Author: Jay Nachlis

The Everlasting Effects of a Roof-Raising Brand

Tuesdays With Coleman

In the world of brand building, never forget that perceptions associated with your brand can last a long time. A very long, long time.

There are a great many positives that can result from remaining consistent in your brand building initiatives. For example, the longer you use the same logo and repeat the same core messaging, the more opportunity you have to build brand association. If the images are positive, you build loyalty.

Brothers Dan and Frank Carney’s first Pizza Hut opened in 1958 in Wichita, Kansas. But it wasn’t until 1969 when the company was looking for a way to differentiate its brand, that Pizza Hut unveiled its first restaurant with a red roof.

Pizza Hut original red roof

Pizza Hut added the red roof to its logo and used that version until 1999.

The pizza business went through massive changes thanks to the widespread convenience of delivery. Today, less than 10 percent of Pizza Hut’s sales are dine-in. The market changes led to smaller stores and abandonment of the big restaurants with the red roof.

A visit to Used To Be A Pizza Hut features a map of North America where you can find locations of repurposed red roof Pizza Huts, some of which (shockingly) didn’t make it. Many of the roofs are no longer red, but the architecture is unmistakable.

Where Pan Pizza, salad bars, and family memories were once made, the Spyce Gentlemen’s Club and After Dark Adult Store would later hold court.

“You know that place that used to be a Pizza Hut? Great seafood and chicken, fast.”

“I remember eating at that Pizza Hut when I was a kid. I get my diabetes medication there.”

If you remember eating in a Pizza Hut, one look at any building with the signature Pizza Hut design likely evokes the brand images you remember, positive or negative. They stick with you. It’s an image any business that takes its place in the old building lives with.

It’s also a reminder that your content is not everything. You may have the best gentlemen’s club, seafood and chicken or pharmacy in town, but because of the power of a brand, it will always be in the old Pizza Hut.

Although your brand may not be building distinct structures, you are always building your brand. Never forget how long those images can last.

After 20 dormant years, Pizza Hut brought back the old classic red roof logo in 2019, evoking nostalgia and a taste for the familiar. Perhaps considering what 2020 has ended up bringing us, it was a timely decision.

How the National Anthem Strengthened a Brand

Tuesdays With Coleman

Coleman Insights President Warren Kurtzman recently circulated an email with a piece of audio attached. In the clip, a man named Steve called in to Chicago’s Classic Rock station 97.1 The Drive and left a voicemail that said, “You guys are doing such a great job, I just had to call.” Everyone has time to complain or say something negative these days, but who takes the time to pay a passionate, emotional compliment to their favorite local radio station?

I called WDRV Program Director Rob Cressman to learn more about what inspired Steve from Chicago. He said, “That particular audio represents hundreds of equally passionate others who have emailed, called the request line, or called and left me messages on my desk phone.”

Just what, exactly, inspired this wave of emotional response?

The national anthem of the United States, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

In our conversation, you’ll discover how 97.1 The Drive didn’t just play the national anthem a few times–the playing of the anthem became a COVID-inspired benchmark, airing four times each day, and it continues to be played daily at Midnight and Noon.

WDRV Program Director Rob Cressman

Rob and I took a deep dive into the thought process behind the playing of the anthem, the delicate execution, the remarkable response, and the brand building lessons learned to find more passionate listeners so deeply inspired by their local radio station, they just have to call.

Below are highlights from our conversation, a link to Steve from Chicago’s voice mail/our full interview audio, as well as a sampling of emails received by 97.1 The Drive.

On whether he’s ever seen a listener response like this:

I don’t think I’ve ever seen an outpouring that’s been this consistent and strong. I think probably after 9/11 would be the closest. I was working in Memphis at the time, and we did something similar that indicated unity and brought the community together. People were prone to reach out and say thank you, but not at this magnitude. This has been surprisingly overwhelming.

