Author: Jay Nachlis

Netflix’s Streaming Pivot Included a Surprisingly Harsh Decision

The list of companies that failed to pivot when their industries underwent major changes is long.

Blackberry couldn’t pivot to touchscreen smartphones.

Kodak couldn’t pivot to digital photography (ironic, since Kodak invented the first digital camera in 1975).

Blockbuster couldn’t pivot to streaming.

The story of how Blockbuster had a chance to purchase Netflix in 2000 for $50 million is perhaps the biggest business whoops of all-time (though if you think the Netflix we know today would exist under Blockbuster’s stewardship, you’re missing the entire point).

While I’ve always been fascinated by Netflix’s ability to move away from its core DVD-by-mail business to become a streaming and content-producing powerhouse, I never knew until now just how brutally they did so.


Photo credit: Shutterstock/sitthiphong

In a recent New York Times interview, Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos discusses the company’s evolution and the realization that their DVD business (which was doing very well) would not last forever.

“In periods of radical change in any industry, the legacy players generally have a challenge, which is they’re trying to protect their legacy businesses. We entered into a business in transition when we started mailing DVDs 25 years ago. We knew that physical media was not going to be the future. When I met Reed Hastings in 1999, he described the world we live in right now, which is almost all entertainment is going to come into the home on the internet. And he told me that at a time when literally no entertainment was coming into the home on the internet. And it really helped us navigate this transition from physical to digital, because we just didn’t spend any time trying to protect our DVD business. As it started to wane, we started to invest more and more in streaming. And we did that because we knew that that’s where the puck was going. At one point, our DVD business was driving all the profit of the business and a lot of the revenue, and we made a conscious decision to stop inviting the DVD employees to the company meeting. We were that rigid about where this thing was heading.”

“We made a conscious decision to stop inviting the DVD employees to the company meeting.”

Photo Credit:

As a manager, I’m not sure I could ever be that cutthroat. But I can’t entirely pick it apart. When your entire universe, knowledge base, and salary comes from one thing, it certainly can color and bias your view of a new thing that’s going to destroy the thing that’s your current lifeblood.

Sarandos acknowledges how harsh it sounds, but explains, “It got the whole company in the mindset that we shouldn’t keep investing in the old business. It’s going to prevent us from investing in the new business, and the new business is going to get us to the next place.”

There are obvious parallels to other industries. And though I’m not suggesting you start disinviting members to company meetings, the Netflix lesson makes it abundantly clear that brand and industry evolution on this scale requires dramatic internal philosophical and cultural change.

Coleman Insights Launches FACT USA National Music Tests

Subscription-based music testing service initially available for seven formats

RALEIGH, NC, JUNE 18, 2024 – Media research firm Coleman Insights announces the debut of its FACT USASM National Music Tests for the Mainstream AC, Hot AC, Country, Alternative, Classic Hits, Classic Rock, and R&B formats. Subscriptions are now available to radio stations, streaming services, and other users, and results for all seven formats will be ready in time for implementation prior to this year’s Fall radio ratings period.

Coleman Insights President Warren Kurtzman explains why the firm created FACT USA. “Everyone who programs music should have access to high-quality research, regardless of budget. With FACT USA, we’re able to offer data and insights about music tastes at an affordable price point.”

Every FACT USA study will use a national sample that reflects each format’s respective target audience. Subscribers will have access to summary reports detailing each study’s findings and song-by-song data will be delivered via The Analyst software from Cornerstone Research, in which programmers can sort by various measures including demographics and geography. Additionally, FACT USA will include EraGuideSM, Coleman Insights’ exclusive metric that helps align the data to a station or platform’s strategy.

For radio stations FACT USA subscriptions are capped at $5,000 per station, with lower prices for stations in smaller markets. Subscription packages are also available for national platforms. For an additional fee, subscribers may opt for a Coleman consulting package that includes a two-hour sorting session, and pre- and post-sort Music Monitor Analyses to ensure alignment between the music strategy and its song-by-song execution.

More information is available about FACT USA from Coleman Insights here.

The Real Reason Behind Red Lobster’s Bankruptcy Filing

Red Lobster filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and closed 50 locations this past week, and the company wants you to know the culprit.

Endless shrimp.

