Author: Sam Milkman

What Is the Purpose of Your Radio Station?

I admit it, I am reading one of those self-help books about finding meaning in life. I just started the chapter on “finding purpose in life.” You know, find your purpose and focus on that. Stop making excuses and get to it. Oh boy, this may be a little much for me. Are you here to be a great husband, father, and community builder, or are you here to watch Netflix?

Sure, sure, maybe I should do that personally. But it got me thinking about what our purpose is as the radio industry. Do we know our purpose? Our real purpose—what we mean to consumers—or what we could mean to them?

It seemed so easy years ago. Play better records, find a more entertaining morning show, think up some memorable promotions—and good things will happen. Radio is everywhere. Turn your Cume into fans and you’ll win.

Then it got a lot more complicated. Sorry, to win today you need to do more than sound somewhat better than the other radio stations in town. I know we all spend a good part of our day trying to make our stations sound better—and I think that’s important—but it may not save the day anymore.

We need to get back to our purpose. What would make someone do anything to listen to our radio station? Hide under the sheets at night so mom and dad wouldn’t know they were listening? How do we develop superfans like the ones Taylor Swift has found a way to generate by the millions? Over the years, our programming mentors taught us how to create compelling content and bigger-than-life promotions that electrified an audience.

What happened? Did we forget our purpose? Radio is here to entertain by whatever means. To connect with an audience. Give listeners a reason to make us a part of their lives. Earn that, never assume it.

Certainly, the world changed. But what happened to the kind of radio that was so amazing that you and I didn’t want to get out of the car because we didn’t want to miss something? Please don’t tell me that all of that is only on Spotify or a podcast. There is no monopoly on great entertainment.

Jon Stewart, Jimmy Kimmel and Saturday Night Live rely upon the same “raw material” to entertain as radio does. They have access to most of the same musical guests. They work hard every day to make magic happen. It is up to us to transform those raw elements into something that lights up a radio audience.

One of my favorite clients once asked: Can’t you include a question in your study that just answers my hardest question—what would make you listen more? My response: If we can refine your music recipe and morning show and strengthen what your brand means, won’t that make them listen more? Maybe I was a little defensive, maybe a bit stuck in one view of the world.

I think it is time to get crazy. Try things that have never been done before. Did you know they wanted to fire Rush Limbaugh when he first got started because he was the rogue newscaster who had the gall to comment on the news? Instead, he started a new format. The history of Sports Radio isn’t much different. Sure there were a few hour-long sports talk shows dating back to the 1960s on WNBC, but there weren’t any dedicated all-sports stations until the late 80s and the arrival of WFAN in New York.

You have the ideas. Let’s get crazy and try some of them. Let’s find our purpose again.

They Tried That, and It Won’t Work

We hear lots of memorable expressions in our client meetings. Most are axioms about how things work in radio programming. And many of them are dead wrong! “But it tests” is a perennial favorite, an argument for playing a song that is completely un-strategic because somebody put it in a music test—and just our luck, it came back strong. Look…you can test “Gangnam Style” all you like, and no matter how well it scores, I promise it doesn’t belong on your Rock station. “But it tests”—doesn’t that mean our audience loves it and we should play it? Yes, they love it, but no, it does not mean that you should play it.

Hey! Let’s put songs in our music test that make no strategic sense just to see if they test! (Photo credit: Debby Wong/Shutterstock)

The faulty expression I want to discuss today is: “They tried that, and it won’t work!” This phrase is usually the reaction to the proposal of a format that may have been tried in the market in the past—often with modest commitment and no marketing— that resulted in a quick “failure.” Relying upon this argument to reject further exploration of an idea has several flaws. First, it assumes that consumer tastes never change. Just because nobody wanted an 80s station in the 1990s does not mean it won’t work today. Second, it assumes the market never changes. What if there were already two or three players in the 80s arena back then, but now there aren’t?

Third, the “they tried that, and it won’t work!” argument assumes that the previous attempt was well-executed. We don’t really know whether the last endeavor was well marketed, described appropriately to the audience, or played the right music. All we know is somebody tried it, and it failed.

This flawed logic applies to both format positions—and station names. Sorry, nobody remembers that there was once a station called “Mix” in this market (except a few insiders/nerds in our building). Just because there was a station called Mix in 2006 that eventually changed formats does not mean that name is a bad idea for your new variety station.