On the delicate presentation of the Star Spangled Banner:

It does play without additional fanfare or commentary. I was very cautious because I didn’t want to be perceived as pandering or being political in any way. That’s a tricky widget.

On how playing the national anthem changed listener behavior:

People were setting their internal clocks. They’d hear the national anthem and know it’s either 12 or 6, AM or PM. So many of them stop what they’re doing, observe this couple minutes of silence while they listen to it, no matter what they’re doing or where they are. It’s gratifying to know that we can still do something in 2020 on the radio that absolutely changes and affects people in such a way that changes behaviorally.

On generating listener passion during and after a crisis:

It’s about being in the minute, being connected to a community, and thinking the way many of your constituents do. It’s about super serving fans who are experiencing some of the worst times of their lives, and trying to affect a change of mood, a change of attitude, something that’s unifying, something that people can feel is tangible and makes them part of a larger group. It’s having arms outstretched and welcoming people into the club, without those people having to jump through one hoop.

On having the right people on the team:

It’s important to not only have a staff, but having the staff who has been coached to a level to understand the importance of aligning with the community and understands the importance of amplifying a particular mood or spirit. When things change culturally, when things change politically, when things change surprisingly, we’re able to pivot and adapt so we can be in the moment with so many people in Chicago and beyond.

Listen to call + interview:

 

 

A small sampling of messages received by 97.1 The Drive listeners:

Who ever decided to Play the National Anthem (Star Spangled Banner) at the end of your playing segments /sessions deserves a raise /pat on the back. I listen to The Drive at home and in my Jeep. So keep the good work / forward thinking up. Thanks again for being a Patriotic station.

Being a father of two service men, one in the Army and one a Marine /now police officer, I am very pleased to hear at the Noon hour that you have not caved in ,and are still playing our wonderful National Anthem everyday. I always stop my noise making and listen when it comes on. Thank you so much for your support of this wonderful country, and PLEASE don’t ever stop. Thank you.

Sending you an “attaboy” for playing the National Anthem. Inspired. I sang along. Loudly.

I’m a patriotic nam veteran, and TRULY appreciate the playing of our fantastic national anthem. I’ve heard it at Noon, and at 6pm. I have spread the word at my American Legion,
and VFW.

As I traveled my work route at noon today, The Drive played the Star Spangled Banner – in its entirety! I turned up the volume and rolled down my windows. I was proud to listen to it and proud to be an American.

I was driving home from church today and enjoying the music when I realized I was hearing our National Anthem! That amazed me! 

 

Brand Like Your Life or (Liquid) Death Depends on It

Tuesdays With Coleman

You are always thinking of ways to get more listeners. How to best promote your talent. Which contests to run. How to make your brand “sticky”. We often see in our research that sticky brands–brands that do memorable things and become top of mind for those attributes–are more likely to grow their audience.

You can generate lasting, memorable images of your brand with great brand marketing. And the best part? Much of the brand marketing you can do to build those images is free or low-cost. The imaging on a radio station. The cover art you choose for your podcast. The name of a streaming channel. The home page on your website. These are not just opportunities to promote your brand, they are opportunities to build your brand.

Every piece of imaging you produce, every video you record, every photo you release, every blog you write should go through your brand filter. Does this support my brand and will it build my brand?

Enter Liquid Death Mountain Water.

Liquid Death Mountain Water

At liquiddeath.com, you’ll see:

  • A memorable, in-your-face positioning statement: “Murder Your Thirst”.
  • The “Contact Us” button is labeled “Summon Us”.
  • Their rewards program allows you to “Earn Skulls”.
  • There’s a blue button on the top right that says “HELL YES”. I didn’t know what the hell it was, but I had to find out.
  • And….

I’m not going to leave out the best part: the Killer Baby Namer. Enter your last name, gender (or select the “death to gender” option), pick from a list of hilarious desired occupations for your child, and you’ll discover your baby’s name. (If I was going to have another kid, Rock Murderdome Nachlis sounds pretty sweet). Scroll down, and you’ll see that the company will send you an 18-year supply of Liquid Death if you upload a copy of the birth certificate with their killer baby name.