In seemingly every news story about the filing, the talking points were the same. Red Lobster offered an endless shrimp promotion last year, it was too successful based on the $20 price point (customers were apparently too gluttonous), the restaurant lost $11 million in the third quarter, and therefore the company filed for bankruptcy.

I’m so thankful I’m on their mailing list because otherwise, I wouldn’t have received an intimately personal email addressed, “Dear Guests” (I’ll get back to the email later).

There was something about this whole thing that smelled fishy (sorry, too easy).

Don’t get me wrong, $11 million isn’t chump change, but it didn’t feel to me like the kind of number that tips the largest seafood chain in the United States into bankruptcy. So, I looked up annual revenues, which recently topped around $2 billion.

$11 million is 0.55 percent of $2 billion.

What’s going on here?

Photo credit: Shutterstock/Tada Images

I’ve had some very nice experiences at Red Lobster, usually visiting when one of my kids needs cheddar biscuits on his birthday. Throughout his childhood (he’s 18 now), it was a generally pleasant annual experience…until last year.

Usually in my experience, Red Lobster had long waits and the lobby was full during prime dinner hours. This time, there was no one waiting. The restaurant was only about half full when we were seated. And then…

The table was sticky. The floors were filthy. The food was marginal and not as good. The service was terrible. The app to earn rewards didn’t work. I haven’t been back.

Yes, this was one location. But maybe I’m not the only one?

In a declaration filed with the bankruptcy court, Red Lobster reports that its customer count has declined by about 30% since 2019. According to CEO Jonathan Tibus, the company’s CEO, negative factors include inflationary pressures, unfavorable lease contracts, poor locations, and strategic missteps in luring customers. All of which may certainly play a role in their struggles.

But conspicuously not mentioned…could it be that maybe, just maybe, the customer experience declined so the customers stopped coming back?

An investor group named Thai Union acquired Red Lobster in 2020, made drastic cuts, and the chain has had five leaders in five years. It kind of feels like a radio station that keeps changing program directors and formats.

Now, about that email, addressed to “Dear Guests”.

It reminds you that Red Lobster’s always been there for you for celebrations. It tells you that Chapter 11 doesn’t mean it’s going out of business, and in fact cites Delta and Hertz as companies that also filed for bankruptcy. Hey! They’re doing just fine! The company ends by pimping Lobsterfest, Crabfest, and those Cheddar Bay Biscuits.

Signed, “Red Lobster”.

In an iconic 1988 United States Vice Presidential debate, Senator Dan Quayle compared his experience in Congress to that of JFK at his age. Lloyd Bentsen smiled at Quayle, and perfectly delivered the line, “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy”.

Today, I’m here to tell Red Lobster, you’re no Delta.

As a member of both databases, I receive communications from each. Delta’s emails are written and signed by CEO Ed Bastian. He takes credit when things go well but is most impressive when things don’t go as well. In 2022, following a series of cancellation, delay, and customer service missteps, Bastian sent an email apologizing and laying out his plan to fix it. Today, I believe Delta’s app is the best in the business and customer service wait times have been drastically reduced. After missteps with their frequent flier program, there was Ed’s email, apologizing and taking steps to roll back the mistakes. Personal. Relatable. Empathetic.

“Dear Guests”, “Hey Delta filed for bankruptcy too”, “Lobsterfest!”, “Signed, Red Lobster” will not improve your customer engagement.

When brands are in trouble, the right move is to conduct a research deep dive with their customer base to determine where the issues lie. Then they fix them with a thoughtful strategic plan and coordinated execution.

Remember when Domino’s admitted their pizza wasn’t very good, fixed the problem, and then invested heavily in marketing to transparently admit they screwed up?

You could have bought a share of Domino’s stock for $3.86 in 2008. Today a share is about $512.

As the legendary Bubba once said to Forrest Gump, “Shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sauté it.” But shrimp isn’t the only reason why Red Lobster’s in bankruptcy. The brand has been damaged. Once a brand is damaged, it can be a tough road back.

I sincerely hope Red Lobster figures it out. My son hasn’t lost his taste for those cheddar biscuits.

How False Causation Can Impair Your Performance

On December 19, 2021, CNBC posted the following headline:

“Stocks slide to start the week as omicron fears intensify, Dow falls 430 points.”

