Tag Archives: coleman insights

The Victoria’s Secret Branding Challenge

 

 

Earlier this summer, Victoria’s Secret revealed an upcoming change in its strategic direction. As the New York Times put it, “the most extreme brand turnaround in recent memory.” In many respects, what Victoria’s Secret is trying to do flies in the face of what we’ve learned and practiced regarding branding and marketing over the years. Consider a radio station that has been in the same format for 30 years, with perceptual images deeply ingrained. For 30 years, the name hasn’t changed, the logo hasn’t notably changed, and it’s been playing the same styles of music and targeting the same demographic. Then one day, the station decides it’s going to target a different consumer, change its product, and overhaul its messaging. But it’s keeping the name.

That’s what Victoria’s Secret is attempting, but with lingerie instead of songs.

Me, doing blog research

The perceptual images Victoria’s Secret carries today were developed in the 90s, thanks in large part to its annual fashion shows. The shows featured tall, skinny models like Gisele Bundchen, Heidi Klum, and Tyra Banks. This was followed in 1997 by the introduction of the Victoria’s Secret “Angel”, and advertising regularly featured skinny models in skimpy outfits.

 

In recent years, a variety of factors contributed to sales declines. These included other brands starting to use plus-size models, while Victoria’s Secret stuck to its size zero models; the fashion show being seen as outdated; and the brand being seen as tone-deaf to changing attitudes.

To try and turn things around, Victoria’s Secret employed an “all-in,” “go big or go home” strategy.

The biggest and most obvious move was ditching the Angels for the VS Collective for a more diverse group of brand representatives. This includes soccer star Megan Rapinoe, plus-sized model Paloma Elsesser, transgender model and actress Valentina Sampaio, actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas, 17-year-old skier Eileen Gu, and former child refugee Amanda de Cadenet.

This received a great deal of press at the announcement, but the company’s moves appear to be continually aggressive towards changing perceptions of what Victoria’s Secret stands for.

The company’s new direct marketing catalog looks decidedly different–more diverse in ethnicity and body size. Its new YouTube videos do not have the look of a brand stuck in the past. It is making drastic changes to its product line as well, adding larger sizes and items like maternity bras.

Of course, the big question is, will this all work?

Victoria’s Secret faces headwinds in two areas related to its rebrand. One: images are like icebergs. Slow to develop, even slower to erode. Can it shed its deeply held image as an outdated company that is only for skinny women? Two: are there enough women that want the new direction from Victoria’s Secret?

 

In the comments underneath the new YouTube video, you’ll find some very positive, affirming comments. But you’ll also find “Bring the fashion show back,” “Bring back the angels,” and “This is H&M, not Victoria’s Secret. Bring your classic style back.”

Time will tell if Victoria’s Secret’s rebrand is successful, but I like the way they are going about it. If a brand changes its strategy dramatically without changing its name, it requires a dramatic plan. Simply put, a brand cannot overcome deep perceptions without aggressive, in-your-face marketing that clearly states the new strategy. One could argue that Victoria’s Secret isn’t going far enough in their marketing – the outside of their stores look the same. The logo is the same. The company isn’t going as far as they could in verbally communicating the new direction.

On the other hand, there’s another big company that is also currently going through a rebrand to modernize and connect with younger consumers, and it also kept its name. But unlike Victoria’s Secret, nobody is noticing because this other company is being decidedly undramatic about its changes. As we’ve pointed out countless times when discussing Outside Thinking, consumers aren’t paying close attention. It’s not that this brand isn’t spending money on marketing. It’s just all wrong.

I’ll cover that in next week’s blog.

 

 

 

Why You Should Plan For Focus Groups In 2022

Regular readers of Tuesdays with Coleman may recall when we made a big deal about our introduction of CampfireSM Online Discussion earlier this year. This service, which allows us to deliver qualitative insights to the audio brands we work with, utilizes an innovative online platform through which we deeply engage with a group of carefully screened consumers over the course of a week. We have delivered numerous Campfires already this year and have been gratified by the positive reactions we have received from the clients who have used our newest service.