This brand knows exactly who and what it is, and you can only imagine how much fun they had putting this together.

What if your audio brand barreled in with this kind of chutzpah on the website? What brand-building game could you put on your site that’s not “Enter your name and listen for it?” How would you relabel your navigation tabs? What fun outfits could your talent wear in photo shoots?  What memorable hashtags (like Liquid Death’s #DeathToPlastic) could you come up with?

Read the “About” page and check out their description of unnecessary things (“Jumping over 14 Greyhound buses on a vintage motorcycle”, “Cat videos”) and necessary things (“Breathing”, “Colonoscopies”).

This makes me want to write a promo right this second.

To be clear, your brand may be (and probably is) way less “aggressive” than Liquid Death. The lesson here isn’t to be like Liquid Death. It’s to be your brand and all the essence that goes with it. Be your brand bigger, better and stickier. And maybe, just maybe a little more fun. Couldn’t we all use a little more of that right now?

Liquid Death doesn’t have the advantage of having been around long. Liquid Death doesn’t have a 100,000 watt transmitter. You can’t tell Alexa to play Liquid Death. Liquid Death doesn’t have an app, or a roster of amazing talent that have cemented a bond with its listeners.

But you might have one or two of those things. Maybe you’re fortunate enough to have all of them.

Now brand like your life or Liquid Death depends on it.

Taylor Swift’s Brilliant Coronavirus Pivot

Tuesdays With Coleman

Brands around the world have been feverishly trying to figure out how to pivot during the age of COVID-19. How should we change our offerings? What tone of voice should we use? How should it look?

Enter the master of the moment, Taylor Swift.

Swift’s transition from Country darling to Pop superstar is well documented. From 2006-2010, she sold millions of albums and won countless awards with her sweet, melodic Pop Country sound. 2012’s Red was the transition album that led to 1989 two years later, her straight-ahead Pop album.

The releases of the three monster Pop albums in a five-year span–1989, Reputation and Lover–were lessons in large-scale, bombastic (and effective) marketing. Swift teased 1989 on social media in August 2014. She did a live stream. She teased the artwork. There were “secret” listening sessions in hotel rooms. Songs were “leaked” early.

A few fortunate fans got to join Taylor Swift at secret listening sessions around album releases.

There was no marketing let-up on Reputation or Lover, including more secret sessions, partnerships with UPS and Amazon, an exclusive playlist on Spotify, a new line of clothing and her own music festival, Lover Fest, which, until the pandemic derailed plans, was to play stadiums this summer.

Now, Taylor Swift has delivered a master class on how to pivot your brand in a crisis. In a world filled with marketing extremes–either brands running over-cliched ad campaigns or ignoring the pandemic altogether–Taylor Swift did something so smart, you’d almost think it was done by accident.

She released her new album, Folklore with no fanfare at all.

The album was announced 16 hours prior to its availability. There were no singles released early to promote it. According to Swift, “My gut is telling me that if you make something you love, you should just put it out into the world.”

That’s one multi-million dollar gut.

Go figure–the one without the hype, Folklore is Swift’s seventh consecutive album to debut with over 500,000 pure sales, a new Billboard record. 80.6 million streams in one day on Spotify is a record for a female artist. In fact, Swift’s quick album drop as opposed to her previous lead-up hype may be perfectly tailored (“Taylored”?) for today’s streaming consumption behavior. The album is a critical darling.

Taylor Swift mastered the moment because she recognized and mirrored the mood of her audience. So much content we’re currently seeing and hearing was, of course, recorded long ago–they couldn’t have predicted where we’d be today. Folklore feels in the moment because it was recorded during the pandemic.

What techniques can your brand adopt from the “Folklore” launch?