On December 20, 2021, CNBC went with this:

“Dow jumps 560 points as market rebounds from omicron-triggered 3-day slide.”

Was Omicron really the reason why the United States stock market tumbled one day and surged the next?

Have a little fun. Search for stock market headlines on any random day.

On January 21st it was weaker than expected Netflix earnings.

January 18th it was a surge in oil prices.

Apparently, stocks rallied last Tuesday after Russia reported a pullback of troops surrounding Ukraine.

Stock market headlines will constantly have you believing that the day’s outcome was a result of something. Maybe Amazon’s success drove the market higher, or supply chain issues drove it lower. The thing about the stock market, that we all intrinsically and logically know, is there’s rarely one thing that drives the market’s performance on one given day.

Big events are the exception, like the collapse of the U.S. housing market that triggered the largest point drop in history on September 29, 2008. That was clear. But outside of major, earth-shaking events, the stock market is a classic case of correlation vs. causation.

Today’s rapid-fire nature of news churns out headline after headline for us to believe that daily stock market performance is due to causation. Oil prices caused stocks to drop. A troop pullback caused it to go up. Never mind the fact that on the day Russia announced a troop pullback, Airbnb announced revenue jumped 78%, beating expectations. On another day, that could have been the “trigger” of the market’s surge.

But in reality, causation is very difficult to prove. There is quite often correlation between events and the stock market, but the news jumps to causation conclusions. Why? Because we seek concrete answers. We need to know why something happened, and we need to know it now.

To those who rely on ratings as an arbiter to their job performance, this may sound eerily familiar. How many times do you see numbers go down or up on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis and you attempt to find causation? Bad ratings? That’s when the air talent was on vacation, or the weather was bad that day. Good ratings? We ran a promotion! We changed the music rotations!

It just doesn’t work that way.

We are told, over and over, not to look at our 401k portfolios. Don’t even look at them except maybe a couple times a year. Why? Because the stock market will wobble, and at times the performance of your retirement account assets will scare you half to death. But everyone knows that over the long haul, the market always goes up.

Ratings are not that different. As our friend and former colleague Pierre Bouvard recently said, “The reality is your current performance is reflecting things that happened in the past year or a year ago.” And yet we obsess with the short-term, seeking causation where there is none.

Strong brands will occasionally wobble but will increase over time – just like the stock market. Weak brands will have far more wobbles and less stability. Just as major events are behind causation in the stock market, it is the big events that move the needle and are behind ratings causation – huge promotions, major talent acquisitions, format changes. Don’t let the lure of headlines claiming causation distract you from the big picture.

Three Takeaways from Podcast Movement Evolutions

Podcast Movement Evolutions is an offshoot of the original Podcast Movement conference, the largest annual gathering of podcasters in the world. When first launched, Evolutions was more geared towards podcast creators, rather than the more industry professional-focused older sibling version. But, much like the medium itself, Spring’s Podcast Movement Evolutions, which took place last week in Los Angeles, has matured into an event nearly unrecognizable from Summer’s Podcast Movement.

Here are three takeaways from this year’s Podcast Movement Evolutions.

  1. YouTube, YouTube…how I love (hate) thee….

Ask consumers which platform they use the most for podcasts, as we did in our New Rules of Podcasting on YouTube study with Amplifi Media last August, and they will tell you YouTube, as the company shared in their Podcast Movement Evolutions keynote session Friday morning. Ask podcasters what they think of podcasting on YouTube, and well…it’s complicated.

There is one thing nearly every podcaster will agree on, and that’s YouTube’s massive value as a podcast promotional tool. Using trailers and clips on YouTube to market your podcast (as well as short-form platforms like Shorts, TikTok, and Reels) has been a tangible boon for many shows. Whether organic or paid (or a combination), YouTube has undeniable value for podcast discovery.

Where creators have far less consensus is regarding YouTube’s value for hosting entire podcast episodes. The frustration generally lies in YouTube’s methodology. Although, according to Podnews editor James Cridland in his annual podcasting report card, creators give YouTube high marks for its analytics, many are frustrated with its independent advertising ecosystem and lack of communication.

To paraphrase Audacy’s Head of Podcasts Jenna Weiss-Berman, “Half of me is in on YouTube and its role in the future of podcasting. The other half says they need to play in the same sandbox.”