While Campfire represents an exciting innovation in the world of qualitative research, this blog is going to focus on one of the oldest tools in the researcher toolkit—focus groups. The COVID-19 pandemic has prevented us from doing any of our 20/20 Focus Group studies for clients over the last 18 months, and even with a great new tool like Campfire available to us, I still think there are insights that only focus groups can deliver. My hope—obviously for many reasons besides this—is that it will be safe soon to gather consumers together to talk about the audio brands they consume and delve into the emotions that are the drivers of their behaviors. Focus groups have been derided by many for being “old school,” prone to the biases of those who moderate them, and far too often being driven by one or two participants who dominate the conversation and influence the softer-spoken attendees. Yes, they have been around a long time, but when they are moderated by someone who has been trained properly, they can unearth things that no other form of research I have seen in my nearly 35 years in this business can find.

One of my favorite focus group stories is truly old school; more than a half-century ago, General Mills learned via focus groups that their new line of Betty Crocker cake mixes was not selling well because homemakers felt guilty about how easy they were to use. When, based on that qualitative insight, the product was changed so that instead of just requiring the addition of water, the mix required that consumers also had to add eggs, the sales took off and the product became a staple of American kitchens.

A few years ago, I attended focus groups moderated by a colleague of mine for a Hip Hop station that was curious about a new sound that seemed to be testing well in their new music research. The clients and I sat with our mouths wide open behind the glass when we heard every Hip Hop fan in the group use a term to describe this genre that was clearly widespread “on the streets” but had not been heard by any radio programmers yet. By the next morning, there was imaging on the station using the term the focus group respondents taught us!

A few months ago, the Wall Street Journal ran a story, “Why Companies Shouldn’t Give Up on Focus Groups”[subscription required], that echoed many of the themes I am sharing here. It spoke of how in the rush to embrace big data—which, in many cases, can be very valuable—many large companies ended up looking the same and offering similar products and services because they were relying on the same input, behavioral data. The parallels in the audio business are looking at metrics such as Nielsen ratings, podcast downloads, and streaming channel user counts and trying to strategize based on the same data that everyone else has. In the WSJ article, a branding consultant named Martin Lindstrom, who has worked for firms ranging from Lego to Burger King to Swissair remarked, “The few companies that decide to go the opposite way of looking at the qualitative data, the small data, time after time discover insights which lead them to something profound, and that’s where you have true innovation take place.”

Branding consultant and best-selling author Martin Lindstrom

While the term “in these unprecedented times” is drastically overused these days, I can not imagine a time when the kinds of qualitative insights focus groups provide could be more useful. Another compelling quote in the WSJ article concerns the impact of the pandemic on consumers and how “It cannot be understated what a big shift has occurred. Companies should understand and study that because we’ve been altered in a way that is pretty profound.” The article goes on to state that “adapting to that new reality will require understanding the relative depth of people’s fear and fatigue. And that can’t be found on a spreadsheet.” The way people consume audio—which was already undergoing changes that were accelerated by the pandemic—is changing so dramatically that we need all the qualitative tools at our disposal to grasp the implications of these changes.

Focus groups are hard; they are also time consuming and expensive. Our Campfire Online Focus Groups provide an easier and somewhat less expensive way to gather qualitative insights, and while I applaud the clients who have invested in such studies with us this year, I hope that many of them—and clients who have not done much qualitative work in recent years—recognize that focus group research should be in their plans as soon as it is safe for us to conduct such studies.

As one of my heroes, Ferris Bueller, memorably said,  Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Brand Subtraction: Less May Be More

Let’s say you’re responsible for overseeing a brand. If something is not working, you add something to make it more appealing. Right?

If something is working, you add more things to make it even better. Right?