  • Do something surprising. No one saw this album coming, so it felt like a gift, which made it feel more special.
  • Dial down the hype. Be wary of overloading with information because we have so much coming at us from every angle.
  • Be an Outside Thinker. When you put yourself in your consumer’s shoes, you win. From the stripped down music to the lessened hype to the somber black and white photo shoot, everything about the Folklore release feels like a recognition of where the listener is emotionally.

From Taylor Swift’s black and white Folklore photo shoot Credit: Beth Garrabrant

When will it be time to get back to normal and flip the old hype machine switch back on?

We can’t be sure, but you can bet Taylor Swift will know when it’s time.

How to Change Negative Brand Images Into Positives

Tuesdays With Coleman

They charged me for bags. My flight wasn’t on time. They lost my bags. That change fee was ridiculous. There’s no leg room.

The morning show isn’t funny. They talk too much. They play the same songs over and over.

Whether you’re talking about airlines or radio stations, negative images are part of doing business. How you handle it is what sets you apart.

In 2009, Southwest Airlines took on one of those typical negative images about airlines (unreasonable bag fees) head-on. At first, it simply offered free checked bags and assumed the passenger would notice. If the fare between two airlines were similar, the shopper would be saving money on Southwest thanks to the free checked bag. But that logic assumes the consumer will think that through when shopping, even though the bag savings aren’t listed in the fare.

Southwest deployed a marketing campaign called “Bags Fly Free”. But while you likely remember it now, even that campaign wasn’t successful until it was deployed like a sledgehammer, from being plastered on its own planes and baggage carts to stadiums and airports around the United States.

Radio stations often make the same mistake Southwest initially made–assuming consumers will notice when you make a change. You added a song category. You’re playing more songs per hour. You’ve got a new morning show. You’ve got less repetition. Then you wonder why it didn’t make a difference. Why it didn’t move the needle.

Maybe it’s because you didn’t really tell anyone about it outside of your already loyal P1s.

Here’s another example.

The Wall Street Journal named Delta the best airline of 2019. Fortune named Delta one of the top 100 companies to work for.

Delta’s always been great, right?

Sure, if you consider being named the least respected brand in America great. Because a 2013 study revealed Delta was one of the least respected brands in America.

Just ahead of Phillip Morris.

How in the world did Delta go from being one of the least respected brands to one of the most respected in just seven years? The answer is two-fold.

First, of course, Delta had to change the way it did business. These were the internal changes. Changing the culture. Hiring the right people. Buying new planes.

But I’m here to tell you there is absolutely no way that Delta goes from worst to first if they don’t tell anyone about it. That’s why everywhere you look, from the airport to the plane, from the website to the emails, Delta boasts about being the “most awarded airline”. Delta is only able to change the negative images into positives with a consistent, sledgehammer campaign.

Like Southwest’s “Bags Fly Free”.

So, if your radio station (or any brand for that matter) is doing something different, something great, and you are assuming the consumer will figure it out on their own, you’re wrong.

Shout it from the mountaintops. And just when you think they’re tired of hearing it, shout louder.

Then never stop shouting.

 

Using Inbound Marketing To Build Brand Equity

Tuesdays With Coleman

How many times have you thought, “If we just had more money to spend on marketing, it would solve our problems”?

While marketing will probably never solve all your problems, in many cases (provided the brand/product/appeal are properly aligned) the right marketing can work wonders. We’ve recommended marketing campaigns as part of strategic research plans over the years, and plenty of radio stations have seen tangible results from utilizing other traditional media such as television, billboards and direct mail.

Many companies today are also finding success by marketing in a decidedly non-traditional way that sounds counter-intuitive: by “giving away” their product.

Meet Roger Wakefield, President of Texas Green Plumbing in Dallas.

When Roger’s business started slowing down a couple of years ago, he started a YouTube channel. He created videos that provide free plumbing advice.

Tank vs. Tankless Water Heater. 193K views.

