Author: Jay Nachlis

How Quantum Leap Can Accelerate Your Show

A couple of weeks ago, a nasty stomach bug floored me. I pretty much didn’t get out of bed for a few days.  My time in quarantine was spent in the room that has the TV without any bells and whistles. No cable, no satellite, not even streaming. I know, the horror. It does, however, kick it old school with an over-the-air antenna that allows me access to forgotten shows that have sat in a vault somewhere for decades until unearthed and repurposed by networks most people have never heard of like Comet. That is how I rediscovered one of my favorite shows, Quantum Leap.

Quantum Leap was a time-travel series that aired from 1989 through 1993. It starred Scott Bakula as a scientist who leaps through time into other people’s bodies to fix problems. Not having seen the show in decades, the detail of the show’s introduction caught my attention.

This voiceover begins each episode:

“Theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, Doctor Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator – and vanished. He awoke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mirror images that were not his own, and driven by an unknown force to change history for the better. His only guide on this journey is Al, an observer from his own time, who appears in the form of a hologram that only Sam can see and hear. And so, Doctor Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong and hoping each time that his next leap… will be the leap home.”

That 50-second narration precedes the show theme and credits that follow for a total of two minutes.

HOW QUANTUM LEAP USED OUTSIDE THINKING

While it has become common practice for shows to provide a “Previously on…” clip package to get viewers caught up, it is also common that shows get right into the content quickly. If you’re a new viewer, the onus is on you to figure out the intricacies of the characters and plot lines. Maybe that’s what struck me about the intro to Quantum Leap. It felt like an example of Outside Thinking; adopting the mindset of your consumer. The producers of Quantum Leap assumed that you didn’t know what the show was about when you tuned in. But each week, in less than a minute, you were clear on the premise of the show, the role of the two main characters, and the goal of each episode.

Consider the quarter-hour rule in television. Watch how, in a one-hour episode of a show, the three main story lines are reset every quarter hour or so (usually out of a commercial break). The idea is that new viewers are coming in all the time, and by quick resets through conversations and visuals, they won’t feel lost.

ADAPTING FOR PERSONALITY-BASED SHOWS

I’ve heard some personality-based shows in the radio, streaming, or podcast space use tag lines or slogans, which can be an effective way to quickly and simply define what a show is about. Some shows will play pieces of character-based imaging, that say the name of the personality followed by a piece of audio that helps establish their role on the show. Is he/she the funny one? The clever one? The silly one? The smart one?

These kind of tactics can feel unnecessary. Will listeners figure out the depths of someone’s role themselves, just by listening? Sure, maybe. But providing clear definitions to the audience can accelerate the process, which can positively impact the personality’s familiarity and evaluation.

As in the Quantum Leap and quarter-hour examples, there is high value when shows decide to set up and reset. Be deliberate about reminding listeners what the show is about. Clearly define roles and plot lines. Remember, if it feels like you’re doing it too often, you just might be getting close to doing it the right amount. Listeners and viewers don’t think like programmers. When programmers think like listeners and viewers, great things happen.

 

Nobody Likes Kale

Coleman Insights’ Brand-Content Matrix measures brand and content strength. The goal is to be in the upper right quadrant, at the intersection of strong brand and great content. While we generally share examples of where audio brands fall on the Brand-Content Matrix, today we’ll have a little fun. I’ll demonstrate how this tool can be used to evaluate the brand and content strength of just about anything. Even a vegetable.

Kale is disgusting. It is dry, has a texture so rubbery my car could drive on it, and leaves your mouth with a bitter aftertaste. Mmmmm.

But my opinion isn’t shared by millions who eat kale everyday and think it offers “great content.” It’s become a brand juggernaut in the health food space.  But kale didn’t always have a strong brand, and it wasn’t loved for its content either. If kale—kale!—can build a brand and develop strong content, surely your brand can too. Let’s explore how it was done.

First of all, while its popularity may be, kale itself is definitely not new. Kale has been cultivated for over 2,000 years in North America, and the frost-resistant crop dates back to 600 BC when the Celts brought it from Europe to Asia Minor. Legend has it that the largest buyer of kale prior to 2012 was Pizza Hut. They used it as garnish around their salad bars.

