When visiting family in San Francisco recently, we passed a small corner store, of which there are many in the city. But as we drove towards a particular one, I noticed three words on the front that grabbed me—“Beer, Bourbon, and Hummus.” Riding in the drivers’ seat in a car going around 40 miles an hour, it struck me with enough emotional impact that I had to whip out my phone and take a picture.
I’ve seen a lot of things in my 48 years. But never a sign for beer, bourbon, and hummus. And before you discard the hummus message for being completely not like the other two, you should know the name of the store is “Healthy Spirits.” So maybe it’s not so far off brand.
The point is, San Francisco has countless storefronts that look exactly like this. They are on a corner. They have wine and liquor in the window. A few signs are pasted on the outside. The names are non-descript. There is typically nothing that would make one of these stores stand out for me over another. Nothing that would make me grab my phone as fast as I could to take a picture to share on social media.
And so it goes with your audio brand. Maybe it plays the hits, kicks out the jams, has soft and relaxing favorites, delivers the news, or talks about sports. And you may do it very, very well.
In an October 2000 interview with Rolling Stone, television producer Gay Rosenthal tells the story about the time he was at lunch with VH1 Executive Vice President Jeff Gaspin and the conversation landed on Milli Vanilli. The two started wondering out loud whatever happened to the massively successful duo that was brought down and disgraced by a lip-syncing scandal in the summer of 1989. Rosenthal said to Gaspin, “I don’t know, but why don’t you let me take the ball and run with it, and let me see what I can find out?”
That’s how Behind The Music was born.
Rob and Fab don’t look particularly happy for two guys that just won Grammy Awards.
The VH1 docuseries that examined each artists’ history from their origins to their peak of success, and took a deep dive into their struggles and hardships (no BTM was complete without the struggles!) started in 1997 and lasted 274 episodes.
Thanks in part to the streaming content explosion, Behind The Music is getting a reboot on Paramount+ with eight new episodes starting July 29th. Those that remember the glory days of VH1 will also recall Storytellers, which lasted all the way until 2015 with artists telling stories behind the songs. The diverse lineup of 98 episodes started with Ray Davies of The Kinks and ended with Ed Sheeran.
But surprise, shawty! The desire for fans to learn more about their favorite artists never went out of style. In just the past few years, Netflix alone has churned out popular docs on artists representing just about every genre of music.
Consumers have always craved more information about the artists they love. They read liner notes in the vinyl, click the button on Shazam, and type in lyrics on Google.
It is disheartening when personalities on music radio stations either a) don’t offer information about their core artists or b) don’t offer anything very interesting or engaging.
Of course, it doesn’t make sense for most stations to run long-form documentaries and “musicology” doesn’t belong on every format. But if there’s any medium that should be serving the craving for artist connection, shouldn’t it be radio?
By default, listeners will assume air talent on music radio stations are experts. Air talent have a unique platform to both introduce artists to the audience and build emotional connections with their listeners. You can provide basic general knowledge listeners can find anywhere or you can be the “insider” the listener relies on for engaging content. Taking the extra time to find this content can build important images for the station and the air talent.
Engaging artist information and connections is radio’s space. It’s also radio’s to lose.
As we pass the halfway point of 2021, an analytics review of the first 26 Tuesdays With Coleman blog posts of the year indicate content popularity that was reflective of the times.
Four of the five most-read blogs had pandemic-themed undertones. The first blog that covered findings from our annual benchmark study of contemporary music tastes made the list. And it is an entry by our founder, Jon Coleman, on one of the most buzzed about topics in the industry, that claimed the top spot.
Here are the five most-read blogs of the first half of 2021, counted down from number five to number one.
Rather than looking back on the pandemic, this hopeful blog looked forward to conditions ahead of us. It is a reminder that audio brands can play a key emotional role in welcoming listeners back to a more normalized world.
The pandemic unleashed a wave of nostalgia, which Warren Kurtzman addresses in this entry. As he explains, the key to embracing it is making it meaningful. This blog featured examples from a number of brands in different industries.
Netflix projected 41 million viewers watched Season 3 “Cobra Kai” in its first month of release.
The most recent blog to make the list covered some of the massive behavioral changes brought on by COVID-19 and how your brand may be affected. Most importantly, it offered thoughts on how brand managers can shift their strategic thinking to adapt to new audience behavior that may never go back to “normal.”