Are Water Heaters Supposed to Make Noise? 77K views.

But the real kickers are the videos in which he instructs viewers how to do the things…well, that plumbers do.

How to Unclog a Kitchen Sink. 89K views.

How to Replace a Gas Control Valve on a Gas Water Heater. 41K views.

How to Fix a Running Toilet, Guaranteed. 709K views!

Roger knows that by giving away advice and establishing credibility with these small DIY things, he’s creating potential customers that will contact him when they need help with the big things.

It’s not unlike the reason we started our Tuesdays With Coleman blogs nearly three years ago. We’re happy to share tidbits on content, research and branding strategy and hope you’ll think of us when you need help with the big things, too.

What extra value can you give to your customers? What can you do to “pull back the curtain” of your audio brand for your listeners? What tips and advice can your sales teams provide to build credibility?

Outbound Marketing will always be necessary to build brand awareness. But think about how your Inbound Marketing–content creation, problem solving and loyalty building–can play a role in your overall brand strategy.

The Line Extension Trap

Tuesdays With Coleman

The following blog was written this past February and was originally scheduled for publication in March. After COVID-19 hit, our Tuesdays With Coleman blogs shifted to content focused on the crisis. When most stores were forced to close due to the pandemic, I wondered if this blog would come across as insensitive and untimely.

Ultimately I decided to run it because a) branding challenges are evergreen, whether the country is in a pandemic or not; b) it serves as something of a time capsule, me taking notes in a store without wearing a mask or fear of catching something.

I was beer shopping with my friend Andy recently when he stopped and stared back and forth at two packages at the shelf. “I’m no branding expert,” he said. “But this is weird.”

These were the two packages he was looking at:

“They both say Fat Tire, but only one is Fat Tire. The yellow one is a completely different beer.”

Indeed it is. One is the original Fat Tire, an amber-colored malty ale launched in 1991. The other, a Belgian wheat, is a completely different style, gold colored and citrusy.

I really like New Belgium Brewing beers and they generally come with their own unique names. But in this case, the brewery went with a line extension of the flagship Fat Tire brand.

According to marketing strategist Al Ries, “Line extension is a loser’s game. It doesn’t usually work, but even if it does, it almost always damage the core brand.”

There was that time recently when my wife and I popped into Macy’s, and saw the signs for “Macy’s Backstage.”

The idea of a department store having its own lower-priced outlet is not unusual in and of itself.

There’s Saks Off 5th, Nordstrom Rack, REI Garage and Gap Factory to name a few. But Macy’s Backstage isn’t in an outlet mall, or even another location. It’s inside Macy’s! The real Macy’s is on the other side of that mirror!

A few things happened in my brand perception of Macy’s that day.

I was distracted from the Macy’s shopping experience. Rather than search through Macy’s for deals, I got lost in “Backstage” looking for deals. Once I ventured to the other side of the mirror, I found myself comparing Macy’s prices against themselves, because some similar products were priced drastically different–in the same store! And Macy’s Backstage didn’t always have the best deal.

The checkout aisle was loaded with things like a vending machine, candy and stuffed animals. Is this Marshall’s or Macy’s?

On a clearance rack, I found:

  • A heated steering wheel cover;
  • Kenneth Cole underwear;
  • A Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. hat;
  • A resistance band;
  • Two Nike wallets.

This looks like something I might find at Kohl’s, but I just have a hunch like they might separate underwear, a wheel cover and a resistance band into different sections.

And I definitely would not have expected to find a Bubba Gump hat and wheel cover at Macy’s.

But, you may say, this is Macy’s Backstage, not Macy’s!

Therein lies one of the dangers of line extension. I’m going to mentally associate the two because they share the name. The fact that the two stores are literally in the same space only exacerbates the association.

Let’s say you walk into Nordstrom Rack and find some good deals but still determine the clothes are Nordstrom-level quality. Your perception of the Nordstrom brand is likely not eroded.