Think about all the great products that we would never have if a failed attempt in the past scared off a company ready to try again. Thomas Edison had thousands of successful inventions, and quite a few “failures”. One of the most notable was called “The Home Delivery Service” designed to deliver music and other entertainment to your house. In the 1920s, this club mailed subscribers 20 sample records each month and gave them a few days to order what they wanted.

Sound familiar?

It “didn’t work” back then, but it certainly did years later for Columbia House, Netflix and others.

Columbia House was a membership subscription program that delivered music to your house after hooking you with an introductory offer.

Similar stories could be told about the early space program, the airplane, the microwave oven, the smartphone and so many other successes. History is littered with ideas that failed at first and then became wildly successful with improved execution.

Don’t believe it when someone tells you that something won’t work in your market. Just because a format “failed” in the past, don’t be so sure it won’t work today.

Advertising is More Valuable Than Premium Subscribers?

I read an article recently that surprised me. It explained that Netflix’s “Basic With Ads” subscribers are more valuable to Netflix than ad-free subscribers who pay $15.49 a month. I always thought the streaming business model depended on us all paying higher and higher subscription fees. Turns out, all these services want us to watch ads instead of paying higher fees.

Why? Because these companies learned that getting us to watch “premium ads” generates more revenue than monthly fees.

Photo credit: Koshiro K/Shutterstock

I personally love the ads. They give me a chance to get another drink, explain the show to my father-in-law, and use the bathroom. Plus, I’m learning about all kinds of new medicines that I didn’t even know I needed.

Now let’s consider the radio industry, which continues to rely on the ad model DSPs find so valuable, yet we seem to despise so much.

An unhappy program director may say “The commercials are killing the station!” But do listeners really feel that way?

We can argue another time about the legitimate issue regarding the quantity of commercials, but I have learned that commercials are expected on the radio—and maybe even quietly enjoyed by people like me.

So, what if we embraced the commercials? Worked hard at making them premium. And recognize that they are more valuable than any “subscription fee” we might someday be able to extract from an audience through our apps or other means.

When launching a new station, one of my mentors would include dummy commercials, mainly for concerts and new releases. He did this for two reasons: first, it gave the station credibility. Second, it created an expectation for commercials. Premium ones at that. Of course, he controlled the production and spent the time making them sound great.

I’m not the world’s biggest sports fan, but I have been enjoying the commercials I see during the baseball playoffs. Who doesn’t love a winged talking/singing Buffalo with his hooves on the bar? And it won’t be long until we have another round of Super Bowl ads to talk about.

There will always be advertising that radio stations are asked to run that is out of their control. But there are plenty that are within their control. Rather than focusing on how to not run them, maybe the focus should be on how to run and present them in a more appealing way.

Ads can be great if we make them great. And, as streaming services have learned, with the right ad structure there is real value to the bottom line.

What’s Your Pivot?

For every Netflix that adapts from DVDs by mail to streaming, there is a Blockbuster that fails to evolve. For every Google that sees a chance to dominate the online maps business, there is a MapQuest that had the brand name, yet failed to create a great mobile app in time. Every company, every brand must pivot at some point, and usually many times over its lifespan. Sometimes the pivot is short-term. Many businesses were forced to pivot during the pandemic, such as restaurants that shifted into a curbside/delivery-focused model. Many times, the pivot is absolutely necessary for survival. According to the Harvard Business Review, three conditions are required for a business pivot to work:

  1. A pivot must align the brand with long-term trends
  2. A pivot must be a lateral extension of the brand’s existing capabilities
  3. A pivot must offer a sustainable path to profitability, that preserves and enhances brand value in the minds of consumers

Here’s a look at two brands that made significant pivots from their initial core competencies, and one that is currently attempting to do so.


In October 2007, 75% of Garmin’s revenue was generated by sales of GPS devices for cars. The company did $2.5 billion in sales. The stock was at $120 per share. But four months earlier, Apple introduced the iPhone. GPS was now available for free on your mobile device. Within three years, Garmin lost 90% of its value.

By the early 2010s, wearables were in their infancy.  Fitbit and Jawbone were early leaders in the category, but no brand owned the high-end fitness enthusiast market. Garmin identified a new long-term trend (not a fad), was already in the electronics device business, and saw a path to winning market share. Incredibly, Garmin sustained only three periods of negative fiscal growth and is thriving.

