|(By Gary Begin)|
|Make one point.
Make it simple.
Make it something worth listening to.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Find out what people want and give it to them. A recipe for success! Unfortunately, most radio stations are anything but simple. In my travels as a consultant, it’s amazing the number of stations that make listeners jump through hoops to listen. Too much “clutter” in stop sets and too many positioners creates confusion for the listener. It’s a recipe for disaster.
We need to start thinking of our listeners as “customers.” The better we’re able to understand how our listeners “consume” our product, the better we’ll be able to market, package, and produce a product acceptable to the marketplace. In essence, programmers need to become brand managers of their radio stations.
We live in an over-communicated society. For a radio station to succeed in such a crowded environment, the station must create a position in the listener’s mind. That position must take into account not only its own strengths and weaknesses, but those of the competition as well. When we think of computers, most people think of IBM, but IBM didn’t invent the computer, Sperry-Rand did. IBM was the first company to build a computer position in the mind of the consumer. Radio needs to do the same thing. Build a position in the listener’s mind that you’re a station with instant top-of-mind awareness.
Two Types of Customers
Radio is unique in that it has two types of customers — listeners and advertisers. Most companies don’t suffer from that phenomenon. Their customers are their customers. Radio has to “sell” its product to listeners on a daily basis. As the marketplace becomes even more fragmented with iPods, Internet radio, mp3’s, CDs, satellite and now HD radio, it’s the “brands” that people remember — the thing that makes it comfortable for people to go out, buy, and listen to.
The radio dial is filled with more choices than ever before. Listeners are consuming our product on a daily basis. You’d better be able to stand out in the crowd! The primary reason to create a great product is to create great revenue. The better the product serves and entertains the target listener, the better the opportunity to increase ratings and revenue.
Building Brand Loyalty
Brand loyalty is the Holy Grail for all brand marketers. It’s a lot of hard work to establish and maintain that relationship. There is a reward, and it’s given to radio stations that develop a successful consumer-product relationship with the listener. As programmers, we need to connect with people and develop a sense of satisfaction the listener can embrace. We need to know and understand listeners’ beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions of our station. We’re in the entertainment business; let’s capture their imagination. Be creative!
Most of the fun has gone out of the radio business. It’s become too homogenized, formulated, computerized, and centralized. Radio needs to bring back the art and fun radio once enjoyed. This all plays into building a brand:
1. To create a brand you must create a unique brand identity communicating your benefits.
2. Once the identity is established, you need to build awareness of that brand.
3. Create brand loyalty.
Brands live in a highly competitive world. A brand may stand apart, but rarely does it stand alone. Your brand needs to push against commonality, driving a wedge between itself and your competitors. You must become a category of one. Miller Brewing accomplished this by hitting on a unique brand concept: “Tastes Great, Less Filling.” Miller Lite found a way to appeal to the rational and emotional sides of beer drinkers at the same time: Only Miller Lite could claim to be lower in calories (rational) while offering the taste beer drinkers wanted (emotional). Your radio station needs to accomplish the very same thing.
Over-Simplify Your Message
The most effective approach to take in our over-communicated society is the over-simplified message. Less is more. We need to sharpen our message to cut through the clutter. Jettison the ambiguities, simplify the message, and then simplify it even more. That way, you’ll make a long-lasting, memorable impression. Do you really think listeners believe we’re playing “a better mix of music?” Better than what, my iPod?
Drop the things you can’t brag about. Instead, brag about what you do best and forget the rest. Cut the crap and focus on making your strengths stronger. Stop insulting your listener with meaningless phrases they don’t believe. Relate to your audience. Find out what your strengths are and master them. Doing so builds a solid reputation and a following. Become known for doing great work in some area rather than mediocre work in a lot of areas.
You Look Marvelous
It’s important to come up with a signature style. Producer Phil Spector was sought out in the 60s by the Beatles and Rolling Stones for his unique “Wall of Sound.” His track record included producing such hits as “Be My Baby” and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” by creating a dense, complex, everything-and-the-kitchen-sink” type of sound. He mastered what he did and people wanted to work with him.
Come up with a strong theme. Do your best to be entertaining, thought-provoking, and memorable. Develop bits that the audience will enjoy and remember. This will become your signature that no one in your market will be able to copy. Listeners don’t know what they like, but like what they know. Brand yourself in a way the audience can relate and embrace, and any recipe for disaster will soon be the ingredient for success.
Gary Begin is the founder and president of Sound Advantage Media, a radio programming consulting firm. He has over 30 years programming experience. His book Radio Programming and Branding—The Ultimate Podcasting and Radio Branding Guide is available on amazon.com.