Pizza Hut using kale on its salad bar

But today, kale is found in high priced foods and beverages and is a darling of the health food industry.

Which hipster is responsible for this disaster?

Actually, it may be Martha Stewart’s fault.

Her company’s Whole Living magazine branded kale a “powerfood” in 2008. Then she published a recipe for kale slaw in 2009. The next thing you know, Dr. Oz is talking about kale and thyroids, Gwenyth Paltrow’s making kale chips, and your kale smoothie–natch, “superfood smoothie”—is $8.95.

The rise of kale was pretty handy for the food industry, as you can snag a bunch of it at Walmart for 78 cents. Which I contend is still overpriced.

THE BRANDING AND MARKETING OF KALE

Kale would not and could not have climbed its way up the brand ladder from buffet garnish at the Hut to chic miracle green without some really impressive branding and marketing efforts. Calling it a “superfood” and “power food” is utter genius. Getting the right celebrities behind it powers the engine.

This is how kale’s brand shifted from weak to strong, but it still had a content problem. You may be drawn to try kale thanks to its brand strength, but you won’t try it again if you don’t like it.

An equally brilliant move by the kale brigade was the decision to include kale as a secondary ingredient in so many recipes.

You likely don’t order a kale smoothie—maybe you order a pineapple kale or blueberry kale version. Or something like the Detox Island Green smoothie at Tropical Smoothie Café with spinach, kale, mango, pineapple, banana, and fresh ginger.

Fun fact, I’ve had the Detox Island Green smoothie. It’s delicious. You know why? IT DOESN’T TASTE LIKE KALE!

Fruit masks the flavor of the kale.

So does the spicy sweet potato and avocado sauce in a Southwestern Kale Power Salad.

“Oh, I sauteé kale! It tastes so good!” Maybe that’s because you mix in garlic and bacon.

So you see, the kale squad didn’t just run a master class in branding. They knew the taste of mere kale alone would keep its sad spot in the upper left quadrant of the Brand-Content Matrix (strong brand, poor content.) So close, but yet so far.

Because they figured out how to boost the brand as well as improve the eating experience, it could easily be argued that kale is in fact it its rightful position in the upper right quadrant, with its strong brand and great content.

I can only hope we’re towards the end of this long national nightmare. But in the meantime, I’ll tip my cap to team kale, and take this moment to remind you that there needs to be consistent, deliberate efforts undertaken to build a strong brand. But that is simply not enough.

You better also come to the party with strong content. If your content is mere kale-level, it is incumbent on you to spice it up and make it a superfood.

Finally, let’s toast this branding/content moment with a strawberry-banana smoothie.

You know, what smoothies are supposed to be made of.

How Zoom’s Brand and Content Won the Pandemic

As we approach the one-year anniversary of the COVID lockdown, it seems everyone has hit the wall of “Zoom Fatigue.”

Notice I didn’t say “Google Meet Fatigue” or “Microsoft Teams Fatigue” or “GoToMeeting Fatigue.”

The pandemic has left a path of brand destruction, while elevating others–and Zoom certainly fits in the “other” category.

How did the word “Zoom” become synonymous with the virtual meeting in the same way “Google” is synonymous with internet browsing, “Kleenex” is synonymous with tissue and “Band-Aid” is synonymous with bandages?

Years before founding Zoom, Eric Yuan was one of the first hires by WebEx, a video conferencing company that would later be acquired by Cisco. When he pitched his bosses at Cisco an idea to create a new smartphone-friendly video conferencing system, they declined and Yuan left.

Eric Yuan Founder/CEO of Zoom

ZOOM’S HYPERFOCUS ON THE CUSTOMER

There are many interesting tidbits in Zoom’s filing to the SEC when it went public in 2019. This includes Yuan’s driving force for creating Zoom: “I would visit customers and they would tell me how unhappy they were with the technology in the videoconferencing market. This made me unhappy. There had to be something better. I knew we would have to start from scratch to do it right.”

