September 28, 2021

Everything is a Marketing Decision

When you’ve been at the forefront of media research for as long as our company’s founder Jon Coleman has, you’re bound to have lots of “quotables.”

Of course, not everyone at Coleman Insights today can spout off every one of Jon’s nuggets of wisdom. But there’s one most of us have burned into our memory: “Every song you play is a marketing decision.”

Why is this one so sticky?

“Every song you play is a marketing decision” is a simple way of explaining how important your brand is to the success of a music-based radio station. The answer to the question to “Why did you play that song?” should never be “Because it tests.” The answer should be “Because it tests” and “Because it fits.” As Warren Kurtzman wrote when Coleman Insights introduced the FACT360 Strategic Music Test almost exactly six years ago, “to be right for your station, a song should absolutely be popular among and familiar to your target audience. It should also, however, reinforce the brand essence of your station or at least the essence of the brand you’re trying to build.”

Warren explained that it’s not just every song that makes a statement about your brand; it’s the positioning and imaging efforts you employ as well.

But that’s not all. Everything on a radio station is a marketing decision, and that very fact is what makes programming one so daunting and complex. It starts with a song, and expands to the positioning, the imaging, the personalities and how they present the brand. But it further spreads to elements like specialty hours and weekends. It includes the look of external marketing. The content of the website. The tone of the social media pages. The appearance at remote broadcasts. Even the spots played on the station, and certainly the sound of a station on its stream.

There’s no question that the demand on a programmer’s time makes it incredibly difficult to put every piece of content under the brand microscope, and it is realistically impossible to ensure that everything on a radio station meets the brand standards of the PD.

Just don’t ever say these three words: “It’s just one.”

It’s just one song. It’s just one specialty hour of music that’s completely different from what the station is known for, rather than an hour that expands and deepens a positive image. It’s just one­­ – ahem – “enhancement” commercial on an AC station. It’s just one remote with terrible audio. It’s just one talk break. It’s just one social media post. It’s just our stream (In a future Tuesdays With Coleman, we’ll address one way streaming content can adversely affect a station’s brand.)

The attitude of “It’s just one” leads to a piling up of “ones.” And that can end up creating a cumulative issue over time.

Every moment counts. Everything is a marketing decision.



2 thoughts on “Everything is a Marketing Decision”

  1. Dave Mason

    Jay, you bring up a great point. In 99% of the cases you’re totally right. I was part of a radio station that was quietly changing its approach and the only one worried about it was the research company. The “fit” test we did was 180 degrees out of phase for what we were doing. Came to find out that the audience’s perception of the station was 180 degrees from where we needed to be to succeed. Maybe we researched the wrong audience. But the music that soared to the top -also was 180 degrees out of phase with the “fit” scores. Well, we stuck to our guns and the station rose to be, and still is one of the most successful for the company. We think the music research had a LOT to do with our success, but had we also followed the “fit” scores we would still be stuck at #9. It’s important to look at all of the elements of the station and insure that the goals are being met, and you also have to realize that sometime what “fits” isn’t what works.

    1. Jay Nachlis Post Author

      Thanks, Dave. Sounds like in that scenario, there were deeper issues with the brand. Certainly why perceptual research is always advisable before a music test when possible (as you say, “look at all the elements of the station and ensure the goals are being met”)! Glad things worked out for your station in the end.

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