Honda sets stage for big push into music-driven marketing

Honda's channel will include video from performances on Honda-sponsored stages at major music festivals in the U.S., including the Governors Ball in New York (pictured).

Photo credit: RYAN BEENE
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NEW YORK -- American Honda wants its MTV. Its very own MTV.

The automaker is launching a major music-focused marketing effort to attract younger buyers who increasingly consume media online and on demand. At the heart of the initiative is a new music channel on YouTube.com, called the Honda Stage, where Honda will publish hundreds of videos of live music performances from a variety of artists. 

Tom Peyton, associate vice president of advertising and marketing for American Honda Motor Co., says the effort, aimed at viewers in their 20s and 30s, will account for a “significant” portion of the automaker’s marketing budget this year. While declining to provide spending figures, Peyton said the music push will replace a major portion of what Honda normally spends on TV commercials directed at younger buyers.

The videos will be taken from about 200 live performances at festivals, concert halls and other venues from around the country, through rights Honda acquired in a series of deals with music industry giants including Google’s YouTube, Clear Channel Communications, Live Nation and others.

American Honda expects the effort, rolling out in phases beginning today, to attract around 2 billion media impressions over the next 12 months, including what it hopes will be hundreds of millions of views for the live-performance videos posted to the Honda Stage.

“At that point, it really becomes a media communication outlet for us similar to anything we do on TV,” Peyton said in an interview. “If I can drive 10 million or 15 million views a month to the Honda Stage channel, that’s semiequivalent to a cable TV buy over 30 days.”

Host, curator, distributor

The effort aims to address a problem with which many consumer goods companies are wrestling: how to command the attention of younger consumers who increasingly get their entertainment -- including TV shows -- on the Web rather than by watching conventional TV.

The average age of a Honda buyer in the United States was 52.1 years in the first four months of 2014, IHS Automotive says, a slight increase compared to the average age of 51.7 years during the same period in 2013.

Among Honda's major rivals, Toyota, Hyundai, Chevrolet and Ford attract older buyers, on average, while Kia, Mazda, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Volkswagen draw younger consumers, IHS says.

Instead of buying advertising space alongside entertainment content created elsewhere, Honda is entering the business of hosting, curating and distributing digital media content. And by hitching its brand to music, Honda is tapping into a category of digital content with a proven record of attracting outsize audiences.

YouTube is the largest distributor of digital music on the Web, and music videos are among the most popular video categories on the site, often generating millions of views within days of posting.

Peyton believes that dollar for dollar, Honda Stage can generate more impressions and more effectively reach its target audience than traditional media such as TV commercials.

Honda Stage marks a broad expansion of the company’s marketing efforts in music, which include events such as the Civic Tour, a summer concert tour of popular bands. The tour, sponsored by Honda since 2001, grew this year into three successive tours targeting different audiences.

“Music’s been good and we’ve had some learnings there,” Peyton said. “But we now need to go beyond experiential and how do you get some reach if you’re really going to use this as a marketing platform.”

Major festivals

Through its deal signed with radio behemoth Clear Channel, Honda will receive rights to video taken from “dozens” of Honda Stage-branded live performances at the iHeartRadio Theater Los Angeles over the next 12 months, Honda said. Live shows produced by concert promoter Live Nation Entertainment and bearing the Honda Stage brand also will feed videos to the channel.

A deal with Revolt, a music cable-TV network owned by rapper and music impresario Sean Combs, will create a Honda Stage at Revolt’s studios in Los Angeles. Videos of live, in-studio performances and interviews will be fed to the Honda Stage channel and be broadcast on Revolt’s cable channel and through other Revolt digital channels.

More video will come from performances on Honda-sponsored stages at major music festivals in the United States, including the Governors Ball in New York, Austin City Limits in Texas and Music Midtown in Atlanta.

To drive traffic to the Honda Stage channel, Honda, its music industry partners and artists themselves will promote new video content using social media.

Peyton says the long-term plan for the Honda Stage makes the effort more significant than previous auto industry forays into so-called content marketing efforts, which he says have primarily been one-off promotions for individual vehicle launches.

Said Peyton: “This is an ongoing channel with various feeds of content that, with a little luck, becomes known as ‘Oh yeah, I know that I can go to the Honda Stage and they’ll have cool stuff.’”

You can reach Ryan Beene at rbeene@crain.com. -- Follow Ryan on Twitter


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