We’ve addressed this instinct of addition a number of times in our Tuesdays With Coleman blogs. In “Too Many Messages,” Warren Kurtzman illustrated how adding messages to advertisements lowers the likelihood of remembering any single message from the ad. Jay Nachlis alluded to the explosion in entertainment options while quoting Jerry Seinfeld in “Lack of Focus=Lack of Greatness.” HBO’s ascent to juggernaut status happened by focusing on one great show at a time on Sunday nights, which Jon Coleman points out in “Can HBO and Radio Have it All?”

Now, there’s new science to back up addition by subtraction. Inc.’s Jeff Haden refers to a new University of Virginia study that revealed when people attempt to improve something, they default to “additive transformations,” while ignoring “subtractive transformations.”

It’s why a bar owner may think adding Taco Tuesday to his already loaded list of promotions will be just the thing to boost profit margins.

It’s why software developers think adding more features will make their applications easier to use.

And it’s why a radio program director may think adding more music or special features for the sake of quantity will result in more listening and higher ratings.

So, if we know that we’re inclined to add to solve problems, what happens when we’re prompted to subtract to solve the same problems?

When reminded they could remove items or elements, participants in the University of Virginia study were twice as likely to make subtractive changes than additive changes. And the changes were more effective.

Instead of considering what you can add to solve a problem, consider what you can subtract.

How would that focus your radio station’s music message? Or your podcast’s topic? Or one of your streaming service’s channels?

The takeaway is the take away.

 

 

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 Five Most-Read Blogs of 2020

Tuesdays With Coleman

As we look back on our analytics from this past year, it turns out every member of the Coleman Insights consultant team contributed to the five most-read Tuesdays With Coleman blogs of 2020.  As for which subjects resonated the most, there’s a lesson to be learned. Four of the top five incorporated the two topics that most consumed 2020 – the coronavirus pandemic and the United States presidential election. It’s worth noting that, despite being published just seven days ago, last week’s buzzworthy Should Radio Go Back to Normal? by Jon Coleman nearly made the list and is worth a second look. Here are the five most-read blogs of the year, counted down from number five to number one.

5. The Marketing of Social Distancing by Jay Nachlis (March 31, 2020)

Two of the blogs on our list are from March, right as the COVID-19 lockdowns were taking hold and everyone was trying to figure out the answer to “what’s next?” The Marketing of Social Distancing  salutes a billboard campaign by one of our clients and a number of campaigns across various industries. It encourages brands to remain top-of-mind while being sensitive to the nature of the new pandemic environment.

K-97 Edmonton social distancing billboard

Our client K-97 in Edmonton launched this campaign very early in the pandemic.

4. The Musical Divide Between Trump and Biden Supporters by Warren Kurtzman (May 19, 2020)

The results of the first ever Coleman Insights Contemporary Music SuperStudy were released at the Worldwide Radio Summit in California, and we were looking forward to presenting the sequel at this year’s WWRS. Unfortunately, the week of March 23, 2020 turned out to be a pretty bad one for conference planning. Following the pandemic-related cancellation of this year’s conference, we released the results of Contemporary Music SuperStudy 2 via webinar and blogs. This installment of Tuesdays With Coleman illustrated just how different the musical tastes of Biden and Trump supporters are, although they do share a distaste for “Baby Shark.”

3. How to Move the Ratings Needle by Jon Coleman (May 26, 2020)

This blog from Coleman Insights founder Jon Coleman prominently features examples from Biden and Trump’s campaigns, but the real message of How to Move the Ratings Needle is how shifting perception can dramatically change the momentum of a brand. Jon argues that too much attention is paid to little things that don’t matter and, he says, “If I owned or managed a radio station today, I would hire a marketing specialist specifically charged with getting media coverage.”

2. The Seven Deadly Sins of (Non) Strategic Thinking by Sam Milkman (January 21, 2020)

In the only pre-pandemic blog on the list, Sam Milkman compiled a list of things inside thinkers (those that view their brands from their own perspective instead of their consumers) say.  As Sam points out, while people in radio have said these things for decades, these examples are dangerously unstrategic and create unnecessary friction and obstacles to growth.