Would the same be true if you found Nordstrom Rack loaded with Jordache, Fruit-of-the-Loom and Bubba Gump hats?

It would not.

The point is, you must treat your brand with delicate care. Brand erosion is generally a slow process that is hard to come back from and opens up opportunities for focused competitors. It’s also why tracking your brand in perceptual research is so important.

Even Bubba Gump knows the power of brand focus. Sure, he serves a lot of different styles in many different ways.

But, you know what? It’s all shrimp.

Perception is Reality. But Whose Reality?

Tuesdays With Coleman

You’ve heard the saying, “Perception is reality.” Taken at face value, it’s not accurate. Perception can become a person’s reality.  Explained by Dr. Jim Taylor in Psychology Today, “Perception has a potent influence on how we look at reality.” Taken one step further, “Our perceptions influence how we focus on, process, remember, interpret, understand, synthesize, decide about, and act on reality.”

So, we know perceptions are important. But what happens when your perceptions are not the same as those of your consumer? You make decisions–important, impactful decisions–that influence the strategic direction of your brand based on your perceptions and not the perceptions of the people that really matter.

There’s a legendary Silicon Valley story from the first dot-com boom of the late 90s. In its telling, in 1997 when Yahoo! and Excite ruled the search engine roost, Larry Page and Sergey Brin met with the leaders of Excite to show them the potential of their new search engine. As the story goes, Page and Brin demonstrated their new product by typing in the word “Internet.” While Excite’s search was filled with non-relevant pages with the word “internet” stuffed into them, the other search included webpages that explained how to use browsers. According to the tale, Excite CEO George Bell saw the other results as too good. If users found results that quickly, they wouldn’t spend as much time on the Excite interface.

Excite was given the opportunity to purchase Google for one million dollars and turned it down.

Excite turned down the chance to buy Google from co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin for one million dollars in 1997.

Here’s the important part to remember. Excite didn’t turn down Google because Google had an inferior product. Excite turned down Google because of their perception that it wouldn’t benefit their business.

Remember Ask Jeeves?

In 2005, InterActiveCorp bought Ask Jeeves for $1.85 billion.

Ask Jeeves was all about perception. It had a great name that easily explained the function. It had a butler for a mascot. You could tell your friends, “I asked Jeeves about bikes and it recommended the best one for me!”

In theory that last part was true, except for the fact that Jeeves was great for a marketing campaign but not great for search results. Today, the relabeled Ask.com has only 2% of the search market and you likely tell your friends you Googled that bike and got some pretty outstanding recommendations.

Ask Jeeves was purchased for $1.85 billion in 2005. Its branding was stronger than its functionality.

Excite turned down Google at a ridiculously cheap price and InterActiveCorp bought Ask Jeeves at an overly inflated price not due to functionality, but rather because of their perceptions.

These two examples additionally validate the importance of which quadrant your brand occupies in the Coleman Insights Brand-Content MatrixSM.

In 1997, Google (which, up to the point of the Excite meeting had been known as BackRub) had great content but a weak (unknown and undeveloped) brand. Therefore, it was undervalued. In 2005, Ask Jeeves had a strong brand so it was overvalued. But because it had poor content, Ask Jeeves fizzled quickly while a company that spent a decade building a strong brand and developing great content (wonder who that could be?) dominated the market.

Brand Content Matrix

Brands should aim to be in the upper right quadrant of the Brand-Content Matrix.

Now, put this into practice with your own brands. You may think you know what your consumers really think of your brand, and you may be correct about some of those perceptions. But there are two important things to consider. First, no matter how brilliant a strategist you may be, everyone falls into the Inside Thinking trap. Because you are too close to your brand, it is very difficult to view it from the perspective of your consumer. Second, can you think of a time in recent memory (or perhaps, ever) in which consumer behavior has changed so rapidly over the course of a few months? The altering of behavior that we have experienced recently has surely impacted your brand in ways both expected and unexpected.

