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Honda Stage Youtube Music Platform Misses a Beat

by Roger Lanctot | Jun 15, 2014

American Honda Motor (AHM) is said to be investing “millions of dollars” in an effort led by a music industry “dream team” to launch a massive youth marketing initiative called “Honda Stage.” The “multi-platform” agenda is billed as a “bold shift in brand advertising and experiential marketing” to reach the “youth market.”

You can get the details here: http://tinyurl.com/mgjgob6

The goal of the program is to provide one-of-a-kind curated music content live and online through “hundreds of pieces of exclusive online videos, news, interviews and performances” through a dedicated Honda Stage Youtube channel. Run from the marketing side of Honda, the plan is no doubt intended to generate leads to sell Honda cars. What is missing is a delivery platform for Honda Stage content in Honda vehicles.

Honda is intending to make Honda Stage content available via iHeartRadio and the iHeartRadio app, but the company is definitely missing a chance to redefine the entire car radio experience. With the onset of satellite radio (ie. Sirius XM) and IP-based radio (ie. Tunein Radio and Harman’s Aha, and Panasonic’s Aupeo!) an opportunity has emerged for car companies to brand and customize the radio experience in the car.

Broadcast industry executives such as Steve Goldstein, vice president of Saga Communications, have lamented (Goldstein blog: tinyurl.com/lw9vmyu) their inability to find the traditional radio dial in new app-equipped cars. In some cars (in the U.S.), it is easier to find the iHeartRadio app than it is to find local AM/FM radio stations.

The time has arrived for car makers to take over the content management proposition in the car and create their own branded radio experiences.  With Honda Stage, AHM has the opportunity to take that bold step.  Instead of offering iHeartRadio, Tunein Radio and Aha, Honda can combine all of these radio experiences into a single Honda-branded solution.

A Honda-branded radio in the car could offer a complete content management solution for news, radio, sports, weather, traffic and music along with a channel for communicating important Honda-related news such as new vehicles, new financing, new service options, new apps or even urgent vehicle recall messages.  A partner like Harman’s Aha or Panasonic’s Aupeo! could help create a customized user experience with self-curating customer facing controls.

With Honda Stage, Honda is tearing a page from the Sirius XM playbook.  Sirius XM has been able to build a base of 25M+ subscribers on a combination of unique content, ease of use and subsidized relationships with auto makers.  Honda Stage will have its own unique content which it can combine with the content provided by its partners.  A Honda-branded radio will allow the company to control the display-based delivery platform in its cars enabling a unique curated experience.

I know why Honda has not taken this bold step.  The marketing department operates independently of the engineers actually designing the cars and infotainment systems.  Marketing and engineering simply do not coordinate their activities very effectively at Honda or any other car company.

The marketing departments of car companies typically have completely different objectives from the infotainment system design teams.  And marketers also often fail to grasp the privacy concerns of drivers relative to the priorities of Website visitors.

While Honda Stage can be expected to deliver some excellent lead generation for Honda dealers via tracking customer visits to Google-owned Youtube.com, it is missing a chance to close the loop with Honda vehicles.  The problem, of course, has to do with the fact that Honda will want to create and control an in-car Honda-branded radio experience.  Honda will not want Google tapping into its customers’ in-vehicle content and advertising consumption and exposure.

According to recent Strategy Analytics research, customers in cars are much less interested in being tracked than they are when online outside the car.  For that reason, Honda and other car companies, will want radio partners that protect privacy.

Honda says the Honda Stage program will be promoted on air and online across Clear Channel radio stations and through iHeartRadio and will deliver regular live interviews and in-studio performances on the Honda Stage, broadcast on REVOLT TV, the iOS and Android REVOLT apps and the Honda Stage YouTube Channel.

But Honda is missing a beat if it does not seize this extraordinary opportunity to create an in-vehicle, over-the-top branded radio experience designed to aggregate the existing IP radio experiences in its cars and leverage its unique, sponsored Honda Stage content and other brand-related communications.  A Honda-branded radio will allow Honda to redefine and enrich its customer engagement with a value-added, customized and personalized content delivery platform – simplifying the icon-based, app-oriented offering currently delivered via AcuraLink and HondaLink.

And, of course, the same hold true for every other car maker.  Chevy Radio?  Tesla Radio?

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