Garmin successfully pivoted from in-car GPS devices to high-end smartwatches (Photo credit: Shutterstock)


Twitter was originally called Odeo, a service for discovering podcasts. When Apple added podcasts to iTunes in 2005, Odeo’s leadership decided they couldn’t compete and asked employees for ideas. An engineer named Jack Dorsey proposed a microblogging site where users could share short updates in real-time. The completed version of Twitter debuted in 2006, and Dorsey became the company’s first CEO. Odeo saw social media and messaging as a long-term trend, it already offered an internet-based service, and rebranding ensured the opportunity to build sustainable images. It met the three conditions required for a pivot to work.


Peloton has made its share of mistakes, from faulty treadmills to producing too many bikes during the pandemic, demand that was almost sure to taper off. Peloton stock, which peaked at $151 per share on December 1, 2020, sits at just under $8 as I write this.

And yet, Peloton has an incredible vault of content from its roster of fitness instructors, and a core of passionate fans. Though Peloton has always generated impressive content, it focused on the hardware. It marketed the bike, and opened stores where you can demo the bike. But as Pelton learned the hard way, bikes are expensive to make, expensive to deliver, and demand is fleeting. The profit margin on content is way more appealing.

Peloton has recently put more focus on its app, making the content available to those who don’t own Pelton equipment. Can Peloton successfully pivot perceptually from a bike company to a content company? It likely better aligns with long-term trends and is within its existing capabilities. That path to profitability part…we’ll have to see.

Peloton is attempting to shift from a device-focused strategy to a content-focused strategy (Photo credit: Shutterstock)

Consider your brand’s position in the mind of the consumer. Is it thriving? Has it evolved at the appropriate pace? Or does it need to pivot for future success? And if the answer is “pivot”, does it meet the criteria?

Consider these challenges thoughtfully and strategically, ideally utilizing perceptual research to clearly understand strengths and weaknesses to craft a profitable strategy moving forward.

The Strategic Reason Why Bed Bath & Beyond Struggled and Failed

In the Coleman Insights presentation “The Urgency of Branding” that Jay Nachlis and I first shared at Morning Show Boot Camp in Chicago last year, one of my favorite points highlights this image on a slide:

Bed Bath & Beyond coupon

The classic Bed Bath & Beyond 20% off coupon. We think it demonstrates a classic marketing blunder, putting all your focus on a promotion, not your product benefit. Last Wednesday was the last day Bed Bath & Beyond accepted coupons, shortly following the announcement that the store will go out of business for good on June 30th.

The fact that many headlines of Bed Bath & Beyond’s demise actually mentioned coupons—“Bed Bath & Beyond, facing bankruptcy and string of store closings, stops accepting coupons”, for example—makes complete sense for a store that was known more for a tactic than its brand.

That’s the lesson in “The Urgency of Branding”, and it’s one that bears repeating here.

There are many hot takes that attempt to explain the reasoning behind the store’s failure. They opened too many stores. They didn’t adapt to online shopping. They made too many stock buybacks. All may be true on some level. But at its core, the problem was deeper.

Throughout its long history, I wouldn’t be caught dead in a Bed Bath & Beyond without a 20% off coupon. That coupon, delivered regularly to seemingly every mailbox in the United States, was so iconic and representative of the company that it became a dominant brand image.

And thus, it became one of the first things that came to mind when you thought of it. Say Bed Bath & Beyond, picture a 20% off coupon.

Rather than, for example, say Bed Bath and Beyond and think of the destination for furnishings for my kids’ college dorm. Say Bed Bath and Beyond and think of the largest selection of shower curtains anywhere. Say Bed Bath and Beyond and think, “That’s the comforter store. I’ve bought every comforter I’ve ever owned there.”

Nope, you think of a tactical discount.

Just as, as explained by our Image Pyramid, radio listeners need to clearly understand and be able to communicate a stations’ Base Music or Talk Position (i.e., “The Hip Hop station,” “The Relaxing station,” “The Sports station”) consumers need to clearly understand and be able to communicate a store’s base position.

The Coleman Insights Image Pyramid

Technically, the position is in the name—they are a bed and bath specialist—but they didn’t reinforce the position in their marketing, instead they allowed the tactic to overwhelm the brand.

This is a dangerous path. Dominant personalities and forefront contests can be hugely beneficial to a radio station, providing brand depth on their Image Pyramid. But if tactical efforts come at the expense of the brand, rather than in support of it, you risk overwhelming the base position.

Fortify and focus on your base position and deploy marketing that reinforces the image.

That’s the key to surviving to infinity…and beyond.

