When you hear the name Ford Bronco, some of us likely think of the full-sized, white getaway vehicle used by “The Juice” more than 25 years ago.
The fifth generation of the Ford Bronco made infamous in the O.J. Simpson chase bore little resemblance to the original model. (Photo by Jean-Marc Giboux/Liaison)
Those more familiar with the brand may recall the adventurous first generation model introduced as a competitor to the Jeep CJ-5 and the International Harvester Scout, the OGs of off-roading.
The first generation of the Ford Bronco was built as a competitor to the Jeep CJ-5.
As Ford reintroduced the new models, it produced a very compelling brand story in a series of short videos.
“On August 11th, 1965 Ford Motor Company introduced the world to the Ford Bronco, America’s first SUV. A vehicle that reshaped the 4 x 4 landscape forever. And today, it’s going to do it again.”
Amid images of the American West, wild horses and footage of the Bronco models in action, a narrator tells us the images we should associate with the rebrand:
Built to take on the toughest terrain you can find
Built with adventure in mind
Built to take Americans back into the wild
Built to be the future of off-roading
Bronco: Built Wild
It appears Ford Motor Company deliberately side-stepped its more recent brand history to take the Bronco back to its off-roading roots to make us all believe that we need a Bronco in our stable.
As I watched the Bronco rollout, I couldn’t help but think of radio. Like the Bronco, radio has a rich history and faces more competition than ever (streaming, podcasting, etc.). What if the radio industry launched a campaign to remind people of its place in today’s complicated audio landscape? The medium is certainly bigger than any one radio station. How might radio tell its brand story to replant itself in the mind of listeners?
If we told radio’s brand story, we could include images of radio towers, pre-television living rooms with the family huddled around the radio, a woman listening at work, a man stuck in traffic getting a live traffic report, a woman running with headphones, or a family listening at the beach on their Bluetooth speaker.
Radio has a deep, emotional brand story to tell.
What would the narrator say? Radio was there for you when you…
Got your first kiss
Had the best summer of your life
Mourned your first break up
Drove your first car
Heard about the planes that hit the towers on 9/11.
And radio is here for you today when you…
Need a laugh or a mood boost
Hear breaking news
Are late to work and need to get around a traffic jam
Win tickets to see your favorite band in concert
Hear that your kids will or will not be going back into classrooms this fall.
Today, radio continues to occupy an important position in our society. It is one of the easiest places to find immediate, local information and human companionship.
Just as Bronco is America’s first SUV, Radio is America’s first audio medium. Maybe as an industry it’s time to boast about the incredible relationships radio has shared with audiences for years and showcase its strengths today. “Radio. We’re free. We’re in your community. We’re here helping you get through your day, every single day.”
What if every station told Radio’s brand story on their website and on-air?
As the world has turned upside down for the foreseeable future, the team at Coleman Insights has been engaged in conversations with our clients about how to navigate the new landscape. We recognize the ability of radio stations and other audio-based media to shine in moments of crisis, and there are already numerous examples of this occurring. On the other hand, we also recognize the lack of an “adversity road map.” There is no playbook that dictates how each brand should respond. Should you continue to deliver your format without any significant modifications? Is this a moment to break format completely and provide relevant crisis information instead? These are difficult strategic decisions. The specific choices are also hard.
Our consultant team has been having ongoing internal discussions about strategies for the audio entertainment industry. The result is the following special Thursday edition of Tuesdays With Coleman, a compilation of thoughts and ideas our team would like to share with you, with the understanding that there is no single solution for everyone.
Recognize unusual times call for unusual measures.
Everyone has something to contribute during a global emergency. Regardless of what your brand regularly delivers, your listeners are affected by the COVID-19 outbreak and your response should reflect this. Your brand has a voice and a platform to be heard when listeners need it the most. Known, trusted personalities should play a major role and leverage the intimate connections they have with their listeners.
Consider the role of your brand in COVID-19 coverage.
Understand the need your brand fulfills.
News brands have a responsibility to provide comprehensive, relevant coverage. These brands might consider whether there are opportunities to go outside the typical format. For example, does more long-form programming or an increased number of updates make sense? These decisions should be determined by the role of the brand–in this case, being a provider of constant, reliable and trustworthy information during the crisis.
Listeners may be visiting your music station to get away from news coverage, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to stay connected. Does it make sense to employ a “We’re following the news so you don’t have to” approach? This allows talent to play a reassuring role; listeners can count on enjoying content on a music station without feeling like the world will pass by if they aren’t watching CNN or Fox News at that moment.
A full-service Adult Contemporary station may play a more personality-forward role of providing news and information. On the other hand, if your brand primarily provides comfort and escape, like a Soft Adult Contemporary radio station, constant news updates may be a harrowing intrusion and contrary to your brand. In fact, brands built on comfort and escape should lean in to that image, as it is particularly valuable when the real world is more chaotic.