1. How to Connect With Your Audience in a Crisis by Warren Kurtzman, Jon Coleman, Jessica Lichtenfeld, Sam Milkman, John Boyne, Meghan Campbell, and Jay Nachlis (March 19, 2020)

The first state issued COVID-19 stay-at-home order was issued by California on March 19th. A few days before that, the entire Coleman Insights consultant team gathered for a video conference to brainstorm, consider, and offer our best thinking in regards to how our clients should navigate their brands in the early days of the pandemic. While we wish we could end 2020 by saying the pandemic is over, we are optimistic about what 2021 will bring and heartened that so many found our advice nine months (!) ago helpful.

Have a wonderful holiday season and Happy New Year, and we’ll see you in January!

 

 

 

Reflections on 25 Years With Coleman Insights

Tuesdays With Coleman

In May, I celebrated 25 years since joining Coleman Insights, providing me with an opportunity to reflect on the last quarter century. When Jon Coleman, one of the smartest—and more importantly, one of the most decent—people I have had the privilege of knowing, offered me the chance to join his company, I was flattered. Sure, the 29-year-old version of me already had more than a decade of experience in radio including six years at Arbitron, but it wasn’t long after I began working for Jon that I realized that I had a tremendous amount to learn.

This photo of me, Jon Coleman and Chris Ackerman was used extensively in Coleman marketing.

So, what have I learned? Far more than I can cover in one blog post, but a few key items stand out.

Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned is the importance of collaboration. When clients place their trust in me and my colleagues, it is vital to recognize that we don’t know everything and the best way we can help them is to listen closely when they share their goals and concerns. When we are truly collaborative and exchange ideas with the brilliant programmers, marketers and managers who we are fortunate to have as clients, we achieve even greater outcomes than we would without their input. I am sure I still don’t listen and collaborate as well as I aspire to, but I hope I’m getting better at it!

Another thing that I’ve learned working with clients is how to build brands. Strong, long-lasting brands almost always start with a great idea and then take a long time to build. I find it so gratifying when I can help our clients develop their great ideas into great brands and have seen first-hand the benefits they enjoy when this happens. Great brands allow those who manage them to avoid short-term thinking and chasing the latest “flash in the pan” trend; if they consistently deliver compelling content within the parameters of their brands, these managers win on a consistent basis.

I’ve also learned that doing research the right way is hard and is always evolving. There is a right way to acquire respondents, there is a right way to ask them questions and there is a right way to analyze the data we get from them—all of these elements are required to deliver the insights our clients need. Furthermore, the right ways to do these things in 2020 look a lot different than they did in 1995. I’ve also learned not to get frustrated when low quality research options enter the marketplace; there will always be a market for good work, and if we stay focused on delivering high quality insights, we will be rewarded with the loyalty of our clients and their ability to recognize our value.

Another thing I’ve learned is that a research company is only as good as the people it employs. Products, services, methodologies and technologies are important, but it is the people who design, analyze and deliver research projects and then help clients implement strategies based on them that truly make a difference. This has been driven home to me countless times over the years when clients tell me that they choose to work with us not because we have the best widget; they choose Coleman because they want the best brains on the job. Those brains—including mine, but also those of the many talented people I am fortunate with whom to work—have benefited from years of experience working with a dazzling array of audio brands in almost every situation imaginable and from the expertise that has been passed along by people like Jon Coleman, Chris Ackerman and Pierre Bouvard who built the company.

Obviously, I owe a great debt to Jon for the opportunity he gave me 25 years ago. I also want to thank my colleagues—past and present—for all they have taught me. We have an amazing team at Coleman Insights and the fact so many of my colleagues have been with the company for a decade or more is a testament to Jon’s philosophy of investing in people and giving them opportunities to learn and grow.

Today’s Coleman Insights consultant team (L-R): Me, Jon Coleman, Jessica Lichtenfeld, Sam Milkman, John Boyne, Meghan Campbell and Jay Nachlis.

