April 6, 2021

Using Contesting As Strategic Image Building

You know a good promotion can drive listening to your radio station. But how can you capture the attention of your consumer when, as Barenaked Ladies sang so poignantly in 1998, “It’s All Been Done”?

Although radio contesting is tactical in nature, it can have the benefit of strategic image building if executed correctly. That is, a well-executed contest can not only draw more listening out of someone, but it can also positively boost their perceptions of your brand. We have seen large scale promotions such as Double Your Paycheck, Phrase That Pays, and Pay Your Bills have remarkable association with the radio stations that run them. Contests can add brand depth to stations, on top of being known for great music and/or personalities.

But only if they stick with it.

A classic sign of Inside Thinking—i.e., not viewing your brand like a normal consumer—includes assuming that your listeners are paying close attention to everything your station does. Stations that adopt this mentality run a big six-to-twelve-week promotion and then misinterpret the results. If the ratings aren’t as good as hoped, they are quick to blame the contest and proclaim, “Our listeners are bored…it’s time to change it up!”

And so, when it’s time for another contest, the Inside Thinker will:

  • Move on to a totally different contest in order to “mix things up”;
  • Run the same contest, but change the rules and execution enough to “keep it fresh”;
  • Add layers of complexity to “goose listening”

Meanwhile, the Outside Thinker, who adopts the mindset of the consumer, recognizes that listeners have more on their minds than your contest. The Outside Thinker will understand that it takes time, marketing, and consistency to build an impactful contest. Not everyone will be aware of it or know how it play it initially, but if you stick with it, you may find that it benefits you more and more as the audience gets to know it better and better each time you do it.

The Outside Thinker also recognizes that different contests can provide different benefits. Some are fantastic at driving habituated listening. Some build music or personality imagery. Some create market buzz. And some are just plain fun to play along with.

But the most important piece of advice is pick one big contest and go all-in. Just one. Make it easy to understand and easy to play. Do not change the rules. Promote it internally and externally. Make it a “franchise” promotion that runs year after year. Then watch as your audience grows, and you build strategic images.

Your listeners will not get bored, and you won’t tire of the long-term benefits.

3 thoughts on “Using Contesting As Strategic Image Building”

  1. Dave Mason

    Love it. I worked for a station whose “Trip A Day” giveaway carried on through several format changes and once we found the right formula for programming, the contest pushed us to #1. Sadly the promotions department and the person responsible for setting this one up were released during Covid -so that part of the brand is gone.

    It seems that with budgets the way they are now contests are relegated to “text the keyword” -which isn’t really a contest. Several companies are doing this so it’s on the air on several stations simultaneously.

    The days of fun contests creating tune-in and brand building are definitely on hold. Would that these words could change that. Thanks, John.

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