Author: Jay Nachlis

Blue Ocean Strategy for Podcasting

Coleman Insights founder Jon Coleman introduced Blue Ocean Strategy to Tuesdays With Coleman blog readers late last year in “Should Radio Go Back to Normal.” In short, brands that find themselves in heavily competitive crowded market segments are in metaphorical shark-infested, blood-laden waters. Hence, Red Ocean. On the other hand, some brands have established unique points of market differentiation in the minds of the consumer. This clear lane is the Blue Ocean. A few months ago, it struck me that podcasting resembles a Red Ocean in a number of ways. It is dotted with millions of shows whose names, logos, hosts, structure, and production sound similar. I wondered if there was an opportunity for podcasters to apply Blue Ocean techniques that brands in other market segments have successfully used to differentiate and make the competition irrelevant. That’s how the idea of my presentation, “Create A New Lane: Using Blue Ocean Strategy To Get Your Podcast Noticed,” which I shared at the Podcast Movement conference in Nashville last week, began.

As Jon pointed out in his December blog, Blue Ocean Strategy may have value for underperforming radio stations. Is it better to live in the shadow of a dominant competitor or blaze your own trail? When, for example, a station in your cluster is the third highest-rated CHR or second highest-rated Country station, is it more strategically advantageous to choose an untapped or underserved lane?

One way to look at available opportunity in podcasting is by reviewing the number of shows in each category in Apple Podcasts. For example, the general Science category has over 30,000 shows. Chemistry, a subcategory of Science, has only about 900. Should you publish a general Science podcast that may cover Biology in one episode, Physics the next, and Chemistry the next…or do you publish one that focuses specifically on Chemistry, hyper-targeted to those interested in the topic?

Chemistry podcasts

The Chemistry category contains about 900 podcasts, compared to over 30,000 in the general Science category

The Religion category is a massive Red Ocean, with over 150,000 shows. Christianity is a subcategory of Religion but is its own Red Ocean at over 90,000. Yet Hinduism, observed by 15% of the world’s population, represents less than two percent of the Religion category. Not to mention that India is the third largest podcast listening market. Whereas Religion and Christianity are Red Ocean, Hinduism is Blue Ocean. The most underserved categories? That belongs to swimming and volleyball, at only about 130 shows each. Total. As James Cridland of Podnews likes to say, “If you can’t rank in the Top 150 for swimming, you’re doing it wrong.”

Swimming is one of the most underserved categories in podcasting

This Red/Blue Ocean exercise can also apply to topics as opposed to categories. The Golden State Warriors are a hugely popular NBA franchise. If you search for “Golden State Warriors podcast,” Google’s algorithms will offer you many suggestions of shows that cover this topic. But do the same thing for “Stephen Curry podcast,” and you’ll find none. Zilch. Zero. But Google will recommend a golf podcast. Curry is one of the most popular athletes of all-time, yet there is seemingly no podcast focused on him. If you launched both today, which would have a better chance at acquiring new listeners? A general Warriors podcast amongst a sea of established Warriors podcasts or a Steph Curry one? The Golden State Warriors are Red Ocean. Stephen Curry is Blue Ocean.

Stephen Curry Podcast

A Google search for “Stephen Curry Podcast” shows a wide open Blue Ocean opportunity

Apply this exercise to your content, as a sales consultant that attended my session did. He explained to me that his podcast offers broad sales advice. The name of his show implies broad sales content. Now, he’s thinking about how to focus his show. He’s considering his target listener. Is it C-suite level? Sales managers? What market segment? A company that sells software for used car dealers has a podcast called – you guessed it – The Used Car Dealer Podcast. It’s a great brand building and lead generating show for them, though they wisely don’t use the show as a commercial. A podcast for car buyers (or even car dealers) is Red Ocean. A podcast for used car dealers is Blue Ocean.