In a 2017 interview with Thrive Global, Yuan tells an early Zoom story of how he personally emailed every customer who cancelled the service. One customer accused him of sending auto-generating emails impersonating the CEO, so Yuan invited him to a Zoom call (naturally) to prove it was him. Yuan was practicing what I covered in the February 2020 Tuesdays With Coleman blog “Start With the Customer and Work Backwards.”

By the time March 2020 came around, Zoom had positioned itself exactly for the moment. Skype’s free version allowed for 50 participants, while Zoom permitted 100. Zoom had fun backgrounds that were really easy to integrate. You could send direct messages, record sessions, and it was super mobile-friendly. Zoom was also aggressive early on–just a couple weeks in to the COVID era, it dominated the K-12 school market.

Probably like you, over the past year I’ve used just about every video conferencing platform imaginable, including some I never knew existed. Some were established players before Zoom (like Skype), some were not well-known (like BlueJeans), while others were line extensions of massive brands (like Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Adobe Connect, Amazon Chime, and Facebook Messenger.)

THE IMPORTANCE OF STRONG BRAND MATCHED WITH GREAT CONTENT

Having a big brand like Google or Amazon wasn’t enough to for them win the pandemic video conferencing battle. A customer-friendly platform wouldn’t have been enough either.

Zoom worked to build their brand, researched to get the content right, and then pivoted to match the moment.

There’s a fascinating paragraph in that SEC filing mentioned earlier under “Risk Factors” for potential investors. It states, “Our business depends on a strong brand, and if we are not able to maintain and enhance our brand, our ability to expand our base of users will be impaired and our business will be harmed.” It mentions the danger of users viewing the brand as a utility rather than a solution. Whether or not Zoom succeeds in that exercise will, in part, determine its ability to weather “fatigue.”

Yuan’s salary as listed in the filing two years ago was $300,000.

Today, his net worth is estimated at $15 Billion.

Listen to your customers. Implement a plan. Build a brand.

Always be ready to pivot to market conditions.

Here’s hoping business is zooming (I mean, booming) in 2021.

 

Your Worst Enemy at Work Is…

You have an enemy.

You may think you don’t, but you do.

Not only is this enemy vicious and unrelenting, you are accompanied by the enemy every single day of your life. The enemy shows up in brainstorming sessions. When you’re writing copy. When you’re live on the air or when you’re recording a show.

Who is this enemy? It’s not a “who.” It’s a “what.”

Your enemy is the preconceived notion.

Preconceive: to form a conception or opinion of beforehand, as before seeing evidence or as a result of previously held prejudice. – Dictionary.com

Preconceived notions

Preconceived notions slither through the halls of radio stations, convincing you that you’ve got a total handle on how listeners think about your brand. They tell you how well-known the morning show host is and how everyone plays your contests. They shape your feelings about the competition and their listeners.

Preconceived notions are equal opportunity offenders, invading the podcasting and streaming industry the same way they permeated radio. In fact, no industry or brand is safe from the preconceived notion.

The worst part? There is great comfort in the preconceived notion. A strong preconceived notion can feel like a warm blanket draped around your shoulders. But rather than empowering your brain, preconceived notions offer a false sense of security. They offer a sense that you know more than you do–and the alternative to that is unpleasant.

(whispering) You don’t have all the answers.

Trevor Noah preconceived notion

That is an understandably intimidating realization for many. Those hired as strategists are expected to understand how to strategize, and removing preconceived notions can feel like an admission of defeat.

The reality is that market conditions and audience behavior is shifting in ways we’ve never seen in our lifetimes. The smartest strategists and most cunning tacticians are using research to understand these changes. So, what do they do with preconceived notions? They often include these preconceived notions in research to either validate them or smash them into pieces. In this way, the preconceived notion is no longer the enemy–it’s a superhero ally in an ongoing battle for positive image perception.

Recognize that preconceived notions are impossible to eliminate, but they can be managed. Challenging them doesn’t make you less of a strategist, it makes you a better one.

