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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC, May 19, 2020 – Consumers with a positive opinion of President Donald Trump have an overwhelming affinity for Country music. Fans of former Vice President Joe Biden favor Pop, followed closely by Hip Hop/R&B. These are among the previously unreleased findings of Coleman Insights’ second annual “Contemporary Music SuperStudy.”
The study conducted by the media research firm examines the appetite for contemporary music among 12- to 54-year-olds across the United States and Canada. The firm’s FACT360SM Strategic Music Test platform is utilized to measure the appeal of the most consumed songs of 2019 based on radio airplay, streaming and sales data, as reported by MRC Data/BDSradio.
Among consumers who have a positive opinion of President Trump, Country represents 50% of their Top 100 titles. The next-highest testing genre is Pop at 26%, the only other genre achieving a double-digit share of the Top 100 contemporary songs. This is followed by a tie between Alternative/Rock and Hip Hop/R&B (9%), Dance/Electronic (4%), Other (2%) and Latin (0%)
Meanwhile, Pop titles perform best among consumers with a positive opinion of former Vice President Joe Biden. These titles comprise 38% of their Top 100, followed closely by Hip Hop/R&B at 33%. Performance of other genres includes a tie between Alternative/Rock and Country (10%), Dance/Electronic (6%), Latin (2%) and Other (1%).
Notably, the 10% of Country titles in the Top 100 of Biden fans is similar to the 9% of R&B/Hip Hop in the Top 100 among those who view Trump positively.
The best-testing song overall among supporters of President Trump is “Believer” by Imagine Dragons, while “Shape Of You” by Ed Sheeran is the top pick among Biden supporters. Those two songs and three others–“Someone You Loved” by Lewis Capaldi, “The Middle” by Zedd & Maren Morris and “Can’t Stop The Feeling” by Justin Timberlake–are among the top ten songs of both groups.
In a rare moment of bipartisanship, Trump and Biden supporters agree on their least favorite of 2019’s most consumed songs–“Baby Shark” by Pinkfong.
”While we are not in the business of giving political advice, there are some clear takeaways from this study for the Trump and Biden campaigns,” said Coleman Insights president Warren Kurtzman. “When considering music to use in stage entrances at rallies (if and when they return) and advertising efforts, each group of supporters has clear, distinct genre preferences. And it’s probably best for both campaigns to pass on using ’Baby Shark.’”
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC, April 23, 2020 – Pop continues to lead consumers’ tastes, Hip Hop/R&B generates polar reactions and Country titles are experiencing an increase in popularity. These are among the major findings of Coleman Insights’ second annual “Contemporary Music SuperStudy,” which the media research firm released today.
The study examines the appetite for contemporary music among 12- to 54-year-olds across the United States and Canada. The firm’s FACT360SM Strategic Music Test platform is utilized to measure the appeal of the most consumed songs of 2019 based on radio airplay, streaming and sales data, as reported by MRC Data/BDSradio.
For the second year in a row, Pop is the best-testing style of music. Despite making up only 18% of the titles tested, Pop songs comprise 34% of the Top 100 Evaluation Average songs in the study. The study also reveals a high level of passion for Hip Hop/R&B titles, as this genre has the second largest portion of the 100 songs with the highest Like A Lot scores. However, the mass appeal of the genre is limited by the fact that many consumers rate these songs negatively. The near-doubling–from 12% to 23%–of Country music in the Top 100 Evaluation Average songs since last year’s study bodes well for this genre.
Additional findings include:
Ed Sheeran’s “Shape Of You” is the most popular title. As one of the most-consumed songs of 2019, “Baby Shark” by Pinkfong made the test list but ranks last in the study in Evaluation Average.
Pop and Country are the most popular genres with daily radio listeners, while Pop and Hip Hop/R&B perform best with daily streaming listeners.
While the test list is comprised of 2019’s most consumed songs, nearly half the list consists of songs released prior to 2019.
The genre composition of the Top 100 titles is Pop (34%), Country (23%), Hip Hop/R&B (19%), Alternative/Rock (12%), Dance/Electronic (8%), Latin (2%) and Other (2%).
Post Malone has more songs on the test list than any other artist (10) and claims eight of the Top 100 testing songs.