A “wait and see” attitude is not unusual and completely understandable during times of turbulence and economic uncertainty. But we hearken back to Taylor’s quote on perception–“Our perceptions influence how we focus on, process, remember, interpret, understand, synthesize, decide about, and act on reality.” How can your brand align itself with how it is perceived? One way is by conducting perceptual research. We can surmise that brands that invest in perceptual research, particularly during a time when perceptions may be actively changing more rapidly than normal, will have the upper hand versus brands that do not.

How Can Harley-Davidson (and Radio Talent) Remain Relevant?

Tuesdays With Coleman

Two years ago, our Vice President of Research Operations David Baird wrote a blog post called, “Harley-Davidson Has More Problems Than Tariffs.”

Published in July 2018, it would become one of the five most-read Tuesdays With Coleman blog posts of that year. But the remarkable tale of that post was how it gained popularity with time. When we calculated the stats at the end of last year, “Harley-Davidson Has More Problems Than Tariffs” was the most-read post of 2019.

The Harley-Davidson blog post is about a brand that has struggled to evolve and maintain relevance. When a company makes attempts to evolve, it often violates the brand (e.g., introducing an electric motorcycle under the Harley-Davidson name when your brand is known for big, loud fuel-injected bikes). Last week, Personality Coach Steve Reynolds shared “How Harley-Davidson Killed Itself,” a video posted less than a month ago by a Canadian motorcycle blog that already has close to two million views. It offers a number of reasons for the company’s struggles, including some misguided attempts at evolving due to brand violations.

Steve works with morning radio talent, most of them established shows with deeply ingrained audience perceptions (like Harley-Davidson). As Harley-Davidson attempts to keep younger consumers engaged and interested, David’s blog post and video inspired Steve to share how he works with shows to remain relevant, including to people younger than themselves.

Here are Steve’s thoughts:

Will Harley-Davidson be successful in converting a younger audience to buy cheaper, faster, environmentally-friendly bikes? Most importantly, can a heritage brand known for something different effectively evolve?

It worked for Netflix–they seamlessly transitioned from DVD-by-mail to streaming dominance.

It didn’t work for Kodak–though the once dominant leader invented digital photography, it could not shift past its image as a traditional film company.

All radio talent will inevitably “age out.”

Any talent’s center of relevance stays the same. I will always be a child of the 70s.

That’s informed by my year of birth and formative years. To stay relevant, I must be inquisitive enough in life to gather a take on whatever is going on now because the audience wants to be connected to them, too. That I don’t personally care for The Bachelor doesn’t disallow me to have a working knowledge and take on it. I can only get that by experiencing it. Ditto every other relevant topic. The work of every talent is to be curious enough to fall down the rabbit hole of news articles, TV stories, YouTube videos, etc. on every topic to twist and turn their perspective.

Personality Coach Steve Reynolds

In the case of one major market Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR) show I work with, I used to always remind the principal talent that I’d get concerned if I heard them talking about college visits with their kids on the air. Why? Because the typical disconnect would happen with the core audience. Younger demos would say, “I cannot relate to these people because they’re my parents.”

The show hosts just celebrated their 20th anniversary together and continue to add relevant brand depth to the station because they’ve added fresh perspectives to the topics of the day from people in the demo – by using callers, interns, and new cast members – which has allowed them to just be themselves. They’ve actually heightened the show’s age relevance because of these strategic decisions.

Many shows I work with admitted to their audience when discussing the recent protests that they cannot understand the African American experience because they were White – that vulnerability defined them. Then, one invited on their show a Black pastor just so they could learn and listen. I found it to be immensely powerful and relevant to the moment.  It never got political, but was always human, real, and moving. It was deeply relevant on that day.

How talent handle recent protests on their shows can impact their perceived relevance.

Relevance is this elusive term that means: we’re about what’s happening now. It’s why you see so many brands aligning themselves with messaging that parallels whatever is happening in the current news or pop culture cycle.