Sun Tzu strategy

Legendary Chinese military strategist and “The Art of War” author Sun Tzu

“Know thy enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles, you will never be defeated. When you are ignorant of the enemy but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal. If ignorant both of your enemy and of yourself, you are sure to be defeated in every battle.” – Sun Tzu

Coleman Insights Announces its Third Annual “Contemporary Music SuperStudy”

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC, FEBRUARY 17, 2021– Coleman Insights is proceeding with its third annual Contemporary Music SuperStudy, examining the contemporary music appetites of 1,000 12- to 54-year-olds across the United States and Canada. The findings of “Contemporary Music SuperStudy 3” will be shared in an initial summary presentation at the inaugural All Access Audio Summit, taking place on a virtual platform April 21st and 22nd, and through subsequent public webinars and posts on the company’s Tuesdays With Coleman blog.

Coleman Insights Executive Vice President/Senior Consultant John Boyne, who is leading the Contemporary Music SuperStudy 3 project, says, “We’re excited about this opportunity to learn how people feel about a wide array of contemporary songs. Which ones rise to the top? Which ones fall to the bottom? And how do pandemic era tastes compare to those of previous years?”

The study utilizes a song list comprised of the most consumed songs of 2020 as measured by MRC Data that includes radio airplay, streaming, and sales data and is being conducted via Coleman Insights’ FACT360 Strategic Music TestSM online platform. Findings will include the best and worst testing songs, artists, and genres, as well as differences by platform consumption, and how contemporary music tastes are evolving. Last year’s findings included a stronger report card for Country relative to the prior year and a shift of the most popular songs towards older titles.

Coleman Insights President Warren Kurtzman adds, “We’re proud to once again bring this bellwether of contemporary music tastes to the industry, particularly at a time when so many behaviors are in flux. The Contemporary Music SuperStudy 3 also adds to the value our clients get out of their investment in our services, as they will receive exclusive access to the song-by-song data through our Coleman Complete promise.”

Registration for the All Access Audio Summit is open here.

The Legend of Jack Falvey

Tell me if any of these things sound familiar.

Gourmet hamburgers smothered in chili, guacamole, bleu cheese, and bacon.

A funky hotel with cheap beer and Frank Sinatra on the jukebox.

Alcohol delivered to your door.

Gourmet hamburgers? There’s now a restaurant slinging variations of the classic on seemingly every corner.

Gourmet hamburgers

It’s not hard to find a gourmet hamburger now, but it wasn’t easy in 1950.

A funky hotel? Boutique spots are all the hipster rage.

Alcohol delivered to your door? Over the last few years, it’s become easier and easier to get just about everything delivered to your doorstep, including booze.

Services like Drizly offer fast alcohol delivery.

You probably don’t know the name Jack Falvey. But in my hometown of San Francisco, Falvey, who died in 1998, is something of a legend.

THE HUNGRY, HUNGRY HIPPO

Hippopotamus Hamburgers, known for its unique gourmet takes on the hamburger, opened on Van Ness Avenue in the City by the Bay in 1950. This was way before most American taste buds had even touched guacamole, much less guacamole on a burger. Opening a couple decades before Guy Fieri was born, Hippo’s was colorful and loud, with a giant hippo mascot, murals, and an open kitchen concept. It sold merch and published a cookbook.

This wasn’t the first time Falvey was ahead of his time.

Before he opened Hippo’s, Falvey owned Giraffe Liquors. You couldn’t miss it, because Falvey stuck a giant stuffed giraffe in a Buick in front of the store. And, long before Instacart, Shipt, Amazon, and Drizly, Giraffe Liquors delivered alcohol right to your door. This was 80 years ago.

Hipster hotel? Why, sure. Falvey opened the Monkey Inn behind Hippo’s, with sawdust on the floor and cheap beer. It was a booming spot for singles.

YOU DON’T NEED TO INVENT THE WHEEL, JUST REINVENT IT

Today Hippo’s is a CVS Pharmacy and, having closed all the way back in 1987, is a distant memory for fewer and fewer people. But the lessons of the visionary Jack Falvey live on–consumers didn’t know they needed liquor delivery or a hamburger sundae (yes, really) until he gave it to them. Falvey didn’t rely on paid marketing alone to bring consumers in–he stuck a stuffed giraffe in a parking lot.