Coleman Insights debuted the Contemporary Music SuperStudy in 2019 at the All Access Worldwide Radio Summit. Thanks to COVID, the findings from past two studies of contemporary music tastes were delivered virtually. Once again, the pandemic infiltrated a blog as this year’s findings uncovered how music tastes in 2020 resembled the movie Groundhog Day.
The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” was the second best testing Pop song in Contemporary Music SuperStudy 3
Many radio station managers are wrestling with how to incorporate smart speakers into their strategy. In the most-read blog of the first half of 2021, Jon Coleman makes the point that while promoting smart speakers should be part of the strategy, it must be done in a way that doesn’t come at the expense of the station brand.
Thanks for reading Tuesdays With Coleman. Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.
In the early days of McDonald’s, the menu didn’t have chicken, fish, or…heaven forbid…salads. You could get a burger, fries, and a drink.
In-N-Out Burger, the beloved Western United States fast food cult brand, was founded less than a decade after Mickey D’s (in 1948) and its offerings today look pretty much the way they did back then (and are remarkably similar to the original McDonald’s menu).
Last week, Facebook entered the audio game with the launch of Audio Rooms and the ability for creators to embed podcasts, allowing for consumers to listen while they browse. You don’t need another service like Apple or Spotify to listen.
The plus side of all this, maybe, is that Facebook is seen as agile, responding to new trends by making them available on their platform so you don’t have to go anywhere else. A one-stop app.
The down side, of course (and it’s no small down side), is it starts to beg the question, “What Is Facebook?”
In its most basic definition, Facebook is a social media app on which you connect with friends. We’d call this a Base Music or Talk position in our research for audio brands. Maybe your brand is known for being the Rock or Hip Hop radio station. Or you’ve got the podcast about serial killers. Or Olympic swimmers.
Facebook is the app on which you connect with people.
So, product launches like Facebook Groups in 2010 or Facebook Live in 2015 made sense in the way they supported the base position. Facebook Groups offered new ways to engage with like-minded people with similar interests. Facebook Live connected you with video.
And maybe, just maybe, Facebook Dating (yes, really), Facebook Marketplace, Facebook for Podcasters, and Facebook Live Audio Rooms are all line extensions that make sense. One could make the case that they all support the idea of connecting you with others in different ways.
But there’s also real risk of watering down the brand. Facebook can’t own dating because they aren’t Match or eharmony. They can’t own online reselling because they aren’t eBay. They probably can’t own Live Audio Rooms because Clubhouse came first, but it’s too early to tell.
The point is, instead of innovating, Facebook chooses to copycat and rely on its massive brand to bring you there.
But what happens when consumers are no longer able to say what the brand stands for?
On one randomly selected day last week, I received 15 emails in my Coleman Insights email junk folder that personally addressed me by name. “Hey, Jay…” “Jay, can we meet tomorrow?” “Jay, I saw that your company…”
Not much of a prettier picture in my Gmail inbox. When viewed from the desktop, 93 emails in one day landed in the dreaded “Promotions” inbox instead of the “Primary” one, viciously filtered by Google to email damnation in a place I’m bound to miss it. Among the 93 were emails I would have liked to have found in Primary (i.e., All Access and Wegmans) and others I was perfectly happy to have missed (i.e., The Raleigh News & Observer and Filters Fast). Hopefully our subscribers get this one in the intended folder!
Now you may be saying, “Jay, why don’t you just mark them as Primary so that they don’t land in the Promotions folder anymore?” Assuming I had the desire to spend the time doing that for each one I determined should be moved (which I don’t), it’s not quite so simple. But I gave it a shot.
Right click? Ha ha! No.
I googled “How to move Gmail” and the search bar auto-populated with “from promotions to primary.” I knew I wasn’t alone.
Oh good, there’s a YouTube tutorial. And while it’s not particularly hard, the consumer is facing friction. Most won’t try to figure it out.
If you were to aggregate the 108 emails that never saw the primary inbox that I check multiple times a day, consider how much time, energy, and money each of the companies has spent on those emails. There might have been subject line research, graphic design costs, and A/B testing to determine which message was more likely to reach me (oops.) There were likely campaign meetings, and calls, and more meetings.
And unless I had sourced it for this blog, all that effort resulted in the email never reaching me, its intended consumer.
Now consider how much time you put into your product and your messaging. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about an email, a video, a commercial, a stream, a podcast, or a talk break on a radio station.
There are blockades everywhere you look, from consumer distractions to obstacles that prohibit your intended target from receiving the message at all, like Google’s filters.