How ChatGPT and Artificial Intelligence May Impact Media

If you haven’t yet heard about ChatGPT, let me be the first to let you in on the little tool creating all the buzz. Or…is this ChatGPT that’s telling you about all the buzz right now because I’m not actually writing this? Once you learn more about ChatGPT in this blog, that will make more sense to you and you can decide for yourself.

One thing is for certain. ChatGPT has wildly positive or negative implications for just about everyone on the planet.

How’s that for a teaser?

ChatGPT is a chatbot powered by Artificial Intelligence. How you feel about AI will likely drive your initial thoughts on the product. My son Ryan is taking a coding class at Columbia and completed an assignment over the weekend. Just for fun, after he finished his coding, he gave the same assignment to the ChatGPT bot.

It completed it correctly in 2.3 seconds.

The same task took Ryan six or seven hours.

Ryan went to his professor and showed both versions of his work, which inspired a lengthy discussion in class.

Imagine the implications of this thing on the teaching profession alone.

Right now, ChatGPT is offering the bot to try for free to show what it can do. Is it like Google or Alexa? In that it can prepare a custom shopping list and explain Newton’s laws of motion, sure. But if you ask Google or Alexa to write your term paper on US History in a sarcastic tone, and then ask it to expand on the Civil War parts and provide an alternate viewpoint, you won’t have something ready to turn in to a college professor. But with ChatGPT, you could.

So…how about the way media brands may use ChatGPT?

I asked the bot, “Write me a news report about the hottest new trends” and here’s what it wrote:

The hottest new trends for the season are starting to take shape, and there’s something for everyone.

In fashion, sustainability and comfort continue to be major themes. Brands are increasingly offering eco-friendly options, such as clothing made from recycled materials or natural fibers. Comfortable and practical clothing, such as loungewear and athleisure, are also gaining popularity as more people work from home.

In the beauty industry, natural and minimalistic looks are on the rise. This includes a focus on skincare and using fewer, but higher quality, products. The “no makeup” makeup look, which emphasizes a natural and youthful appearance, is also becoming more popular.

In terms of technology, virtual and augmented reality are gaining traction. Virtual reality headsets are becoming more affordable and accessible, allowing users to experience immersive entertainment and educational content. Augmented reality, which overlays digital information onto the real world, is being used in a variety of applications, from gaming to interior design.

Overall, these trends reflect a desire for more practical, sustainable, and natural products and experiences.

I asked the bot if it could make it longer.

“Sure, here is a longer version”

As we enter the new year, it’s time to take a look at the hottest trends that are shaping up for the season. From fashion and beauty to technology and entertainment, there’s something for everyone.

One of the biggest trends in fashion is the focus on sustainability and comfort. With more people working from home and looking for clothing that is practical and easy to wear, brands are offering more options in the loungewear and athleisure categories. In addition, there is a growing demand for eco-friendly clothing made from recycled materials or natural fibers, as consumers become more aware of the environmental impact of their fashion choices.

In the beauty industry, the minimalistic and natural look is becoming more popular. This includes a focus on skincare, with people using fewer, but higher quality, products to achieve a healthy and radiant complexion. The “no makeup” makeup look, which emphasizes a natural and youthful appearance, is also gaining traction. This trend reflects a desire for a more natural and low-maintenance beauty routine.

Technology is also seeing some exciting new developments. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are becoming more mainstream, with VR headsets becoming more affordable and accessible. VR allows users to experience immersive entertainment and educational content, while AR overlays digital information onto the real world, offering a variety of applications, from gaming to interior design.

In the entertainment world, streaming services are continuing to dominate, with new content being released all the time. However, there is also a trend towards more interactive and social experiences, such as live-streamed concerts and virtual reality gaming.

Overall, these trends reflect a desire for more practical, sustainable, and natural products and experiences. Whether you’re looking to update your wardrobe, improve your beauty routine, or try out the latest tech, there are plenty of exciting options to choose from.

How long would it take someone in the newsroom to write this? (It took ChatGPT about five seconds).

There are already options to use AI for the narration, which will continue to improve.

As an aside, when I asked ChatGPT to write me a news report about Volodymyr Zelenskky, it glossed over the war with Russia and focused on peace talks. When I asked it to write a news report about Taylor Swift, it wrote about the release of Evermore, not her latest album. So, it’s certainly a work in progress.

Taylor Swift news

ChatGPT’s usefulness is a work in progress, as it referenced outdated Taylor Swift information when writing a news story. (Credit: Brian Friedman, Shutterstock)

Sounds Profitable’s Tom Webster wrote a piece on ChatGPT, positing how, despite the fears of AI replacing human jobs and the work they do, tools like ChatGPT can play an important role in helping humans do their work better.

