since the Super Cub was such a thoroughly outstanding creation of Soichiro Honda’s, customers who wanted a Super Cub should be dealt with person-to-person at Honda’s many small dealer shops. And if it gained a good enough reputation, sales would automatically follow by word of mouth. Just as he thought, the Super Cub sold tremendously well. Profits earned from those initial sales were invested in quality improvements, as well as construction of Honda’s Suzuka factory to strengthen the company’s base of manufacturing expertise.
“As the next step, Mr. Fujisawa planned to begin a large-scale advertising campaign to help the Super Cub become better known throughout Japan by both men and women of all ages who were not yet familiar with it, so that they could become its next wave of customers.”
As Takeo Fujisawa cultivated human resources within the Honda company, he also consulted a network of ‘brains’ outside the company. One of these was graphic designer Tsugio Ogata, who had previously worked in the advertising department of the famed Takashimaya department store chain. Almost daily, the 50-year-old Fujisawa and 28-year-old Ogata discussed what sorts of advertising they should come up with. These were not formal meetings exactly, but rather brainstorming sessions, occasions where both could talk candidly and share ideas. Leaping at the chance to be at the genesis of the Super Cub’s advertising activities, Ogata immediately set out to become independent with the establishment of Tokyo Graphic Designers.
Newspaper advertisements such as this announcing the Super Cub’s impending release carried Soichiro Honda’s now-famous declaration, ‘The Super Cub is in Production!’ As sales began, people were moved by such clear and powerful advertisements.
Newspaper advertisements such as this announcing the Super Cub’s impending release carried Soichiro Honda’s now-famous declaration, ‘The Super Cub Is in Production!’ As sales began, people were moved by such clear and powerful advertisements.
50 years after the first ‘The Soba Is Good, Too, Ma!’ Super Cub ad, Tsugio Ogata, president of Tokyo Graphic Designers, stands with the 50th anniversary edition of the Super Cub. (2008)