If you still think that your typical listener is receiving that messaging unencumbered and without friction and is able to completely process that messaging on a regular basis, it’s time to shift the paradigm–and more than likely, how you deliver the messaging.
While millions of people around the world were temporarily or permanently losing their jobs and countless businesses had to close for good last year, my wife’s company was experiencing the largest growth curve in its history.
She works in e-commerce.
In the first quarter of 2020, Americans spent $154 billion on e-commerce, and this was a steadily growing figure. According to Statista, consumers spent $34 billion on goods online in Q1 in 2009. The number was growing consistently, almost like clockwork, by about $5 billion per quarter. That was, until the second quarter of 2020, when the figure jumped from $154 billion to $203 billion, a 31.8 percent increase. While the totals slightly receded as the pandemic continued, the first quarter of 2021 saw consumers spend a record $215 billion–a 40% increase year-over-year.
One thing her company has not done since the pandemic began is re-opened the office.
“Behavioral change” is one of the underlying themes of the COVID-19 experience, and perhaps the understatement of the century.
We’ve tracked media usage patterns in our Plan Developer perceptual studies for some time, and that information alone is enough to make anyone in the entertainment industry dizzy. We are living in a golden age of entertainment. The audio and video streaming content options go on for what feels like forever. You can now consume entertainment on more devices than ever before. There is power in learning how consumer behavior is changing based on those evolving options.
What few saw coming was how profoundly the pandemic would alter behavior.
There are 60,000 employees of Salesforce, the cloud-based software company based in San Francisco. In an interview last week, CEO Marc Benioff said he expects 50 to 60 percent of his employees to work from home permanently moving forward, up from about 20 percent pre-COVID. “The past is gone,” Benioff said. “We’ve created a whole new world, a new digital future, and you can see it playing out today.”
In Raleigh, North Carolina, where Coleman Insights is based, traffic seems to have returned to much more typical levels. And yet, there are buildings that sit empty all over Research Triangle Park, the area’s technology hub and “Silicon Valley of the East.” A similar pattern may be playing out where you are.
Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters. Photo credit: Julie Glassberg/New York Times
Your audio brand will be impacted, one way or another. It almost certainly already has.
That listener who used to get to the office by 8 and needed to drop off his daughter at daycare by 7:30? He listened to your radio station in the car every day from about 7:10 to the time he arrived at work at 7:45. His job was eliminated, and now he works from home. He wakes up at the time he used to leave for work.
That listener who used to work at a restaurant no longer does, because the restaurant didn’t make it through the pandemic. Now she delivers groceries for Instacart on her schedule, so her time in the car has completely changed. Oh, and she discovered podcasting a few months ago and is obsessed with Crime Junkie. So she starts and stops it every time she does a “shop.”
There’s that listener that forgot about your brand. Because she isn’t in the car as much, she just doesn’t think about radio stations. She doesn’t remember seeing any advertising for…well, any radio stations. But ask her for a TV recommendation, and she’ll gladly bullet point her favorites from the past year: “Ted Lasso,” “The Queen’s Gambit,” and “Schitt’s Creek.”
Two things come to mind regarding this behavioral change whirlwind we’re living in.
First, brands that understand how consumer behavior has impacted their brand and their competitors, more than ever, will thrive. And sure, we could always make the argument that brands who utilize consumer research and market themselves will have a competitive advantage. That’s always been true and always will be.
But it feels different this time. The behavioral changes we are experiencing as a society are seismic. You don’t have to just worry about how the competition will affect your brand, you need to worry about how life will affect it.
Which brings me to the second point, habitual behavior. If you’ve gone into a store without a mask for the first time in 15 months, it likely felt pretty strange. That’s because, while it felt odd and uncomfortable at first, it became a habit. At first you didn’t have a mask in your car and you kept forgetting it. Then you always had one in the car. Putting on a mask to go into a store became a subconscious behavior.
And that habitual subconscious behavior is what ultimately determines the success or failure of your brand. If, for example, I choose Spotify over Pandora, I don’t think very hard about it. I have drilled in perceptions, and I just choose it. Why am I more likely to click Netflix instead of Amazon Prime Video? It’s not because I dislike Amazon or Pandora, it’s that Spotify and Netflix have become a habit.
Building habitual behavior must be a central focal point of your strategic plan because you cannot stop the behavioral changes of your consumer. But the brands that have successfully made listening to their product a subconscious habit will be far more equipped to sustain the forceful winds of change.