Generally, I buy that. There are pretty cool implications for amplifying search for life hacks. Instead of Googling the generic “Questions to ask in a job interview,” I asked ChatGPT “What are good questions to ask an interviewer for a TV anchor job?”

Its response was impressively focused on the position:

  • Can you tell me more about the specific responsibilities and expectations for this position?
  • What is the company’s vision for this role, and how does it fit into the overall goals of the organization?
  • Can you provide more details about the team I would be working with and the support that would be available to me in this position?
  • What opportunities for professional development and growth are available for anchors at this company?
  • Can you tell me about the typical work schedule for anchors at this company?
  • What is the company’s approach to news coverage and storytelling, and how does this position fit into that approach?
  • How does this company support anchors in maintaining a work-life balance and managing the demands of this job?
  • Can you provide more information about the equipment and technology that anchors at this company use to produce their segments?
  • How does this company support anchors in staying current with industry trends and developments?
  • Can you tell me more about the opportunities for on-air and off-air collaboration with other members of the news team?

When we consider how it will change jobs in media, you can imagine how it could speed up show prep, help write commercial copy, and yes, write news stories.

But what we can never lose sight of is the personal human touch that can only come from a human’s tone of voice.

I asked ChatGPT to write a blog in the tone of Sam Milkman, and it told me “As a large language model trained by OpenAI, I don’t have the ability to write in the specific style of a specific person.”


AI tools like ChatGPT will disrupt our world. They will make your job easier in some ways, but have the potential to make us lazy and miss our very specific individual voices and attitude. So perhaps we should use it as a tool, but not the tool.

Back to the original question posed at the top of this blog. Did I even write it? Or did ChatGPT?

The answer: I did. I don’t think ChatGPT has the ability to write like someone on my level – ha ha.

At least, not yet.

How Demographics Impact Contemporary Music Tastes

Coleman Insights is releasing findings from its Contemporary Music SuperStudy 4 in a three-part blog series, followed by a free webinar on Wednesday May 11th at 2PM EDT/11AM PDT, in which the findings will be covered in greater depth. Details to register for that webinar are below.

In last week’s Tuesdays With Coleman blog, Warren Kurtzman examined Contemporary Music SuperStudy 4’s differences by genre, including how different types of music vary based on where listeners live and their political affiliation. This week, we’ll look at how age, gender, and ethnicity affected contemporary music appetites in the latest edition of our benchmark study.

As John Boyne and Warren Kurtzman have pointed out in previous blogs, the big story of Contemporary Music SuperStudy 4 is the lack of newer music among the best-testing titles. Although we see quite a lot of older material among the most popular songs of each age group, the past year’s music is a little more represented among the Top 100 titles with 12- to 24-year-olds (37%) than with 25- to 34-year-olds (31%), 35- to 44-year-olds (29%), or 45- to 54-year-olds (29%). More pronounced are differences in the genres preferred by each age group. While Pop music is well-represented among the Top 100 titles of each age group, Hip Hop/R&B and Country vary dramatically by age. 12- to 34-year-olds have more Hip Hop/R&B than Country, while 35- to 54-year-olds have more Country than Hip Hop/R&B. This is not a new development; previous SuperStudies have shown a similar pattern.

Men and women agree on one thing completely, and you don’t hear that very often. Pop represents 43% of the Top 100 songs among men, the identical percentage of the top songs among women. But just as Country leans much older, it also leans heavily Female, making up 22% of the Female Top 100 and only 5% of the Male Top 100. Meanwhile, Hip Hop/R&B, Alternative/Rock, and Dance/Electronic are more popular among men than among women.

“Believer” from Imagine Dragons was again the top Alternative/Rock song, a genre that was more popular with men (Photo credit: Christian Bertrand/Shutterstock)

Genre tastes also vary by ethnicity. Among Black consumers, Hip Hop/R&B is by far the most popular genre, with 67% of their Top 100. The Hispanic Top 100 includes a lot of Hip Hop/R&B (41%) as well as a lot of Pop (33%). Among everyone else, Pop (40%) and Country (32%) have the biggest shares of Top 100 songs.