He was an innovator and ahead of his time for sure, but it is also important to remember Falvey didn’t invent the wheel, he reinvented it. Alcohol existed, alcohol delivery did not. Hamburgers existed, gourmet hamburgers did not. Hotels existed, boutique hotels did not.

Radio exists. Podcasts exist. Streaming services exist.

What does not…yet?

Coleman Insights Introduces Campfire Online Discussion Groups

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC FEBRUARY 9, 2021 – Media research firm Coleman Insights launches its newest service, CampfireSM Online Discussion Groups, today.

Campfire reaches consumers in a new, innovative way, allowing Coleman Insights to probe deeply into their brand perceptions. Participants engage in in-depth discussions and complete assignments that provide Coleman Insights clients with a greater understanding of what these customers like and dislike about their brands and their competitors’ brands.

“Our clients have been asking us for alternatives to focus groups that meet their needs for more qualitative insights into their listeners and customers,” said Coleman Insights President Warren Kurtzman. “With Campfire, we can provide them with a major evolution in qualitative research.”

In a Campfire Online Discussion Group study, a community of carefully-recruited consumers spends about a week together thinking about and discussing the audio brands that are the subject of a study—such as radio stations, morning shows, talk shows, podcasts, and streaming services—as well as relevant competing brands. The Campfire interface looks and feels like a social media platform, making it easy for participants to use. Participants complete assignments and activities, including taking polls, posting videos, and providing text answers to open-ended questions. When the community’s work is complete, the Coleman Insights team distills the feedback into an-depth presentation of the study’s findings that culminates in “The Plan,” a set of actionable recommendations for the brand to follow.

“I am so excited to bring more of our clients the deep, qualitative insights that Campfire delivers,” said Associate Consultant Meghan Campbell, who is Coleman Insights’ team leader for Campfire studies. “What if you could spend a week with a group of your listeners and ask them all of your burning questions? Now you can with Campfire.”

For audio brands in the radio, podcasting, and streaming industries, more information about Campfire Online Discussion Groups is available at www.ColemanInsights.com/Campfire.

How Nickelodeon Aced the Brand Content Matrix

Tuesdays With Coleman

Because I grew up in San Francisco, my favorite professional sports teams should come as no surprise–its Giants for baseball, Warriors for basketball, and 49ers for football. As my career as a radio program director took me across the country, I adopted a few additional teams including the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes, the Detroit Lions, and the Buffalo Bills.

So while I’ve taken great interest in the Bills playoff games, the Bears-Saints game on Sunday, January 10th was a complete afterthought. What was impossible to miss were the comments that flew through my social media feeds after the game remarking about the coverage on…Nickelodeon??

Hosted by my fellow Syracuse University & WJPZ-FM alum Noah Eagle (son of sportscaster Ian Eagle,) former NFL wide receiver Nate Burleson, and Nickelodeon actress Gabrielle Nevaeh Green, Nickelodeon’s coverage of an NFL game featured graphics of SpongeBob SquarePants on the goal posts. Slime cannons exploding when a player scored a touchdown. Pop-ups of Young Sheldon (from sister network CBS’s hit show) explaining how penalties work.

Nickelodeon announcer Noah Eagle sporting the very on-brand SpongeBob SquarePants face mask.

Eagle and Burleson agreed before the game that if it sounded like they were enjoying themselves, viewers would do the same. Says Eagle, “It’s okay to have fun and people like to have fun,” Eagle said. “Sports are supposed to be fun, even in an NFL playoff game.”

It was different. It was fun. And it was exceptionally true to Nickelodeon’s brand.

I’m not sure I can think of a better example of occupying the upper right quadrant of our Brand Content MatrixSM. Exploding slime and silliness is exactly what people expect from the network, and the content in the context of an NFL game stimulated Broca’s Area, the part of your brain that anticipates the predictable and tunes out the expected. When Broca is fired up, you’re excited. You want to spread the word. In 2021, it means you get on social media with a whole lot of “Did you see that on Nickelodeon??”