When deciding to adopt Blue Ocean Strategy for your podcast, it’s important to remember you should not just pick a category or topic because it is underserved or narrowly focused. The content still has to be great. You must have a level of expertise, and put in the research and the work to make it so. But if you do, and the category or topic are Blue Ocean, you are increasing your chances of success.

Finally, it’s important to remember that Blue Ocean strategists don’t differentiate with just one thing. The greatest Blue Ocean brands differentiate in multiple ways. That means thinking about all the things podcast listeners see when they search for shows. The thumbnails look alike. The descriptions sound the same. The structure and production value is similar. Make a list and consider how you would Blue Ocean each item. The show name. The logo. The description. The sound. The host. The category. The topic. And so on.

Next stop: Blue Ocean!

The Agony of the Specialty Weekend

If I didn’t show up at my house until 8 or 9 on Friday night, my wife knew one of two things had taken place at the radio station I was programming. It was either Option A: the sales department turned spots in late, which delayed the traffic department, which delayed the merging of the log, which delayed my ability to time out the log for the weekend. Option B: I was scheduling the music for a specialty weekend, and the complexities of components like specialized clocks and imaging that I didn’t have time to get to earlier in the week were holding me up.

When it comes to specialty programming, there are many directions in which a radio station can go. Recently, I’ve listened to some stations that have aired specialty programming nearly every weekend. One was a “Superstar Artist Weekend” on a Classic Hits station, which focused on some of the big artists the station played. Other examples of specialty weekends I’ve heard across formats include a Live Music Weekend that spotlighted live tracks, a Summer/Beach-themed weekend, and an All-American weekend that brought extra attention to artists that were born in the United States.

On the one hand, there is no doubt that radio stations often excel at capturing and reflecting the moment. From that perspective, you can see how a Beach-themed weekend to kick off the summer and an All-American Weekend for the 4th of July could have some value. The million-dollar question: Is the effort you put into your specialty weekends worth it for what you’re getting in return? The answer: it depends. Let’s look at specialty programming from a research perspective.

The Coleman Insights Image Pyramid

As you’ll see on Coleman Insights’ Image Pyramid, Specialty Programming has a reasonably high position in the hierarchy of importance. Ensuring listeners clearly understand your station’s Base Music or Talk Position is job one. Building brand depth beyond the base position is incredibly challenging if the base position is not understood. Impactful personalities help drive listening to the station beyond the base position, which is reflected by its important position immediately above it.

So, we know Specialty Programming’s presence on the Image Pyramid can benefit station images. How it benefits your station depends on a few things, including: a) what the programming is that you’re airing; b) how often you air it; c) how well you promote it; d) whether it supports your base position.

This comes back to the Outside Thinking principle we often refer to. We know from decades of research studies that listeners have shallow perceptions of brands. We know they aren’t paying close attention. That’s why it takes so long to build images (and why it takes so long to shed them.)

When Specialty Programming shows up positively in research studies, it is generally because a radio station has aired something that’s memorable, that clearly supports the brand, and that is done deliberately and consistently over time.

A Mainstream Adult Contemporary station may, for example, air an 80s Weekend once a month, but only highlight the 80s songs it plays within regular rotation. A programmer of another station in the same format may have concluded that 80s is important enough to the strategy and an image he/she wants to build, so they run an 80s Weekend every weekend. Every single song is from the 80s and the imaging is significant. Which one do you think listeners will remember and have a chance to show up in research?

This doesn’t mean that stations that consistently run the same specialty programming each week are the only ones that can be successful from a research perspective.

Many Classic Rock stations have been running “A to Z” and “Top 500 of all-time” event programming on Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends regularly for decades. But it’s the fact that they’ve run them for so long during the same times that make them so memorable. If they switched it up each year, whether as a different feature or at a different time, it would lose its effectiveness. Two For Tuesday may sound played out and cliché to a radio person who has heard it the way radio people listen to it, but for the station it may be a memorable benchmark that may also help build the Base Music Position.