”We are excited to share this report card on the state of contemporary music,” said Coleman Insights president Warren Kurtzman. “It will give our clients and the audio entertainment industry insights into the tastes of consumers and an objective sense of how those tastes are evolving.”
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC, April 8, 2020 – Coleman Insights will release the results of its second Contemporary Music SuperStudy, which examines the current appetite for contemporary music among 1,000 12- to 54-year-olds across the United States and Canada, in a free webinar on Thursday, April 23rd. The study will provide the most comprehensive assessment of consumers’ appetites for new music available to audio-based media companies.
Contemporary Music SuperStudy 2 employed Coleman Insights’ FACT360SM Strategic Music Test platform to gather listener evaluations of the most consumed songs of 2019—via radio airplay, streaming and sales—as measured by MRC Data/BDSradio. The webinar will cover an overview of the findings from those listener evaluations, 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 political viewpoint.
“We had such a great response when we released the initial Contemporary Music SuperStudy last year that we decided to go it again,” remarked Coleman Insights President Warren Kurtzman. “Contemporary music is constantly evolving, inspiring our clients to regularly ask us about the changes they are observing. The Contemporary Music SuperStudy provides us with a powerful and objective way to answer their questions about how listener tastes are changing.”
The Contemporary Music SuperStudy 2 live webinar will take place between 2:00 and 3:00 PM EDT on Thursday, April 23rd. Registration is now open for the webinar here.
Sometimes you hear about radio stations that change formats after trying one for a year or two, or even after just a few months. You may know of stations that have flipped formats multiple times in a calendar year. Maybe this time the lucky number will come up.
One thing the COVID-19 crisis should remind us of is the power of brands.
As always, listeners choose stations based on the need the brand fulfills, a choice often based on perceptions built over time. This can be even more noticeable in times like this, when many listeners are relying on radio to get them through.
You can’t expect stations that stay in one format for short periods of time to be able to build deep, lasting brand perceptions that influence behavior.
Images are like icebergs. Slow to develop, slow to erode. That also means a station that served one need for a long time but then made a programming change is subject to pre-learned interference. That’s when a brand has trouble developing new images because its existing images are so ingrained.
Images are like icebergs. Slow to develop, slow to erode.
That’s also why it is so challenging for a station to try to make significant programming shifts while keeping the same name. If you went to buy Velveeta and found the label on a block of real, authentic organic cheddar cheese, you probably wouldn’t buy it. That’s not what you expect from Velveeta.
If Velveeta decided it was strategically committed to becoming an organic product, it would need to devote a significant amount of energy and money to re-branding itself. Most of all, assuming it was a good product, it would need to give customers time to get used to associating Velveeta with organic cheese. So radio stations, just like the hypothetical Velveeta, have to think carefully about: a) how critical and potentially beneficial the change is; b) if it can be effectively done without a name change, even with large resources; and c) whether it is worth the return on investment.
Remember how precious your brand is. You see it in this moment as listeners choose “the most trusted” news station or the “most relaxing” Adult Contemporary station or the Hip Hop station “most connected to the community.” They don’t choose fleeting brands, they choose brands that mean something to them. As we outlined in How to Connect With Your Audience in a Crisis, you absolutely should be modifying your programming during this time. But, it is important to consider the role of your brand in those modifications.
This crisis will pass, but the need for strong brands will not. Always make informed decisions about your format and brand carefully, with the understanding that being flippant about formats is never the road to long-lasting success.
It led to an abundance of accolades for the brewery, including a tweet from Rob Schwartz, Chief Executive Officer of the advertising agency TBWA\Chiat\Day that claimed, “It restored my faith in advertising.”
Oh, just one small thing. Neither Guinness nor its ad agency created it.
It was designed by an Irish freelance copywriter named Luke O’Reilly as part of a competition called One Minute Briefs.
Keeping your brand top-of-mind in the right ways during a crisis can have lasting perceptual impact later. And, as the Guinness example reminds us, fans of your brand can be some of the best marketers you have. Audio entertainment brands have some of the most passionate, loyal followers in media. How can you mobilize your audience to amplify your community-focused message during this crisis? We invite you to share your thoughts in the comments.
Your campaign just might go the distance.
BRANDING, CONTENT & RESEARCH STRATEGY
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