Many have noted that perhaps the standard NFL (and professional sports) broadcast takes itself too seriously and there’s probably room for a little more fun. It doesn’t mean CBS, Fox, ESPN, or NBC can start using slime cannons, as it wouldn’t be true to their brands. But it also doesn’t mean they need to present content the same way, week after week. There are ways to change up the content that get Broca excited and allow the networks to remain true to their respective brands.

Generating buzz like the Nickelodeon NFL experiment won’t happen because you have a strong brand or because you’ve generated great content.

It will happen because you’ve got both.

The Five Most-Read Blogs of 2020

Tuesdays With Coleman

As we look back on our analytics from this past year, it turns out every member of the Coleman Insights consultant team contributed to the five most-read Tuesdays With Coleman blogs of 2020.  As for which subjects resonated the most, there’s a lesson to be learned. Four of the top five incorporated the two topics that most consumed 2020 – the coronavirus pandemic and the United States presidential election. It’s worth noting that, despite being published just seven days ago, last week’s buzzworthy Should Radio Go Back to Normal? by Jon Coleman nearly made the list and is worth a second look. Here are the five most-read blogs of the year, counted down from number five to number one.

5. The Marketing of Social Distancing by Jay Nachlis (March 31, 2020)

Two of the blogs on our list are from March, right as the COVID-19 lockdowns were taking hold and everyone was trying to figure out the answer to “what’s next?” The Marketing of Social Distancing  salutes a billboard campaign by one of our clients and a number of campaigns across various industries. It encourages brands to remain top-of-mind while being sensitive to the nature of the new pandemic environment.

K-97 Edmonton social distancing billboard

Our client K-97 in Edmonton launched this campaign very early in the pandemic.

4. The Musical Divide Between Trump and Biden Supporters by Warren Kurtzman (May 19, 2020)

The results of the first ever Coleman Insights Contemporary Music SuperStudy were released at the Worldwide Radio Summit in California, and we were looking forward to presenting the sequel at this year’s WWRS. Unfortunately, the week of March 23, 2020 turned out to be a pretty bad one for conference planning. Following the pandemic-related cancellation of this year’s conference, we released the results of Contemporary Music SuperStudy 2 via webinar and blogs. This installment of Tuesdays With Coleman illustrated just how different the musical tastes of Biden and Trump supporters are, although they do share a distaste for “Baby Shark.”

3. How to Move the Ratings Needle by Jon Coleman (May 26, 2020)

This blog from Coleman Insights founder Jon Coleman prominently features examples from Biden and Trump’s campaigns, but the real message of How to Move the Ratings Needle is how shifting perception can dramatically change the momentum of a brand. Jon argues that too much attention is paid to little things that don’t matter and, he says, “If I owned or managed a radio station today, I would hire a marketing specialist specifically charged with getting media coverage.”

2. The Seven Deadly Sins of (Non) Strategic Thinking by Sam Milkman (January 21, 2020)

In the only pre-pandemic blog on the list, Sam Milkman compiled a list of things inside thinkers (those that view their brands from their own perspective instead of their consumers) say.  As Sam points out, while people in radio have said these things for decades, these examples are dangerously unstrategic and create unnecessary friction and obstacles to growth.

1. How to Connect With Your Audience in a Crisis by Warren Kurtzman, Jon Coleman, Jessica Lichtenfeld, Sam Milkman, John Boyne, Meghan Campbell, and Jay Nachlis (March 19, 2020)

The first state issued COVID-19 stay-at-home order was issued by California on March 19th. A few days before that, the entire Coleman Insights consultant team gathered for a video conference to brainstorm, consider, and offer our best thinking in regards to how our clients should navigate their brands in the early days of the pandemic. While we wish we could end 2020 by saying the pandemic is over, we are optimistic about what 2021 will bring and heartened that so many found our advice nine months (!) ago helpful.

Have a wonderful holiday season and Happy New Year, and we’ll see you in January!