YouTube is too important and valuable to the industry and used by consumers to be cast aside. It’s also fair to lay the burden on Google to adapt to the needs of the creator. (see: Spotify abandoning its “exclusive” platform model with Joe Rogan and other Spotify shows).

YouTube’s podcasting team shared some upcoming initiatives that address this. They also claimed they are working on more podcast-friendly algorithms to recommend more targeted content to the consumer For example, wouldn’t it be nice if when you play a podcast episode on YouTube, it recommends other episodes from that creator and similar podcasts rather than a slew of seemingly random videos from the YouTube galaxy? YouTube and its creators should be transparent, honest, and must work together to figure out the best way forward.

  1. Engagement is YouTube’s secret sauce

Consumers love the ability to comment on YouTube videos (and podcasts). Spotify’s Q&A feature now allows hosts to ask questions of their listeners, which can be sent to the creator privately, and creators can choose which comments to feature on the platform. Meanwhile, Apple, the third of the “Big 3” (with YouTube and Spotify), remains a one-way street.

On the surface, Apple adding listener engagement would be a big deal. But as Spotify surely knows from its video podcast initiative, (wait, Spotify has video podcasts? Yep…) just because you offer it doesn’t mean consumers will somehow magically find it, learn about it, or even want it from your brand.

So yes, if Apple were to add listener engagement, it would be interesting. But it doesn’t automatically mean it would be successful.

  1. We are legally obligated to mention AI in any conversation about podcasting

Last August, when Steve Goldstein and I presented that YouTube study in Denver, we had a conversation backstage before the keynote when we remarked, “Whoever figures out an easy podcast video service will do very well.” In a massively short period, Artificial Intelligence has swooped in to do just that. There are companies like Rizzle, which offer “no edit videos.” Or Audiencelift (formerly Trailergram), which encourages you to upload your podcast trailer and uses your preferred targeting location, Apple Podcasts category, and keywords from your ad description to show your podcast’s ad to new listeners.

Our friends at Blubrry, one of the original podcast hosting platforms, are at the forefront of differentiation and innovation, adding an AI assistant to help with promotion tools and highlight clip creation, and Vid2Pod, which plays the YouTube game in reverse…pulling in your YouTube playlist for universal audio distribution.

What a time to be alive.

But, as Blubrry CEO Todd Cochrane told me, “We still need to hear from real, authentic humans.”

This is both podcasting’s golden opportunity and the greatest obstacle in its next phase of growth. The industry should embrace new tools to spark more efficient and effective solutions. But it must also remember that authenticity is its greatest asset. Podcasters should want AI to help them be more efficient, but podcast consumers do not need AI to augment what they love about their favorite shows and hosts.

And finally, I’ll go back to what Todd says about hearing from those real live humans. Conducting real perceptual research with real podcast consumers is not a luxury. It is a necessity to grow brands and elevate this medium we love.

Considering The Image Pyramid in 2024

The Image Pyramid.

This simple illustration of layers that represent the way listeners perceive radio stations was introduced to the industry decades ago by our founder, Jon Coleman, and still guides our strategic work today.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t regularly think about the evolution of the Pyramid and how it applies as the medium (and how consumers use it) changes.

The foundation of the Pyramid is a station’s Base Music or Talk Position. Its importance is demonstrated by the largest amount of space and, as the base component, is responsible for holding everything up. Without a strong Base Position, successful radio stations are unable to build the other layers that provide essential brand depth.

It’s understandable, particularly in 2024, that the most common question we get about the Image Pyramid is whether the Personality layer and the Base Music Position should switch places, making Personality the foundational element. It is completely logical to consider the proliferation of options that consumers now have for music on platforms besides radio. Aren’t personalities radio’s greatest differentiator?

The answer to that question, of course, is yes.

Radio stations that have strong Base Music Positions—when listeners can clearly identify what kind of music they can expect from the brand—and have developed additional layers of the Pyramid often experience great success. These are the superstar stations that are known for playing appealing music that is expected of the brand and have personalities that make meaningful connections with their listeners. The best of the best also have appointment listening specialty programming, contests that move the needle and advance the brand and have top-of-mind marketing campaigns. These stations have listeners that tune in because they have FOMO if they don’t. They are entrenched in the fabric of their communities. They have deep brand loyalty and generally experience fewer ratings wobbles.

