Author: Jay Nachlis

How Nickelodeon Aced the Brand Content Matrix

Tuesdays With Coleman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It will happen because you’ve got both.

The Five Most-Read Blogs of 2020

Tuesdays With Coleman

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

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

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

K-97 Edmonton social distancing billboard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Episode 1: Troy McCallum, boom 97.3/Toronto

In the first episode of Coleman Insights’ Outside Thinking podcast, host Jay Nachlis interviews Troy McCallum, program director of boom 97.3, Stingray’s Classic Hits radio station in Toronto. McCallum takes listeners behind the scenes of the creation and implementation of the station’s Fall 2020 on-air marketing campaign, “We’re All In This Together”. Discover how McCallum used the Outside Thinking principle to reflect the mood of his audience and put the spotlight on the listener, resulting in a wildly successful promotion.

Coleman Insights Announces Personnel Changes

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC, December 10, 2020 – Coleman Insights is announcing the return of Kimberly Bryant as Field Coordinator and Stephanie Harper as Assistant Project Manager, and the departure of Associate Consultant Jessica Lichtenfeld.

Bryant has had multiple stints with Coleman Insights, culminating in her move into the Field Coordinator position in 2018. Harper joined the firm in 2018 after attending and working in various positions at Central Christian College of Kansas. Bryant and Harper’s positions were eliminated due to temporary market conditions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the company is restoring the responsibilities in the Field and Research departments, respectively, due to increasing demand for projects into next year. “I’m thrilled that the commitments our clients have made to us for 2021 have increased my optimism about the industry’s recovery and allowed us to bring these two valuable employees back,” says Coleman Insights President Warren Kurtzman.

Lichtenfeld is leaving her role as Associate Consultant to pursue another opportunity, which will be announced soon. Says Kurtzman, “I really wish Jessica well with the next step in her career and thank her for four years of valuable contributions to our success.”

Bryant and Harper will both be in place in their roles in January. Lichtenfeld’s last day with the company will be Wednesday, December 23rd.

Old Dogs in AC/DC Have New Tricks

Tuesdays With ColemanAC/DC’s new album, Power Up, debuted at number one on the Billboard chart.

AC/DC Power Up debuts at number one on Billboard chart

To put in perspective how impressive that is, consider that Back In Black–the album often considered their magnum opus that has sold over 50 million copies to date–peaked at number four in the United States.

Power Up features the triumphant return of lead vocalist Brian Johnson and drummer Phil Rudd, who had left the band due to hearing issues and legal issues, respectively. It is the first studio release since the death of founding rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young in 2017. But AC/DC was unable to ride the wave of publicity that would generally accompany such a reunion event, because plans for their giant world tour are on hold until 2021 thanks to the pandemic.

Yet, here’s ol’ AC/DC, besting number two album Pluto x Baby Pluto by Future & Lil Uzi Vert and knocking previous number one Positions by Ariana Grande back to number four.

So, how did they do it? Since streaming didn’t exist when Back In Black was released in 1980, you would think it would be harder than ever for a heritage band like AC/DC to top the charts. AC/DC notably resisted streaming for years, refusing to sell its albums on download stores such as iTunes until 2012, and you couldn’t stream an AC/DC song on-demand until five years ago.

They did it with album sales.

Of the 117,000 units that comprised Power Up sales in week one, album sales accounted for 111,000. The number of Streaming Equivalent Albums (SEA) was only 5,000, which came from 7.8 million on-demand streams. Compare that to the number two album by Future & Lil Uzi Vert, which racked up 105,000 units–99,000 of which were SEA units, coming from 136.11 million on-demand streams–and 5,500 in album sales. The top two albums are basically polar opposites in how they got there.

Think no one buys CDs anymore? Sixty-four (64%) percent of the 111,000 albums AC/DC sold were CDs, but not just any CD. They offered a $49 deluxe version of the CD that displays the band logo in flashing neon and plays the opening riff to the album’s first single, “Shot In The Dark”, on a built-in speaker.