All of this is not to say you should throw away one-off topical features. They certainly have a place and time, but they serve a different purpose. They are called one-offs for a reason. Specialty programming is different with different criteria. But success from a research perspective still relies on a “yes” to these three questions: Is it memorable, does it build the brand, and are you doing it consistently? It applies for every format, from 90s Weekends for a Classic Country station or mix shows for a Hip Hop station. The next time you consider specialty programming, consider how you’ll use it to build an image. That’s the way to ensure a positive return on your time investment and lasting value for the brand.

Beer, Bourbon, and Hummus

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.

Until hummus.

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.

Just don’t forget your brand’s “hummus.”

Wanted: Radio’s Music Experts

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.

Milli Vanilli Grammys

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.

“Biggie: I Got A Story To Tell” features rare footage captured by The Notorious B.I.G.’s childhood friend Damion “D-Roc” Butler.

“Homecoming: A Film by Beyonce” offers a rare intimate look at Queen B’s life.

Taylor Swift admits her PR missteps and transparently talks about how her need to control her brand corresponds with her obsession of being perceived as good in “Miss Americana.”

Want to know how ZZ Top crafted their sound and image? Watch “ZZ Top: That Lil Ol’ Band From Texas.”

Care to worship Dolly Parton for an hour and a half (spoiler: you do)? “Dolly Parton: Here I Am” has you covered.

Dolly Parton Here I Am Netflix

If you’re not paying attention, you may be missing the fact that music documentaries are coming at you in all different directions. On multiple video streaming services to be sure, but even Spotify had a four-part music documentary series.

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.

The Five Most-Read Blogs of 2021 (So Far)

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.

5. The Branding of 2021’s Emotional Milestones by Jay Nachlis (May 18, 2021)

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.

4. Winning by Embracing Nostalgia by Warren Kurtzman (March 23, 2021)

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.

Cobra Kai nostalgia

Netflix projected 41 million viewers watched Season 3 “Cobra Kai” in its first month of release.

3. Seismic Behavioral Changes and Your Brand by Jay Nachlis (June 15, 2021)

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.”

2. Pop Reigns Supreme (Again!) in Contemporary Music SuperStudy 3  by Warren Kurtzman (May 4, 2021)

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 Blinding Lights second best testing song of 2020

The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” was the second best testing Pop song in Contemporary Music SuperStudy 3

1. Radio, You’re Obsessing Over Alexa by Jon Coleman (June 1, 2021)

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.

 

 

 

The Watering Down of Facebook

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).

This dedication to the law of focus not only hasn’t hurt In-N-Out, it’s arguably one of the primary drivers of its success. The average In-N-Out location brings in $4.5 million per year, versus $2.6 million for a McDonald’s outpost. The company brings in over $1 billion each year and is debt-free.

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.

In many ways, Facebook has always played this game. When Foursquare was a thing, it launched the ability to check-in. As online shopping took off, it created a Craigslist-like marketplace. When Zoom got hot during the pandemic, Facebook brought you Messenger Rooms.

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?

Your Messaging Has Been Blocked

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.

Seismic Behavioral Changes and Your Brand

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.

Statistic: Retail e-commerce sales in the United States from 1st quarter 2009 to 1st quarter 2021 (in million U.S. dollars) | Statista

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.

Some things will return to the way they were pre-pandemic times. On June 20th, Foo Fighters will play the first 100% capacity concert at Madison Square Garden since March of 2020. But it is clear many other things are here to stay.

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 Age Relevance Rebrand

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.

Vintage Old Spice Ad

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?

The most obvious example of how they did it was their 2010 Super Bowl commercial starring former NFL wide receiver Isaiah Mustafa, “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like.”

That commercial, which spawned countless other quirky versions, has been viewed nearly 60 million times on YouTube.

It first aired in February 2010. By May 2010 sales were up 60% and by July sales were double over the previous year.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

The Zen of Ted Lasso

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.”