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Honda?s music push needs personalized in-car experience to win

American Honda Motor Co.?s push into music content with a YouTube video channel could help the automaker click with elusive younger buyers, but the brand might generate even greater loyalty by providing a personalized in-car radio experience.

The unit of Japanese automaker Honda Motor Co. said the launching of its Honda Stage YouTube channel through deals with music industry heavyweights such as Google?s YouTube, Clear Channel Communications and Live Nation would help it build brand awareness and loyalty in an area where the millennial or Gen Y generation is active. The group ? born in the early 1980s to the early 2000s ? are less interested in vehicles and in consuming traditional media than their baby-boomer parents.

?The company should change the radio experience in the car to a Honda radio experience, and one that would be customized to the listener and his location and context and preferences ? the ultimate personalized radio,? said Roger Lanctot, who follows digital technology and the automotive industry for Strategy Analytics in Newton, MA. 

?They?ve taken one step in that direction with their existing relationship with Aha,? he said.
?But I would say they should get rid of the Aha brand and just make it Honda radio.?

2 billion impressions
The videos will be taken from about 200 live performances at festivals, concert halls and other venues from around the country. Honda said it expects the effort, rolling out in phases, will attract around 2 billion media impressions in 12 months, including millions of views for live-performance videos posted to the Honda Stage.

YouTube is the Internet?s biggest digital music distributor, and music videos are among the site?s most popular video categories, often generating millions of views.

?Building awareness with young drivers and potential influencers of car buying,? said Nitesh Patel, the global wireless practice analyst for Strategy Analytics in Massachusetts. ?Music is a powerful medium through which to reach and engage with the youth and young professionals segment.?

Mobile entertainment consumption growing 
The announcement comes as mobile consumption of entertainment media is increasing exponentially, as all categories of entertainment brands are now active on mobile advertising, which until about a year ago was dominated by theatricals, according to a new report from Vdopia.

The findings were drawn from the Vdopia  Mobile Insights Series, which investigated brand and consumer behavior within the mobile advertising ecosystem, with a focus on how the entertainment industry is impacted by mobile growth. Key findings include that the number of people who engaged with entertainment content on their smartphone during a given month improved 28 percent to 109 million (see story).

Attracting millennials, who trust brands less than they trust each other and regularly check user reviews before they make a purchase, is tricky. Marketers need to adjust their programs not just in terms of how they enable these consumers to engage but also with regard to what behaviors are rewarded and the types of content.

Millennials use their mobile devices throughout their brand experiences, with 58 percent checking user reviews, 57 percent comparing prices and 24 percent seeking opinions from their social networks from their mobile devices, according to a recent study from Punchtab. These consumers are also looking for incentives to join loyalty programs and show a preference for multi-brand retail programs (see story).

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.

Diverting resources to content
Some observers feel that Honda?s move into hosting, curating and distributing digital content does not necessarily indicate a large scale siphoning away of resources from traditional advertising methods.

?On the mobile advertising side carmakers have been one of the more forward thinking in terms of mobile engagement and mobile advertising, although relative to their huge budgets they have a toe in the water rather than fully committing to mobile devices,? Mr. Patel said.

?That said, targeting older age groups which have the spending power and which are (on average) less skewed to mobile media consumption than the youth segment will remain important to address, so I expect a balanced approach.?

Music initiatives
Honda is no stranger to music initiatives. Its Civic Tour has entertained 3.5 million Americans since 2001. It is among 14 automakers whose models are hooked into the Aha Radio mobile app. Other brands following suit are Ford, Chrysler, Mazda Subaru and Toyota.

With its push into brand-building through music-content creation, Honda has joined a group of non-music consumer brands that includes Amazon with its new Prime Music service.

?Sirus XM has exclusive content and they record concerts and they have comedy shows and other things that you can only hear on Sirius XM,? Mr. Lanctot said. ?Honda can do the same thing. It?s time to take the next step.?

Final Take
Michael is staff reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York