AC/DCs Angus Young and Brian Johnson introduce the special deluxe lightbox version of “Power Up”.

Despite having their tour sidelined, AC/DC worked hard to promote Power Up. One could argue the band did it in some decidedly un-AC/DC ways. This included a November 10th interview with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe and an appearance on NPR’s Morning Edition on November 18th. Considering AC/DC wouldn’t allow its music on Apple less than a decade ago and NPR isn’t the media outlet most associated with hardcore rock, you’d have to say these were notable shifts for the band.

But they were brilliant shifts. AC/DC knows it can’t top the charts via streaming the way most Pop stars do today. They’re also keenly aware the CD is going the way of the buggy. But by recognizing their fan base is still willing to buy an actual album and by offering a collectible edition, they played the chart game their way. Embracing an interview with Apple allows them to reach new audiences, while recognizing many of their fans have aged into NPR-land ensures they reach the ones that have been there for them the whole time.

Even though your brand may offer a consistent product (Power Up sounds like it could have come out in 1980), it doesn’t mean you always present it in the same way or that you reach your target audience using the same old methods.

In fact, as AC/DC just proved, even the old dogs learned new tricks.

The Game Changer

Tuesdays With Coleman

When Howard Stern announced he would move to Sirius Satellite Radio sixteen years ago, it was a game changer. Not just for Sirius, which had 600,000 subscribers at the time (it merged with XM Satellite Radio in 2008 and today has over 35 million). It was also a game changer for all the radio stations that carried Howard Stern, forcing them to find replacements for the most dominant personality in the business and/or an attempt to reinvent their brands.

The examples of game changers is long.

Netflix to Blockbuster.

Digital photography to Kodak.

Facebook to MySpace.

Amazon to Borders. And Sears. And Macy’s. And….

There are game changers happening everywhere in the content business. A big one happened when HBO announced it would release the new Wonder Woman film on its HBO Max platform on Christmas Day at no extra cost to subscribers.

Last year, Jon Coleman wrote in Tuesdays With Coleman’s “Can HBO and Radio Have it All?” that HBO found itself at a crossroads. Its signature series Game of Thrones was ending, and the network was planning to expand premier content beyond its traditional Sunday night benchmark, where it had trained viewers the best shows would be for decades. The risk was that great content is now available everywhere, and HBO Sunday Night was a differentiator for the network.

Then, earlier this year, HBO introduced us to HBO Max, their new streaming service. Between Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, CBS All Access, NBC’s Peacock, Disney+, Apple TV (not to mention OTT offerings from Starz and Showtime), and now HBO Max, you could $7.95-$12.95 yourself into debt. They all produce award-winning original content. So how do you differentiate as a streaming network?

HBO Max launched in May with content that included reruns of big sitcoms like Friends and Big Bang Theory, movies from TCM (whose streaming service went dark after two years in 2018), Sesame Workshop, Crunchyroll, and access to HBO. One could argue that HBO’s shift from HBO Now (the network’s standalone streaming service) to a content-rich platform that went beyond HBO was a game changer. But it may be sea changes nudged to fruition by the pandemic that end up really changing the game.

The upcoming installment in the Wonder Woman franchise, WW84, has had its release date pushed back multiple times due to circumstances surrounding COVID-19. WarnerMedia, which owns HBO and Warner Bros. (the division releasing WW84,) is able to use the film as a vehicle to attract new eyeballs to HBO Max.

Despite the fact that consumers can still go to a theater to watch WW84 (in markets where the pandemic isn’t currently keeping them shuttered,) the fact that the follow-up to an $800 million plus blockbuster will be accessible for free on HBO Max is a big deal.

WW 1984 will be available for free to HBO Max subscribers.

And not just for HBO Max, which will turn a large number of new subscribers into regular subscribers. It’s a game changer for other streaming services and a tornado for movie theatres, which could always count on being the place you saw new releases first. How much of a long-term game changer this is won’t really be known until the pandemic is over and theatres completely re-open. It seems likely we’ll see more future big cinematic releases continue to focus on streaming (as Netflix did with The Irishman last year or Amazon did with Borat Subsequent Moviefilm a few weeks ago).