Can a radio station with a strong Base Music Position be successful without significant Personality images or other layers of the Pyramid? Yes, but it is a much tougher task, and successes tend to be short-term and like a rollercoaster.

So, Personality is clearly very important. But so is the music, and here’s why:

Think of a radio station’s music as the “access point”. The big tent. When you discover a new radio station you like, you probably already like or love the music it plays. Liking or loving a personality takes time. You fall in love with the music first. The personality is there a few hours a day, and the music is there nearly 24/7. It is truly the glue that holds it all together.

That’s also why new morning shows can benefit from playing a lot of music. When a new listener hears a show for the first time, it can feel intimidating when they aren’t in “the club”. It’s like jumping on the boat as it’s going down the river. Playing songs you already like with smaller doses of the morning show slows down the rapids, and gives you a chance to get to know the talent.

Even music radio stations with foreground personalities are often thought of for their music first. 102.3 Now! Radio in Edmonton is a hugely successful Hot AC station with all-day “conversations” that seep into its other platforms. A study of 102.3 Now! Radio conducted by Coleman Insights and Alan Burns and Associates indicated that most listeners choose the station for both music and conversations, with more of the station’s Cume citing “music” over “conversations”. As mentioned previously, Now! Radio’s music gives it license to grow personalities. If you are only focused on the non-music elements of your radio station, you may neglect the big Cume magnet that holds it all together.

We also get asked from time to time about how elements like social media, streaming, and apps fit into the Image Pyramid discussion. Our take is that the Image Pyramid is built based on the perceptions listeners have of radio stations, so these elements wouldn’t have their own layer. However, how these elements are utilized can absolutely impact existing layers.

For example, if a morning show is engaging and funny and has a disciplined video strategy for TikTok, Reels, and Shorts, that could positively impact the Personality layer. If a radio station’s social media director is positing Wendy’s level-content on Twitter (sorry…X..sigh), that could positively impact the Marketing layer.

As always, the most successful radio stations are the ones with the strongest, most developed, top-of-mind perceptions. While tactics may evolve, programming according to the foundation of the Image Pyramid and conducting strategic research to track impact and success is the best way to ensure consumers have deep, meaningful perceptions of their favorite audio brands.

Special thanks to Andy Reid in Australia for inspiring the subject matter of today’s Tuesdays With Coleman blog.

Why One Radio Station’s Listeners Happily Pay for Its Merchandise


Radio station merchandise.

Since what feels like forever, radio stations have tried with varying degrees of success to get their listeners to display the logo. From t-shirt giveaways in Family 4-Packs to bumper stickers on the table at a remote, doling out station swag is a rite of passage.

You can just picture Marconi inviting listeners to spin the prize wheel.

But what if the script was flipped? What if listeners actually paid the radio station for the privilege of wearing the merch?

It’s not completely without precedent. NPR has its online store, and a handful of local radio stations do, including KROQ/Los Angeles and KSHE/St. Louis, and TEEPUBLIC has a very tasty selection of old-school shirts from call letters you would regularly see on the streets in the day: WMMS. WLIR. KMET. WAAF.

But how many radio stations have truly been able to make merchandise sales a legitimate part of their business plan?

It takes a certain level of brand affinity, a certain level of staff passion, and a very high level of execution.

Enter KLJY, JOY FM in St. Louis.

Founded by the station’s president Sandi Brown, JOY FM began broadcasting its non-commercial, listener-supported Contemporary Christian format in the summer of 2010 on its wide-reaching 100,000-watt signal. In 2020, the company launched BOOST Radio, a Christian CHR, to reach a younger, diverse demographic.

When you walk into the lobby of the building that houses the stations, there is a door to your right with “The Joy Store” etched in frosted glass.

The Joy Store Joy FM St. Louis

On the other side of the door, there is a physical store filled with radio station merchandise – mostly JOY FM, some BOOST. Not just a few items here and there.

The Joy Store is bigger than some departments at Macy’s.

There is hanger after hanger of different shirts, sweaters, jackets, and tote bags. There are shelves filled with mugs, hats, and hoodies. There are baby onesies that say “Bundle of Joy” and a $40 sweatshirt emblazoned with “Choose Joy” on the front and a station logo on the back.