All of these things I’ve learned, however, would be relatively meaningless without the tremendous support of our clients. Listing the many clients who have helped make me better at what I do would make this post unreasonably long, but I can say with great confidence that I have learned something from every one of our clients, and for that, I am grateful.

My favorite part of hitting the 25-year milestone is that it is just a stop along the way. I intend to keep getting better at doing this for many years to come. That will only happen if I continue to learn from the many smart people with whom I interact, which leads me to one piece of advice—make a lifelong commitment to learning. If you are as fortunate as I have been to have clients, colleagues and other mentors as your teachers, you will be as rewarded as I have been and continue to be.

Is The Image Pyramid Evolving?

Tuesdays With Coleman

Last Wednesday, our friends and frequent collaborators at Jacobs Media Strategies referenced Coleman Insights’ Image PyramidSM in an excellent blog post. The post raised questions about the role of Community imagery for radio brands and the impact the COVID-19 pandemic and the social justice movement may have on that role.

The Image Pyramid is a concept we use to help guide strategic brand-building for radio stations. Most important—as evidenced by it being the foundational layer of the Image Pyramid—is that the target audience understands your Base Music or Talk Position (for example, “the Hip Hop station” or “the Sports station”). From there, upper layers of the Image Pyramid can be thought of as brand depth, with Personality—having known and appreciated personalities who attract listening above and beyond what your Base Position alone would attract—being particularly important for many stations. At the top of the Image Pyramid is Community—being known for community involvement activities, such as raising money for a local charity or supporting local causes in other ways—and this is the layer discussed in Fred Jacobs’ blog last week.

Coleman Insights Image Pyramid

The Coleman Insights Image Pyramid

One of the many reasons why I feel fortunate for knowing Fred Jacobs for more than 25 years is that he and his colleagues are always questioning conventional wisdom and the status quo. That’s why we welcome this questioning of the current configuration of the Image Pyramid; our goal is to make sure it continues to be a tool for building the strongest brands possible. In fact, this isn’t the first time we have been down this road; in 2015, Fred and I collaborated on a blog on the evolution of the Image Pyramid for the age of increased digital media consumption.

Before I address the specifics of Jacobs’ most recent blog, I think it’s important for everyone reading this to understand the purpose of the Image Pyramid. It’s not designed to represent a ranking of what listeners find most and least important in a radio station. Instead, it’s based on what we learn from research regarding which areas of image development contribute the most to building strong brands, which—when coupled with strong content execution—is the biggest factor in attracting listeners and generating long-term ratings success for radio stations. Community has been the smallest layer of the Image Pyramid not because it is unimportant, but because our experience has shown it to be less important than other dimensions in terms of driving listenership. Sure, listeners like that a radio station is a good steward in the community, but they don’t choose radio stations based on that criteria alone.

Conversely, Contests is prominent on the pyramid even though listeners often tell us that contests are not very important to them. We repeatedly see in strategic research that stations with strong imagery for Contests that complements their stronger images for their Base Music or Talk Position, Personality and Specialty Programming tend to enjoy greater ratings success than those without Contest imagery.

The Image Pyramid as it currently stands represents our best thinking based on what we have observed about recent research results and radio station ratings. We have never shied away from updating it and it has changed since Jon Coleman initially developed it decades ago. For example, Specialty Programming has a more prominent role than it used to, and the Marketing layer did not exist in early incarnations of the pyramid.

So, do we have Community in the right place? We’re certainly giving that a lot of thought, as demonstrated by a blog we published right as we began feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In “How to Connect with Your Audience in a Crisis,” published on March 19th, we stated explicitly, “In times of crisis, Community surges to a higher level of importance on the Image Pyramid.”

Community has played an important role for many radio stations over the past few months through outreach initiatives. (Pictured: The KSHE/St. Louis Summer Blood Drive)

The big question, of course, is what happens when the crisis subsides, which we all hope will happen sooner rather than later. Will the pandemic, the social justice movement and—as Jacobs rightly pointed out in their blog post—the seemingly increased attention consumers are paying to where the brands they consume stand on important issues result in a permanent change on how much Community imagery has on the ratings performance of radio stations? Will stations that have increased their Community imagery during this crisis enjoy long-term increases in their ratings success or will those strengthened images have minimal impact after the pandemic is over?