It’s a reminder that status-quo and tweaks don’t move the needle, and often go unnoticed by the consumer. One way to truly get the consumer to notice your brand and alter perception and behavior is to introduce a game changer. That game changer has to be conducive to the positive perception of your brand, and they are few and far between—you can’t just make a game changer fall from the sky.

But sometimes, potential game changers come along (we’re looking at you, Blockbuster) and you miss them because you’re stuck in the status quo or you think the audience will care about your tweaks.

Sometimes you’ve got to change the game.

Gathering the Family Together for Noods

Tuesdays With Coleman

With all the news lately, you may have missed one of the all-time greatest examples of a brand-content mismatch.

The Kraft Macaroni & Cheese “Send Noods” campaign.

Yep, that Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. The one you remember eating as a kid. The one your kids ask for by name. The brand that’s part of warm family memories around the dinner table.

The campaign encouraged consumers to visit (don’t bother, it’s gone), posts on the brand’s social media sites (they’re gone, too), and using the hashtag #sendnoods to get free boxes of Mac & Cheese to send to family and friends.

Creative and impressively designed marketing pieces includes blurred out images:

Top View Magazine Mockup by Anthony Boyd Graphics


Top View Magazine Mockup by Anthony Boyd Graphics

And a video (since deleted from Kraft’s official pages) starring former SNL cast member Vanessa Bayer laying beside the fireplace encouraging you to send noods, not nudes.

The campaign was scheduled to last from October 6th-11th, so by the time Kraft removed the content in response to outraged parents claiming they were sexualizing mac & cheese, it was already over.

So, was the campaign successful?

Kraft says they delivered over 20,000 boxes of mac. They certainly got some buzz, though it was likely limited thanks to everything else going on in the world.

For certain brands, a campaign using innuendo and double-entendres designed to surprise and grab attention makes perfect sense.

But for Kraft Macaroni & Cheese–a brand built on pretty much the opposite image–it doesn’t seem like the greatest move. On our Brand-Content MatrixSM, we’d put this campaign in the upper left quadrant. Kraft Macaroni & Cheese has an incredibly strong brand, but executed poor content out of sync with its images.

Brand Content Matrix

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

Would they have had even greater response if, for example, they launched a campaign inviting parents to send pictures or videos of their kids saying “cheese”? If there’s one thing I know, it’s that parents love showing off their children, and that’s an example of content that’s perfectly in line with the brand. That would be in the upper right quadrant.

Kraft is a big brand, strong enough to easily move pass a branding faux pas. Not every brand would be.

Do you agree? Did Kraft miss the mark or was the campaign worth it?

Apple, Spotify, SiriusXM, and the Great Content Rush

Tuesdays With Coleman

The Coleman Insights team loves to bat provocative or thought-provoking topics around just for fun. We used to do it with regularity at lunch, but in pandemic times we’re relegated to GoToMeeting and email.

One such email was circulated on September 16th which took note of the new “Apple One” subscription plan that had just been announced the day before, which is scheduled to hit the market this Fall. The question posed: if people buy the subscription that includes Apple Music, how will that affect other subscriptions, like Spotify?

Since that email exchange:

This all happened in the last six weeks.

Snoopy will only serve popcorn, jelly beans, pretzels, and toast to Apple TV subscribers from now on.

Last week, Warren Kurtzman talked about how Quibi’s investment in world-class content wasn’t enough to save it from underlying branding and distribution problems.

Don’t expect the “great content rush” to end anytime soon–the options and consumer choices just keep expanding. But while Apple and Spotify have established brands (although you can argue they’re expanding the definition of what their brands mean to the consumer), anyone in the content business should keep in mind that great content is never enough–it’s the strongest brands that win.

Just ask Quibi.



The Everlasting Effects of a Roof-Raising Brand

Tuesdays With Coleman

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

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

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

Pizza Hut original red roof

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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