Next, we’ll examine how consumption habits might have affected contemporary music tastes. While there were some differences, the hierarchy didn’t vary a great deal. Whether you were a daily streaming service listener, AM/FM listener, podcast listener, or smart speaker listener, you were most likely to prefer Pop first and Hip Hop/R&B second. That said, podcast listeners were more likely than the other groups to listen to Hip Hop/R&B, and AM/FM listeners were more likely to prefer Country. Also of note: Apple Music listeners’ tastes are more Hip Hop/R&B-oriented than the tastes of listeners to other streaming services, and those who use TikTok for new music discovery also have an above-average quantity of Hip Hop/R&B among their favorite contemporary songs.

Registration is now open for the Contemporary Music SuperStudy 4 Deep Dive webinar, which takes place next Wednesday, May 11 at 2PM EDT/11AM PDT.


The Urgency of Brand Building: A Conversation with Pierre Bouvard

Pierre Bouvard, Chief Insights Officer at Cumulus Media and Westwood One, worked with Coleman Insights in the 90s and was instrumental in the growth of our company. Recently, Pierre and I have had discussions about long-term brand building strategy versus short-term activation tactics. We’ve talked about how favoring short-term strategies over brand building has become something of an epidemic in most advertising. What’s striking is just how similarly many radio stations are following the exact same short-term playbook, often to their peril. I spent an hour with Pierre to dig into the reasons why brand building is not just a good idea, it’s urgently required. While it applies to nearly every brand, he specifically covers why and how radio should pay attention.

Cumulus Media/Westwood One Chief Insights Officer Pierre Bouvard

“The job of brand building advertising is to be known before you’re needed.”

This was the line that began our conversation. Creating awareness and good feelings about your brand is, by far, the most important thing you can do–whether it’s a radio station or a furniture store. We talked about two common marketing tactics: sales activation and brand building.


For a retailer, a sales activation strategy manifests itself as a sale/event. It may include price drops, promotions, and giveaways. The goal is to get the consumer to do something quickly. Radio stations deploy this strategy all the time in the form of contesting. Calls to action. Listen and win. Text for concert tickets. What is the effect of the sales activation strategy?

Generally speaking, it works…which is why marketers keep doing it. But how it works, and the net effect is important.

Pierre outlines the work of Les Binet and Peter Field, who he calls the “godfathers of marketing effectiveness.” Binet and Field showed that when the sales activation strategy is used, though it can show great ROI, brand perceptions are unchanged. Additionally, there is actually no long-term increase in sales.

You can see a parallel to the way many in radio see the world through “this quarter” or “the next book.” An attempt to justify ratings in the most recent period based on generally inconsequential effects such as some bad weather or a jock being on vacation is pure folly. The reality is your current performance is reflecting things that happened in the past year or a year ago. Focus on the short-term and you get intoxicated with doing promotions or finding a meter. That does nothing to build who you are and what you do long-term.

This is validated by research from marketing consultancy Gain Theory, demonstrating that only 18% of the impact of marketing communication is immediate. 58% of the impact is realized six months or later.


Just as brand building builds sales over time, at a higher level than the sales activation strategy, radio stations with strong brands build stronger ratings over time.

And, it starts with something that affects how consumers choose your brand and is perhaps more important than anything else…”mental availability.”

Pierre shared a quote from Les Binet and Sarah Carter that he feels is immensely important for radio stations:

“The single most important factor driving brand preference is mental availability. How well known a brand is, how easily it comes to mind. Brands with low mental availability tend to struggle in favor of more familiar rivals or are not considered in the first place.”

If you really think about it, this is contrary to how many programmers think about their radio stations. Are you thinking about extending the amount of time someone listens every day or week? The reality is their lifestyle and habits very well may not permit them to give your station more listening. That’s why the answer is to expand the pie and bring more people into the station. The way to do that is building awareness. That’s done through brand building.

When focusing on brand building, Pierre points to the use of “fluent devices,” and he wishes more radio stations would use them. Exhibit A is a new segment that has become a significant radio advertiser–online sports betting. Almost all advertising for these companies is sales activation: “Download our app, get a $50 bonus”; “Get a free play for signing up,” and so on. But one company has chosen the brand building route.

Featuring comedian JB Smoove as Caesar, commercials for Caesars Sportsbook have featured everyone from Halle Berry as Cleopatra to football’s Manning family. They are unique, funny, and fun. The offer isn’t the star. Caesar is the fluent device.

A fluent device can be a memorable slogan, like Snickers unleashed for years with “You’re not you when you’re hungry.” It’s the lonely Maytag repairman. It’s memorable and fun, and it builds the brand.