The market segment has been around for decades. One of the brands in this segment was consistently popular but was declining in popularity—in part thanks to a wave of competition—and in large part because it had an age relevance problem. Originally a success with young men, this brand eventually was perceived as a product more relevant for someone older than them—even their father or (gasp!) their grandfather.
Although we could just as easily be talking about a radio station (age relevance is a topic we often address in Plan DeveloperSM studies,) this is this story of Old Spice.
Most people use the product type, it is a crowded category, and a great number of brands are vying for loyalty and attempting to be the top-of-mind brand with the most buzz.
Of course, I’m talking about deodorant, but maybe it does smell, uh I mean, sound a bit like radio….
The goal, of course, is to constantly evolve so your brand doesn’t “age out”. Research provides insights into how your customers’ tastes are changing, how their loyalties are shifting, and how fast it’s all happening. But Old Spice didn’t evolve, and had to either a) change the name and build new images or b) figure out how to contemporize the brand. Axe Body Spray, originally launched in France in 1983, was introduced to the U.S. market in 2002 and squarely set its sights on males under 25.
So how does a heritage brand, associated with older men, become a favorite of younger men?
What is less known is that Old Spice’s rebranding effort started four years earlier, when the decision was made to target teens and millennials.
Their 2008 “Swagger” campaign, which included this spot with LL Cool J, was quirky and fun. Not taking yourself too seriously and injecting fun is a good strategy for shifting the perception that your brand is old.
Even lesser known are the guerilla tactics the brand employed to target younger consumers. According to Marketing Gunslingers, Old Spice’s strategy laid out during this time included:
Rather than targeting adult men, they went after teens and tweeners who had yet to declare a loyalty.
They handed out free samples of their “High Endurance” sub-brand to kids in 5th-grade health classes across America.
They focused on the sports crowd, suggesting a correlation between their products and athletic prowess.
They went grassroots, sending reps with promo swag, to high-school games and skate-park events.
They expanded their product lines to include a suite of washes and sprays.
Once a brand has overwhelming age relevance issues, it is very challenging to change perceptions without a full scale rebrand.
Heritage brands in mature product categories don’t have to (and should never) sit still.
That’s true whether it’s a radio station or a deodorant.
When I was music director at K101 in San Francisco in 1996, my program director Casey Keating said something that stuck with me: “The station that wins in the hallways wins on the air.”
When I interviewed for my current position at Coleman Insights, I was taken to lunch three times to ensure I wasn’t just a good fit for the job, but also a good fit for the culture. Turns out lunches are an integral part of Coleman DNA–regular out of office lunches are strongly encouraged because that’s where some of the best thinking happens. Some of our best strategic planning has taken place between courses at Chili’s! It’s also an opportunity to talk about non-work stuff, which can be just as valuable.
We often share our favorite new TV shows, but since the pandemic halted the regular lunches, I often rely on friends on my social media feed. Enough of them have raved about Ted Lasso on Apple TV that I started watching.
Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt) and Ted Lasso (Jason Sudekis)
Lasso is a football coach from Kansas who takes a job coaching a Premier League soccer team in England, even though he has no experience coaching or playing soccer. It’s a truly wonderful, charming show…and it’s a clinic in management style.
Much as Casey Keating realized winning the numbers game starts with a winning culture, Ted Lasso wins over his team’s players and upper management by getting to know them as people. He gives the players novels that feature characters that remind him of them. He bakes cookies (biscuits!) for the new owner. He knows when to get involved and knows when the players need to figure out issues on their own. He takes the feared journalist who writes negative things about him out to dinner. He makes it difficult to root against him.
Lasso disarms journalist Trent Crimm, one of his harshest critics, by inviting him to dinner
There’s a moment when Lasso is embarrassingly laughed at by the press when he says “it isn’t about wins and losses.” I couldn’t help but be reminded of my first day as a program director at Curtis Media Group, when I told the entire sales team, “Ratings don’t matter.”
The custodian would have many jaws to pick off the floor that night.
Of course ratings do matter, but I led with the bold statement to sink the point in that it is the selling of the brand, the value of the brand, and the best ideas that would fill their bank accounts. If they banked on the wobbles of each ratings book, I told them, they would not succeed.
The culture principle, the winning in the hallways principle, guided me as a PD, from posting motivational quotes on the studio door to gathering the jocks to paint the studio together as a team building exercise to watching episodes of WKRP in the conference room.