The answer is that we don’t know yet. David Leonhardt of the New York Times wrote a great Opinion piece this past Sunday in which he predicted—while admitting that he did not have the utmost confidence in his position—that the pandemic will be the most impactful event on our society since World War II and The Great Depression. At the same time, Leonhardt pointed out that, “The financial crisis of 2007-9 didn’t cause Americans to sour on stocks, and it didn’t lead to an overhaul of Wall Street. The election of the first Black president didn’t usher in an era of racial conciliation. The 9/11 attacks didn’t make Americans unwilling to fly. The Vietnam War didn’t bring an end to extended foreign wars without a clear mission.”

You have my assurance that Coleman Insights—working in concert with our clients, consultants like Fred Jacobs and other industry colleagues—will continue to track the changing factors in the ratings performances of radio stations, as we are continuously thinking about the way to help our radio clients build the very strongest brands. If Community’s place should be moved or if any other evolution of the Image Pyramid is warranted, we will make sure you are among the first to know.

The Musical Divide Between Trump and Biden Supporters

Tuesdays With Coleman

With the United States roughly six months away from its next presidential election, how similar or different are the most popular contemporary titles among the fans of the two major parties’ presumed nominees? In two words, the answer is “very different.”

In our final blog on the findings of Contemporary Music SuperStudy 2, we delve into findings we have yet to release regarding the relationship that exists between consumers’ political opinions and how they feel about contemporary music. In this time when common ground and bipartisanship can be hard to find, we observe similar differences when it comes to the contemporary music tastes of consumers.

Among consumers who have a positive opinion of President Donald Trump, Country reigns supreme—an overwhelming 50% of their Top 100 titles are Country songs. At 26%, Pop is the only other genre achieving a double-digit share of the Top 100 contemporary songs with Trump fans.

Musical tastes of those with positive opinions of President Trump and Joe Biden

The Top 100 songs among fans of former Vice President Joe Biden, however, look very different. They are led by Pop titles at 38%, followed closely by Hip Hop/R&B at 33%. Consumers with a positive opinion of Biden place a much smaller proportion of Country titles—10%—in their Top 100, which is interestingly almost the same amount as the 9% of Hip Hop/R&B titles than finish in the Top 100 with those who view Trump positively.

While these findings may be disconcerting for those who long for less division in American political discourse, our findings do provide a few rays of hope. For example, while the Trump fans’ selection of “Believer” by Imagine Dragons as their favorite among 2019’s most consumed songs is different from Ed Sheeran’s “Shape Of You” as the choice among Biden fans, both of these titles finish among the top ten songs with both groups. Furthermore, there are three other songs—“Someone You Loved” by Lewis Capaldi, “The Middle” by Zedd & Maren Morris and “Can’t Stop The Feeling” by Justin Timberlake—that are among the top ten songs with Trump and Biden fans.

Perhaps the best example of bipartisanship, however, is that Trump and Biden fans have one clear thing in common: their hatred of “Baby Shark.” The Pinkfong song, which was the least popular title overall among 2019’s most consumed songs, was also the least popular with both groups.

Before we delve into our findings further, we should share more details about the political data in the study. We regarded fans of Biden and Trump as those who had “very positive” or “somewhat positive” opinions of each. Therefore, it is relevant to note that the research—conducted with 1,000 12- to 54-year-olds across the United States and Canada—was in the field between late January and early March, before Biden emerged as the clear front-runner in the race for the Democratic Party nomination and before the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects began impacting American and Canadian society. In our data, 41% of the respondents were Joe Biden fans; the corresponding figure for Donald Trump was 32%.