Brands shouldn’t employ only a brand building strategy, just as they shouldn’t only employ a sales activation strategy. In fact, Binet and Field themselves say the typical brand should do about 60% brand building and 40% sales activation. The problem is that most are way too heavy into the short-term camp.

Pierre suggests radio stations perform a promo inventory analysis. Determine how much time is being spent screaming about concert tickets and how much time is truly being spent explaining what the station does in a fun way. It’s not about losing the contesting, which serves an important role. It’s about finding the right balance and recognizing the patience required to build a brand is well worth it.

“Imagine I have a lawn that needs work. I watered and fertilized it this week and nothing happened. It didn’t work! That’s the danger of short-term thinking. If we treat building brands the way we treat growing our lawn, you’ll love the end result.”

I Can Tell How Healthy Your Brand Is With One Question

Remember when you went to the fair as a kid and there was a booth called “Fool the Guesser?” This eccentric gentleman was tasked with guessing your age (within two years), your weight (within 3 pounds), or the month of your birthday (within two months). If he got the answer wrong, you won a prize. It was a simple trick. He had to know the answer to just one question. As crazy as this guy looked, somehow, he seemed to always get the answer correct, mystifying the gathering crowd.

Was he psychic? Or are these things just obvious to an astute observer?[1]

Many years ago, I met a radio researcher who claimed that the answer to just one question was the key to winning or losing radio stations. Just like in Fool the Guesser. Curious about what that question might be? I was too. The question was “What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of (radio station name)?”

His line of thinking was that if most listeners mentioned the base music position of the radio station, the station was in a healthy place. If they mentioned the morning show, a contest, a feature, or some other programming element before music, he would say the station was not properly branded, and in a bit of trouble. The classic radio example is Howard Stern. Howard’s brand was so powerful, it overpowered the base positions of the stations that carried his show. When he fled for Sirius, a large percentage of the brands were forced to flip with no foundation to stand on.

Today, that remains a critical question and one of the most valuable health checks you can perform on your radio station. Indeed, it forms the foundation of the Coleman Insights Image Pyramid philosophy. Listeners must be able to, in a word or two, be able to explain what your station represents. What kind of music is it famous for? This applies for Spoken Word stations as well, with the Base Talk position replacing the Base Music position.

The Coleman Insights Image Pyramid

As the Image Pyramid demonstrates, the importance of the correct answer to the “one question” doesn’t mean the other elements are not important to study as well. The base position is the foundation, the other elements provide brand depth.

The “one question” exercise can be applied to any brand. Certainly, other audio brands in the podcast and streaming segments, but in other product categories as well. Take Spirit Airlines, in the news recently for all the wrong reasons. If consumers start regularly answering the one question with “cancelled flights” instead of “low fares,” Spirit is going to have a serious problem.

While no replacement for comprehensive research, try this exercise with your brand. Ask about the first thing that comes to mind.

What’s the answer?

[1] Here’s a fun article about “The Guesser” you might enjoy:

Slicing Contemporary Music Tastes by Demographics and Consumption

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve shared some interesting findings about the current state of contemporary music. John Boyne compared this year’s study to the movie Groundhog Day, as some of the results appeared frozen in time. Warren Kurtzman discussed how Pop once again overperformed in this year’s version of the Contemporary Music SuperStudy. In this final Tuesdays With Coleman blog installment about Contemporary Music SuperStudy 3 before our deep dive webinar, we’ll focus on how music tastes correlate with how you choose to consume music.

One thing is for certain. There are very clear differences in this data. But first, what’s not different.

No matter how you slice the data, by various demographics, whether you listen daily to AM/FM Radio, podcasts, streaming services, or smart speakers, you are likely to see Pop perform well. Pop is the one mass appeal genre that crosses demographics, genders, ethnic groups, and consumption habits. After that, we see a number of interesting differences.

Country is more prevalent in the best testing songs of women and consumers 35-54. Hip Hop/R&B is more prominent among consumers 12-34 and men.

Country represents 18% of the Top 100 of women, but only 8% among men. 12 to- 34-year-olds have almost no Country (4%) in their Top 100, but Country represents 33% of the Top 100 among 35 to- 54-year-olds. 30% of the Top 100 among men is comprised of Hip Hop/R&B, compared to a solid 23% for women. Consumers 12-34 have 43% Hip Hop/R&B titles in their Top 100, while 35 to- 54-year-olds have only 11% Hip Hop/R&B.