At Coleman Insights, we interpret data and offer strategic insights but at the end of the day, it is the implementation of the strategy that makes or breaks it. There’s no doubt that we’ve seen winning cultures very often lead to some of the greatest implementations.
My top three Ted Lasso quotes:
“When it comes to locker rooms, I like ’em just like my mother’s bathing suits. I only wanna see ’em in one piece.”
“Hey, takin’ on a challenge is a lot like ridin’ a horse. If you’re comfortable while you’re doin’ it, you’re probably doin’ it wrong.”
“I want you to know, I value each of your opinions, even when you’re wrong.”
For Ontario residents still under a stay-at-home order until at least June 2nd, the thought of seeing John Legend, Maroon 5, or New Order and the Pet Shop Boys, all scheduled to play on the lakeshore at Toronto’s Ontario Place in September, may sound pretty appealing.
Budweiser Stage (formerly Molson Amphitheatre) in Toronto
Concerts, like sporting events, festivals, and other things we’ve been prevented from doing for the past year, will take on a different role than normal in 2021. In the before times, we would have called them “fun things to do.”
This year, they are emotional milestones.
Your listeners have already started and will begin to experience these milestones at different paces over the coming months. You will have listeners who will eat out in a restaurant for the first time since last February. They will visit an art booth at a festival and will take their time browsing. They will watch concerts among throngs of other fans just like them and a great many of them will get choked up. Many will cry tears of joy. When something is taken away that you love, it is all that more emotional when you get it back.
This is a unique opportunity for audio brands. Particularly in the case of concerts, your listeners may have heard that artist for the first time on your radio station. Had their first kiss while listening to one of the singles you played. Heard about the concert on your station. Saw your booth at the show.
If your brand treats these moments this year as fun things to do, you will miss a golden opportunity to share emotional milestones with your listeners and build powerful, tangible brand depth.
Pubs in the United Kingdom are preparing to reopen this week and for a society in which pubs are woven into the fabric of life and culture, the reopening is an emotional milestone. The Guinness brand is well aware of this, so its new campaign to mark the occasion, “Looks Like Guinness,” isn’t a typical beer commercial. It is nothing short of brilliant.
So, how is your audio brand going to mark the return to normal? Will your talk breaks and promos make these events sound like they are fun things to do? Or will you build brand depth and share the emotional milestones?
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC, April 22, 2021 – Coleman Insights revealed findings today from its third annual Contemporary Music SuperStudy, which examined the appetites for contemporary music among 1,000 12- to 54-year-olds across the United States and Canada. The benchmark study evaluated the most consumed songs of the previous year to provide the most comprehensive assessment of consumers’ appetites for new music available to audio-based media companies. The initial findings were announced at the virtual All Access Audio Summit.
Contemporary Music SuperStudy 3 demonstrated how contemporary music tastes were impacted in 2020, a year in which the normal rhythms of life were upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. In many ways, tastes were frozen in time. The best-testing song, “Shape Of You” by Ed Sheeran, was also last year’s best-testing song. “Baby Shark” by Pinkfong was again the least liked song. Six of the Top 10 songs were in last year’s Top 10. Post Malone remained the most prolific artist with the most songs (six) in the Top 100.
“I felt a bit like Phil Connors in Groundhog Day when analyzing this year’s study,” said Executive Vice President/Senior Consultant John Boyne, who led the project for Coleman Insights. “In many ways, the freezing of music tastes makes sense. There were fewer new releases, no concerts, and consumers craved familiar things.” Boyne continued, “Even still, to have the same top and bottom songs one year and a thousand surveys later is quite remarkable. You could say ‘Shape Of You’ is this year’s comfort food.”
Contemporary Music SuperStudy 3 employed Coleman Insights’ FACT360SM Strategic Music Test platform to gather listener evaluations of the most consumed songs of 2020—via radio airplay, streaming and sales—as measured by MRC Data.
Coleman Insights will release more findings over the next few weeks in its Tuesdays With Coleman blog, followed by the Contemporary Music SuperStudy 3 Deep Dive webinar on Thursday, May 13th at 2PM EDT/11AM PDT. The webinar will cover additional findings including how appetites for different genres of new music have shifted in the past year and how those appetites vary by age, gender, ethnicity, geography, and platform usage Registration is now open for the webinar here.
BRANDING, CONTENT & RESEARCH STRATEGY
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