Branded content on YouTube – Why Honda Stage has stalled (and how to fix it)

Last June, Honda launched with much fanfare a multi-million dollar content plan for YouTube. The company declared it was pulling back from its TV ad spending to focus on a dedicated YouTube channel. The Honda Stage channel was announced along with a $50 million total budget to feature musical content from top music artists. It’s not clear how much of that amount was to be invested in content vs. the marketing campaign leading up to the launch.

We are now early September, and the Honda Stage channel has struggled to get any real traction with its videos (less than 100,000 views in total). Honda has chosen to keep the number of channel subscribers secret.

Here is a rundown of the reasons why the channel isn’t doing so well as well as some suggestions and best practices on how to grow a YouTube audience.

Reason #1: Lack of content (for the first 10 weeks)

As of mid August, Honda Stage had uploaded a total of 8 videos with most less than two minutes long and one lasting only 16 seconds. This added up to less than 10 minutes of content on the channel for over 2 months. They’ve since uploaded more long-form content bringing the total to 23 videos.

Compare this to the 3 top brands on YouTube who continuously upload content all year long. In the first week of August alone Red Bull uploaded 19 videos (5 on August 7 alone), GoPro published 9 videos and Vevo 15 videos.

Reason #2: Heavy-handed branding

A viewer coming along would be unclear if this channel is about music or a Honda commercial. Although it’s clear that Honda has created this promotion to tie into its brand, the branding is too heavy-handed.

All of the Honda Stage videos have “Honda” or “Honda Civic” in their titles. If Honda wants to reach an affluent audience in a crowded music space, it will need to focus on the artists.

Honda is leaning on musical acts with large spotlights by putting a big branded umbrella over them, thus preventing fans from finding the content. Most views come from search and YouTube recommended videos, so focusing on popular artists rather than constantly putting the brand forward would drive more views.

Reason #3: Lack of engagement

This is a common problem; many brands post content but do not engage with their audience. Posting content is only half of the job; creators—whether they are brands or individuals—need to listen and interact with their audience, and ideally iterate their content based on the feedback they receive. Brands see social platforms through the same lens as traditional advertising methods. But one of the things that makes YouTube so powerful is that it’s a two-way medium.

Honda Stage suffers from a lack of audience engagement with respect to both its content and the channel. So far, only YouTube profiles belonging to Honda dealers have engaged with the content, but Honda Stage has yet to reply or engage with any fan or viewer.

Reason #4: Lack of consistency

Consistency goes hand-in-hand with engagement. Every popular YouTuber understands the importance of clearly identifying the type of content viewers will get from a channel and when it will arrive.

Honda Stage posts erratically, and there is no indication as to when new content will be uploaded. Even though YouTube is a on-demand “pull” medium (as opposed to a “push” medium like TV), viewers still want to know at what frequency new content will be posted and what it will consist of.

Reason #5: Not going all in

Honda has approached content on YouTube in an old school marketing campaign sort of way: new channel, new website, promotional tour lasting about a month or two without a sign of a clear long-term commitment.

Once again, Red Bull and GoPro as well as Chevrolet are shining examples of going all in and commitment to content. All have ongoing upload schedules and robust content libraries that continue to be indexed in searches.

In addition, for its Honda Stage initiative, Honda created a separate channel from its already established brand channel with a robust 125,000 subscribers. This makes it easier to drop once the campaign is over.

There are more but these are the most obvious of Honda’s stumbles. Now here is where Honda should focus to help grow the channel and build a dedicated and engaged audience.

Actionable tips for better branded content on YouTube


Read “The YouTube Playbook”

YouTube has created both an excellent Creator Playbook as well as a Creator Playbook for Brands. Creators developing any kind of content for YouTube should read both. They are excellent primers and provide easy-to-follow and common-sense advice.

It’s a YouTubers’ world, so learn to collaborate

Almost all YouTube ‘millionaires’ (meaning channels with more than one million subscribers) have hundreds of videos with multiple years of experience. Brands making their début on YouTube should find ways to collaborate with them to learn how to build a dedicated audience. Successful YouTubers know that collaboration is a key to growing an audience.

For example, two Honda Civic Tour artists have a significant YouTube presence:

  • Portugal. The Man has 60,000 subscribers and a total of 22 million views
  • American Authors has 174,000 subscribers and a total of 40 million views

An easy way to collaborate would be to have both artists release videos on their channels to announce and promote the Honda Stage channel and Honda Stage should return the favour by, for example, producing a video portrait of each of them or offering them a filmed jam session in high-end studios.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint…

Neither GoPro nor Red Bull are overnight success stories. Both have been at it for over 5 years. Building a dedicated audience on YouTube takes time, a lot of content and hard work.

The ad press often focuses on “YouTuber millionaires” without much talk of the hard work and dedication involved in growing those kinds of numbers. It’s OK to start slow as long as your committed to the long haul.

Honda Stage’s YouTube channel isn’t a failure because the true test is the test of time. What will Honda Stage look like in one or five years from now? Hopefully, they’ll stay devoted and use some of these baseline tactics to sustain their growth.

Carlos Pacheco
Carlos Pacheco is director of partnerships at Boat Rocker Studios in Toronto specializing in YouTube content, channel and engagement as well as branded content and partner strategies.
Read Bio