Q&A On Honda Stage's Concerts, Cars, Content

Honda's biggest content play ever is underway. The new Honda Stage program takes content from new bespoke, invitation-only events developed with iHeartRadio, Revolt and LiveNation; the brand's own Civic Tour concert series (which now is actually three tours around Latin, rock and hip-hop); plus content taken from Honda's involvement in established music festivals and aggregates it at a new YouTube channel and with two other new partners: Vevo and YouTube. Tom Peyton, assistant VP and marketing head at the Torrance, Calif. automaker, talks to Marketing Daily about Honda's biggest content play ever. 

Q: Why is this a good time to do this, product wise? 

A: The first thing is we have several new products, the new Fit and a new, small SUV, the HR-V. All of these cars are going to be big volume. Already almost 40% of Civic sales are to under-35-year-olds, and a big number for Accord are as well, maybe 30%. So we have a vested interest in keeping it that way, but reaching today's 28-year-old isn't as easy as running an ad. And digital itself is getting there, but it's not filling the whole gap.

Q: How did Honda Stage develop this idea?

A: Since 2001, we have done Civic Tour, so we have done a lot in this area with things like car customizing, text, messaging, social elements, and grassroots; we have a lot of understanding and it's been very successful for us for 13 years. So a couple of years ago we started thinking about taking it to the next level. It started with out with finding partners to hook up with, and then it was "Hold on, why don't we try to put them all together." That was the genesis. It's taking these experiential events, adding another 150 on top of that and getting into content creation. It's experiential plus media.

Q: Which of these events will be invitation only?

A: All except for the festivals we're involved with, like Governor's Ball (in New York) and Civic Tour, where anyone can buy a ticket. All the other events -- developed with our media partners -- are proprietary, created just for this program. So iHeartRadio will be 12 concerts, one per month starting in July, in Burbank for only 400 or 500 people.

Q: And the attendees will be chosen how?

A: They'll be coming from a consumer promotion. Revolt will be 40 to 50 events at Hollywood & Highland -- again, a small number of people.

Q: What are the KPIs for this? Views only?

A: There are several, from impressions to social engagement. One will be how many people actually watch it, and how many click through and want information on products. 

Q: And you will advertise around the YouTube content, I assume? 

A: Yes, and not only auto creative like the new Fit advertising, but we will probably also put Honda motorcycle creative there, and maybe even for other Honda products that are a good fit. It's such a large platform that it should work for all of Honda youth products  not just auto. In fact, we have incorporated motorcycles in the last two or three Civic Tours, and that worked very well. 

Q: You told me the roster for the iHeart, Live Nation, and Revolt concerts are A-list and up-and-coming artists. Why would they -- especially the big-draw acts -- want to do this?

A: They are interested because, first, a lot of them have new albums coming and they want exposure. So Clear Channel and Live Nation, for example, who are brokering the deals, have influence because of their reach. If these artists do Honda Stage, they benefit from iHeart Radio channels. It's good for us, iHeart and the artist. 

Q: Would you say that even with product placement at the concerts, this is more about brand affinity than direct product consideration? 

A: Last year for Civic Tour we had 34 sold-out shows, 600,000 attendees. Six months after we did a database match; outside of maybe the auto shows where consumers are in cycle to purchase, we had the highest number of match-backs -- meaning real car sales. Those people actually bought a car six months after. So product consideration just goes way up. 

Q: But what about those brand equity intangibles?

A: If you do it right you add to the emotional appeal of the brand. We can all think of sponsorships that did that -- that added something to the experience, and I think if we do it right, that's the effect we are going to have. With Civic Tour we have achieved that by keeping ticket prices low, so you are going to get to see The Black Eyed Peas, say, for 25 bucks? You remember that, know we were involved in that, and thank us. It's the same with Honda Stage, where we are bringing you content you wouldn't otherwise see.

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