Recognize that listening patterns are likely in significant flux.
If many people aren’t going to work or school, typical in-car commute listening levels no longer apply. What about everyone who is temporarily working from home? Or businesses that have been forced to close, like bars and restaurants? Will radio listening increase or decrease?
Reduced commuting will have a significant effect on listening patterns
With that in mind, consider the impact on how people may be consuming your station, podcast or streaming service and the programming options you may have.
With entire families now at home throughout the day, what about specialty programming geared to them during traditional at work hours? Should you do this on your main platform or would offering this through podcasts, separate streaming channels, etc. make more sense?
Aggressively promote all your listening platforms, keeping in mind that smart speaker listening is heavier at home than in the workplace and a surge of at home listening may be taking place.
Provide increased authentic and actionable listener engagement.
Listeners will find comfort in others going through the same issues. You may find yourself broadcasting from your home, which may be out of your comfort zone. Rather than trying to project a sense of business as usual, embrace the change! If the dog barks, the child screams or the husband sighs in the background, that’s real life. It’s exactly what your listener is going through. Let sharing be the mantra–you could, for example, have listeners upload pictures of their home offices to your social pages and share yours.
Find experts to feature on your shows. You don’t have to have all the COVID-19 answers yourself, and some of the best content is being generated by personalities across multiple formats interviewing those on the front lines of the crisis.
NIAID (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) Director Anthony Fauci has been extremely media-friendly in providing crisis guidance
Consider taking more listener phone calls. Allow them to share feelings and information that may be valuable to other listeners.
Think about brand-appropriate actionable advice you can offer listeners that is applicable to the current environment (i.e., how to work at home while the kids are in online school, the best binge-able series on Netflix or which delivery services have waived their fees).
Modify your tone. Be empathetic to the new needs of an uncertain audience.
Rally your community.
In times of crisis, “Community” surges to a higher level of importance on the Image PyramidSM. As they would with aggressively promoting a Base Music or Talk position, brands should be going over the top with their community efforts. Build real community bulletins (here’s what is open, new hours for grocery stores, new restrictions, etc.). Be the voice of the community, invite listeners to participate and share as appropriate. Listeners will tell people where they can buy toilet paper (well, maybe they’ll share that information), who delivers groceries and how to find free learning resources for kids. Post the information on your website.
Don’t just think of your community as your market. Your community is your audience. A Hip Hop station and Classic Rock station will not rally the same communities, but each has the power to inspire, engage and activate their respective followers.
If you make a concerted effort now to think about what you can really do for your community and your audience, your efforts will create a halo over your brand when things settle down.
Consider reading two Tuesdays With Coleman posts in which we covered the important role of radio in a crisis:
It’s an easy trap to fall into. And it happens in politics, radio and brand marketing. We market ourselves and our products under the assumption that people make rational decisions based on key issues or features that we recognize as being important to the majority.
A politician may say “I support border protection, gun control and gay marriage—issues important to most Americans. Where are the votes?”
A programmer may say “We are playing 20% more 80s than our competitor, have $1,000 giveaways every hour and hour-long music sweeps. Where are the listeners?”
Why aren’t they winning?
In his new book “Why We’re Polarized,”Ezra Klein theorizes that people vote based upon emotion and connection to a group. Not rationally or tied to specific issues.
We like to be part of a movement. We cheer for the underdog, we “feel the Bern.” There is a lot of power in this group psychology. Once they’ve joined a group or become a “fan,” committed partisans will rationalize almost anything done by their “team.”
The Cleveland Browns lost every game between December 24, 2016 and September of 2018, but their fans stuck by them. That’s 635 days without a win. Browns fans love their team—through thick and thin.
We forgive Google’s trespasses into our personal data because their Super Bowl commercials give us all the feels. Never mind that they are creepily using our information to sell us products, they can help us remember family members we have lost. So sweet, love them.
Your favorite Starbucks gets your order wrong and you find yourself apologizing to them. Maybe you weren’t clear?
Where’s the emotional connection to radio? What happened to the power of the group, the feeling that I want to “vote” for this station? It’s lost in all the technical details we focus on!
While playing 12 songs in a row may build a valuable music quantity image, don’t mistakenly think that’s what will turn casual listeners into fans.
Rather than focusing on the minutiae of your station, infuse it with emotion. Bring it to life for your audience. Create a team environment. Start a movement.
Once you connect with your audience emotionally and convert them into “fans,” your listeners will forgive that extra commercial per hour or the not-quite-perfect music mix.
As my colleague Sam Milkman has said, “When we start feeling and stop gaming, we will reach greater heights.”
BRANDING, CONTENT & RESEARCH STRATEGY
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