The goal for every talent should be to find interesting angles that inform them, from which they develop a perspective based on more than a tertiary knowledge about something because they saw it on their Facebook page.

If you want a brand and talent at their peak of relevance, especially for talent who’ve been around a while, don’t let them off the hook with poor excuses like “our audience isn’t into that” or “I don’t personally care.”  For connection, we all must dig deep to learn and read about the “now topics”, both silly and serious, if we’re ever going to bond with listeners to have a substantial relationship with them so they come back every day because they cannot get that connection and humanity anywhere else.

But what about the brand? Perhaps why, despite their recent innovation, Harley-Davidson is struggling is because they waited too long to pivot. If you release a bike that looks like a Ducati, rides like a Ducati and is even technically better than a Ducati, it doesn’t matter–Ducati was first and owns the image. Harley’s path to victory is immensely more challenging because they weren’t first.

Kodak may have been able to pivot to digital photography (Kodak invented the digital camera in 1975!) but was afraid to cannibalize its film business and waited too long, allowing Japanese competitors to win the image.

Netflix, on the other hand, pivoted early, becoming the streaming leader before any other brand could.

The key for the evolution of talent and the path to remaining relevant is always to recognize what’s relevant in every moment, bring in other players with perspectives that mirror the audience, and remain vulnerable and honest.

 

The Pandemic Cliché Epidemic

Tuesdays With Coleman

If I hear “The New Normal” one more time…

If I hear “We’re all in this together” one more time…

If I hear “Today, more than ever” one more time…

You can just feel the pandemic cliché frustration in the air. There’s even a video with over 1.5 million views called “Every COVID-19 Commercial is Exactly the Same”–and it has a point.

Doesn’t this sound familiar?

Is “All your insurance needs”, “You heard right!” and “It’s the biggest sale of the year” all that different from “During these uncertain times” and “We’re here for you”?

So which brands are doing this right?

What is special about your brand? What’s something “behind the curtain” you can offer?

IKEA is a home furnishings store with a cult following, and those followers know that Swedish meatballs are served in over 430 of its locations around the world.

So, instead of a furniture sale, IKEA released the recipe for its Swedish meatballs. The amount of free publicity the brand received for this action would have busted marketing budgets countless times over.

Hilton could have run a commercial about how their DoubleTree brand was open for business and safe to stay in.

But why do that when you can release the chocolate chip cookie recipe? (Every DoubleTree guest is greeted with a hot chocolate chip cookie upon check-in).

DoubleTree by Hilton shared its chocolate chip cookie recipe on April 9th to “bring a moment of comfort and happiness”.

Your brand may not have a recipe to share, but it (hopefully) does have something that makes it special and different. Now, as the country attempts to get back to some semblance of normality (I’m not going to say the “New Normal”), is the time to let people know about it.

There are so many amazing examples of radio stations utilizing the medium for good over the past couple of months. Before your listeners go back to their commutes, the office and back to school, tell them what you did. Getting brand credit for community is no different than getting credit for being #1 for Hip Hop or playing the most New Country. You can’t just break more new hits than the competition or play twenty percent more songs than the station across the street–you have to do it and take credit to get credit.

When it comes to reminding listeners about your community connection during the pandemic, you have to be careful of tone and not be boastful.

ACE Metrix measures the performance of TV and video commercials. Watch the strong-testing COVID ad, Frito-Lay’s “All About People”:

On the surface, it sounds and feels like the cliché ads referred to in the beginning of this blog, but the messaging within it does not. Frito-Lay takes credit for the good work they’ve done during the pandemic, but makes it about the people they did it for.

As we pointed out in “How to Connect With Your Audience in a Crisis”, “If you make a concerted effort to think about what you can really do for your community and your audience, your efforts will create a halo over your brand when things settle down.” But you have to take credit.

Just don’t forget about tone.