When you work in radio long enough, you see a lot of things and I’ve seen a lot of things.

I have never seen anything like this.

I had to ask Sandi more about the store. As I mentioned earlier, while not every brand can do something like this, I knew there had to be lessons every radio station can learn from it.


The origin story of The Joy Store began when the station gave away t-shirts as thank you gifts during its fundraising campaigns for every gift of $250. It raised the average gift by $40, and many listeners donated in additional $250 increments to receive multiple thank you t-shirts. As Sandi explains, “This tangible expression of gratitude sparked the t-shirt/merch mania that fuels the store.”


“Today’s Hit Music” can be a very effective slogan to build a CHR’s contemporary image, but listeners may not be passionate about wearing it on a t-shirt. “Today’s Hit Music” is about you (the station). “Choose Joy” is about them (the listener). It’s about everyone. It’s emotional. It’s a connection.

“Choose Joy” just hits different. And it changed the game.

According to Sandi, “For many years, we had station merchandise for sale. One of our brand messages is Choose Joy, and we realized listeners gravitated to that message much more than typical branded station items. It was almost as if it were a team shirt. It created a real sense of community.”

Not putting a big station logo on the front is intentional. Here’s how Sandi explains it: “The goal is to have these shirts worn, not stuffed into their closet. We’ve found that people love wearing shirts with a message that is bigger than a radio station. We’re branded on the sleeve or the back, but the win is the volume of shirts worn. It has really become a thing in our city. It is about us, but not really. And that’s the win!”

As demand increased, so did the product line. There were more shirt choices, sweatshirts, and tumblers. In 2019, they launched their “Bee Joyful” line with the word “Joyful” and a little bumblebee.

And then…


When the pandemic hit in March 2020 and listeners were stuck at home, all things e-commerce benefited from the unique social circumstance. JOY FM, like so many radio stations, was suffering from the lack of typical revenue models, due to the cancellation of concerts and events.

The physical store, a repurposing of unused office space, opened in Fall 2020. It gets heavy foot traffic during the holidays, and occasional foot traffic during a typical day.

The station started focusing more on the online store during this time. Increased traffic led to the launch of a new, visually appealing, and user-friendly platform in the Fall of 2021.

How was it named The Joy Store? That’s what listeners started calling it.

It’s always a good idea to listen to your listeners.


Sandi Brown JOY FM

Sandi Brown, JOY FM President


Most radio stations are asked by local organizations to come to their events. JOY FM started bringing The Joy Store to them. It opens conversations about the station’s mission, builds community, and cements deeper bonds. It gives the station a desired element to bring to events and grows the community image.


Annual gross sales are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, with a net profit of just under $100,000. All profits are directed back to the ministry for outreach.


The Joy Store is an obvious outlier in today’s local radio universe, where we’re so often told the medium is dead or dying and brands aren’t what they used to be. So, can other radio stations do this, and what conditions need to be in place to be successful?

Sandi has thoughts on that, too.

“Deciding on your WHY is a wonderful place to start and could really help define what “success” is internally. This is a passion project for us. Some questions to ask… Do you have passionate listeners who are asking?  If not, why not? Do you have the bandwidth for ideas and design and promotion?  If you want to grow, do you have the space in your building to merchandise a store?”

For what it’s worth, the “Choose Joy” shirt is the first shirt in my 35 years in radio that my wife has ever wanted to wear. When I wear it around town, at least one person tells me they like my shirt.

Yep, it’s a radio station.

The Unlikely Rebranding of Stanley

Last week, my 18-year-old son brought home a tall dark green thermos from a thrift store. It looked like a thermos that might have been used by one of those workers you see in pictures that sat without a harness while constructing the Empire State Building. The name “Clarence” was etched in black Sharpie around the rim, and although you can buy a new version of this very vessel on Amazon, this one was clearly from “back in the day”.  He paid 15 bucks for someone’s old lunch thermos.

Just a few weeks ago, I was served a post by The Krazy Coupon Lady on Facebook showing a picture of a line wrapped around a Target store, full of women waiting in line for a limited-edition cup made by the same company that created the thermos my son bought at the thrift store. It was pink, available exclusively at Starbucks, and was being sold for $49.95.