The most popular songs among Black and Hispanic consumers are Hip Hop/R&B, with very little Country. Caucasian/Asian/Other consumers have lots of Country, far less Hip Hop/R&B, and more Alternative/Rock.

Hip Hop/R&B comprises a massive 70% of the Top 100 among Black consumers, while Country represents only 2%. Though Pop is the top genre for Hispanic consumers, Hip Hop/R&B is a strong #2 at 31% and Country also only represents 2% of their Top 100. Country represents the second biggest genre among Caucasian/Asian/Other consumers behind Pop (28% of their Top 100), while Hip Hop/R&B trails well behind at 14%. Alternative/Rock at 13% is most prevalent with this ethnic group.

Country is huge with Rural consumers, but not with Urban or Suburban this year. Hip Hop/R&B goes the other way; big with Urban and Suburban, not with Rural.

Rural consumers have 43% Country in their Top 100. Last year, Country represented 27% of the Top 100 among Suburbanites, but this year it drops to 7%. Urban consumers have even less Country in their Top 100 (5%). Pop is tops with Urban and Suburban consumers, but Hip Hop/R&B is #2 with these groups at 30% each. Rural consumers in contrast have only 15% Hip Hop/R&B titles in their Top 100.

Liberal leaning consumers have a large amount of Hip Hop/R&B but almost no Country in their Top 100. Conservative leaning consumers prefer Country and have only a small number of Hip Hop/R&B titles in their Top 100.

Country music and political orientation appear to go hand in hand.

Daily streaming service listeners are more likely to have Hip Hop/R&B in their Top 100 and less likely to rate Country highly.

Pop represents 40% of the Top 100 of streaming service listeners, followed by Hip Hop/R&B at 29%, and Alternative/Rock at 12%. Country trails with only 9% of the Top 100, tied with Dance/Electronic.

While Pop is king among daily AM/FM Radio listeners, the balance of their Top 100 includes equal amounts of Country and Hip Hop/R&B. FM Radio listeners love Pop the most, at 41% of their Top 100. But for these consumers, Hip Hop/R&B and Country are tied for second place, at 20% each.

The tastes of daily smart speaker listeners are very similar to daily AM/FM Radio listeners.

Interesting correlation that we plan to spend more time studying in the future.

The tastes of daily podcast listeners are very similar to daily streaming service listeners.

Like the previous correlation, likely worthy of greater investigation.

Consumers who prefer Apple Music and YouTube have a large percentage of Hip Hop/R&B in their Top 100, but very little Country.

Apple Music and YouTube partisans are the two consumer segments that have a larger percentage of Hip Hop/R&B than Pop in their Top 100. It is particularly notable that streamers who prefer Apple Music have a Top 100 made up of nearly half (48%) Hip Hop/R&B titles. Country makes up a miniscule portion (3%) of Apple Music listeners’ Top 100, while Country makes up 8% of the Top 100 of streamers who prefer YouTube.

Consumers who prefer Pandora and Amazon Music have a large percentage of Country in their Top 100, but significantly less Hip Hop/R&B.

Pandora is the most pronounced example of Country’s dominance with this platform. At 35% of the Top 100 among streamers who prefer Pandora, Country even exceeds Pop at 29%. While Pop is the dominant genre for streamers who prefer Amazon Music, Country comes in second. Hip Hop/R&B represents only 11% of the Top 100 with Amazon Music listeners.

Consumers who prefer Spotify have lots of Hip Hop/R&B and less Country, but are also more likely to have Alternative/Rock in their Top 100.

Mirroring its large popularity, Pop performs best among Spotify listeners, representing 44% of their Top 100. Hip Hop/R&B is second at 24%. Alternative/Rock is third with Spotify listeners, which is notable because the 16% of Alternative/Rock songs in their Top 100 is quite a bit more than the percentage among other streaming service partisans.

Of course, this doesn’t mean streaming charts will stay within these defined taste parameters. This past week, “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” by Lil Nas X led the Spotify Top 200 Chart and “Astronaut In The Ocean” by Masked Wolf topped the Pandora Top Spins chart. Having a larger understanding of music tastes within each platform should help you better understand the charts and provide some clarity in navigating the numbers.

Later this spring, active Coleman Insights clients will receive the song-by-song data this spring as part of our Coleman Complete promise.

Up next, we’ll dig deeper into the numbers with the Contemporary Music SuperStudy 3 Deep Dive webinar, Thursday, May 13th at 2PM EDT/11AM PST. Register now.