Customers waiting in line to purchase a limited edition pink Stanley Starbucks cup at Target (Photo credit: The Krazy Coupon Lady)

Both products were made by Stanley, a company founded 111 years ago.

As recently as four years ago, sales of Stanley’s signature thermos, the same version of the super durable product my grandfather brought to the office and I brought to summer camp, had declined to the point of extinction. The company pulled the product from shelves in 2019.

The Stanley Classic Wide Mouth Bottle (Photo Credit: Michaelvbg/Shutterstock)

It’s not like Stanley didn’t have positive images. At its core, the company was always known for making a great, lasting product. But it was old, traditional, and lacked relevance among younger consumers. And when a brand (or an industry) is facing that kind of challenge, it can choose two paths.

  • Complain that the world is changing around it, that competitive pressures are too great, and be satisfied with whatever crumbs are left;
  • Change the perception, while maintaining the integrity of what makes the brand great.

The line at Target is one of many indicators that Stanley obviously chose the latter path.

Stanley recognized through consumer feedback that while women loved the durability of the Stanley thermos, the style wasn’t exactly what they were looking for. The company reached beyond its original target demographic. What if they offered the cups in pink? What if they were for activities other than camping?

What if they paid attention to users on TikTok who loved the brand and used it to their advantage? What if they created limited edition “events” to fire up demand? What if they found influencers to spread the word for them?

The Stanley company, founded by William Stanley, Jr. in 1913 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, went from $70 million in sales in 2019 to $750 million in sales in 2023.

How your brand approaches its audience today is not necessarily how it will (or perhaps should) approach it tomorrow. With the proper strategic tools and mindset and putting the customer first, the future of your brand is not yet written.

Give It Time to Grow! (A Plea for Patience When Evaluating Content)

Boy oh boy, do we live in a “satisfy me now” society.

If those online ad metrics don’t look good at the end of the week, pull it!

If those streaming numbers don’t look good the morning after the episode, get rid of it!

If the ratings don’t look good for the new format, see you later!

The abundance of real-time analytics is great.


Consider the streaming TV industry, which is producing so much content it’s quite literally impossible to keep up. So much of the content is legitimately great but more than any one person could possibly watch.

Every time I hear about a TV show I think I might be interested in, I keep a log of it in the notes section of my phone. This could be anything from an article or recommendation on social media to a friend sharing details of the show with me over lunch. The list is long, usually hovering in the 10-15 show range because my wife and I prefer to watch one show at a time. Once something gets recommended and we commit to it, it may be multiple seasons we need to catch up on, which can take us months.

This backlog means I rarely get to a show in the beginning of its run, meaning my viewing doesn’t matter when the networks want it to matter.

A perfect example is the show Reboot, a comedy about the dysfunctional cast of a fictional 2000s sitcom that gets back together to reboot the show. Reboot premiered on Hulu on September 20, 2022. I remember seeing a friend post about it on Facebook that Fall, so I added it to the list. But my wife and I didn’t get to it until earlier this Fall, a year after it first debuted.

The eight episodes of Reboot are some of the best television I’ve ever watched, certainly one of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen, with more laugh-out-loud moments than I can count. When I’m snorting while laughing, you know I think something is funny, and Reboot is a “10” on the snort meter.

After finishing the eighth episode, I gleefully perused the internet, seeking the premiere date for the second season. I figured this would be soon since I knew the show was about a year old. What I never, ever expected to see was this:

‘Reboot’ Officially Dead Following Search For New Home

I found this stunning. How could Hulu have cancelled such a quality show?

The obvious answer is it must not have been as successful as Hulu needed it to be, but it sure wasn’t given much time. It aired in September and October 2022 and was cancelled, shopped around, and declared dead by February 2023.

Have you ever heard of Reboot? I’ll bet you haven’t. And how can you be expected to?? I have Hulu and wouldn’t have heard of it unless someone mentioned it on the social media feed that Facebook decided I should see. If someone with the channel doesn’t know it’s there, how is someone who doesn’t currently have Hulu supposed to find it?

The same exact thing happened to me with Rabbit Hole starring Keifer Sutherland on Paramount+, an action series I enjoyed (I’m a big 24 fan from the day). Rabbit Hole aired from March to May 2023, I discovered and started watching in October, and the show was cancelled that month.

The new and final season of The Crown, one of the most successful streaming series success stories ever, is apparently a massive failure on Netflix, at least according to Nexttv. It debuted to a “dismal” 36.9 million viewing hours. When are we going to learn we can’t judge a show’s success after the first week when we live in a non-linear world?

We’re living in the golden age of craft beer and TV shows, with more choices than we could have ever imagined.

Too much choice.

Shows were rarely given enough time to develop before streaming, they certainly aren’t now, and it’s not a good thing.

Seinfeld, which ran for nine seasons and is generally considered the greatest sitcom of all time, was nearly cancelled before it got off the ground. An NBC research memo rated the show’s pilot “weak” with “no segment of the audience eager to watch the show again.” Any loyal Seinfeld viewer will tell you it took time for the show to click and the characters to develop, and thank goodness for TV history’s sake, Seinfeld was saved.

When we conduct personality research, we always recommend waiting at least a year before measuring the appeal of an individual talent or show, and it’s for two reasons. One, not enough people have been exposed to the show; Two, the audience that has been exposed needs time to develop meaningful opinions.

Today’s fractured entertainment landscape and easy access to quick analytics simply inflates the problem. When we make rash decisions on potentially great content before the audience has a chance to get to connect with it, or doesn’t have the chance to even find it, how in the world can we be expected to grow lasting shows and talent?

How Spotify’s “Wrapped” Spoke to Me

December means lots of things. End of the year, colder weather, the holiday season, and another edition of the “Wrapped” playlist that Spotify curates for its premium subscribers.

Spotify aggregates the listening data it has on you to present your very own year-end listening recap with a delightful, animated accompaniment. In previous years, even though data is data, for whatever reason I’ve felt Spotify missed the mark on how I used the platform.

Spotify Wrapped

But this year, they nailed it.

Spotify confirmed my wildly diverse tastes by indicating I’ve listened for 24,350 minutes to 1,081 artists in 51 genres in 2023, with Rock, Pop, and Hip Hop at the top. My recent obsession with Noah Kahan and Brandi Carlisle apparently puts my listening tastes in sync with those residing in Burlington, Vermont. “Flowers” by Miley Cyrus was my most played song. What can I say? I can love me better than you can.

My most played artist was Crowded House with a peak listening month of May, which makes total sense since that’s when I saw them play live in my town.

My favorite part of the Wrapped video is a new feature, introduced with “Hold up, someone’s on the other line”. It was Crowded House lead singer Neil Finn thanking me for being a fan and announcing a new album is coming out next year.


Neil Finn Crowded House

Crowded House’s Neil Finn sent me a video message on my personalized Spotify “Wrapped”. Photo credit: Ben Houdijk/Shutterstock

The Wrapped section of my Spotify dashboard has an already curated and personalized Top Songs of 2023 playlist, other artist video messages, which of those artists are coming next year, and some available merch to buy for the holidays. It isn’t 100% perfect…my colleague David tells me his Wrapped alerted him to an upcoming concert by one of his top five artists…who died in early September. Oops.

“Wrapped” is intensely personal, intentionally viral, and a powerful motivator of brand loyalty.

It’s easy to dismiss how applying the lessons of Wrapped could work for your brand. Of course, you don’t have Spotify money. You don’t have the resources to create gorgeous content at a Wrapped level of graphics.

But, you may have access to a robust database of consumers. Hopefully, you’ve collected some information on these consumers. At a basic level, you may have some demographic information, but hopefully you’ve conducted some surveys to learn more about them. If you work at a radio station, do you have information about who your listeners’ favorite artists are or what shows they like or what contests they’ve played? Do you know what they do for a living and when they listen most often?

Knowing you probably don’t have the access or algorithms that Big Data provides like Spotify does, 1) what information can you glean from your database and 2) what can you do with it?

One thing most radio stations do have is talent access, including the artists played on the station and the talent on-air. What personalized content can you generate for your audience to help build brand loyalty and encourage sharing via social channels? Local radio stations also have the power of community, focusing on elements germane to that specific audience.

What are some other ways you can make the listening experience more experiential and less transactional?

As you consider planning for 2024, think about ways your radio station or other media brand can deepen bonds with your audience, often in ways that are low or no cost, with data you already have or are easy to obtain just by asking.