Not surprisingly, the differences we observe between the contemporary music tastes of fans of the two presidential candidates align with the differences we see when we break our respondents into groups based on their political leaning. Among the 39% of respondents who describe themselves as “liberal” or “moderate, who leans liberal,” Pop and Hip Hop/R&B titles make up a combined 68% of their Top 100 songs.

Music tastes of those leaning Liberal or Conservative

Those who describe themselves as “conservative” or “moderate, who leans conservative”—a group that comprises 28% of the sample—have a strong appetite for Country music, as 48% of their Top 100 titles are from this genre. Another 27% of their Top 100 consists of Pop titles.

At Coleman Insights, our expertise is focused on how people consume music and other forms of audio entertainment, so we are loathe to give out political advice. With that caveat, we believe there are some obvious lessons from Contemporary Music SuperStudy 2 for the Biden and Trump campaigns, at least when it comes to the music that should accompany their candidates’ stage entrances at rallies (when and if those return) and be featured in their advertising efforts. No matter what, it should be an interesting race.

Alt Music Fares Only So-So In New Music Study

Below is a reprint of Richard Sands’ interview with Executive Vice President/Senior Consultant John Boyne in the May 14th edition of the weekly Alternative music newsletter The Sands Report, now celebrating its 18th anniversary!

JOHN, GOOD TO HAVE YOU BACK. HOW ABOUT A REFRESHER FOR THOSE WHO DON’T KNOW COLEMAN?

We’re a media research firm specializing in the audio entertainment space, with a long history of radio research. We use research tools such as Plan Developer perceptual studies, FACT360 Strategic Music Tests, 20/20 Focus Groups and mediaEKG Deep Dive content testing to help our clients better understand the tastes and opinions of their target audiences. Although we work in all formats, some of our long-time clients in the Alternative world are KROQ/Los Angeles and KPNT/St. Louis.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN THERE PERSONALLY?

2020 marks my 20th anniversary with Coleman Insights. I came aboard as a college intern and have been here ever since!

TELL ME ABOUT CONTEMPORARY MUSIC SUPERSTUDY 2.

It’s our second annual study of contemporary music tastes. It’s essentially a really big music test. We start by compiling a list of the songs that were most streamed, sold and played on the radio last year. This includes titles from 2019 back to 2015. We supplement that list with top tier titles from the year-end charts of individual genres. Then, we test all these songs with a big, broad group of people—1,000 12- to 54-year-olds in the U.S. and Canada—to assess their popularity. The idea is to track and trend mass music tastes.

HOW DID ALTERNATIVE MUSIC FARE IN THIS STUDY?

Even before we get into the results of Contemporary Music SuperStudy 2, you probably don’t need me to tell you that Alternative/Rock has lagged behind other genres in recent years. Whether you’re looking at streaming, sales or radio airplay charts, you’re going to find more Hip Hop/R&B, Country and Pop than Alternative/Rock.

BUT WE ARE REPRESENTED, RIGHT?

Yes. In Contemporary Music SuperStudy 2, 12% of the Top 100 songs are Alternative/Rock. The full genre distribution of the Top 100 is 34% Pop, 23% Country, 19% Hip Hop/R&B, 12% Alternative/Rock, 8% Dance/Electronic, 2% Latin and 2% Other. The best-testing Alternative/Rock title is Imagine Dragons’ “Believer.”

The top tier of popular Alternative/Rock titles consists of (in alphabetical order):

    • Imagine Dragons – Believer
    • Imagine Dragons – Natural
    • Imagine Dragons – Thunder
    • Imagine Dragons – Whatever It Takes
    • Lovelytheband – Broken
    • Panic! At The Disco – Hey Look Ma, I Made It
    • Panic! At The Disco – High Hopes
    • The Man – Feel It Still
    • SHAED – Trampoline

DO ALT FANS’ TASTES LOOK DIFFERENT?

The hits are the hits, in the mass market as well among format fans. The top-tier songs listed above are also the top-tier songs among Alternative/Rock fans. It’s not like core format fans have turned on the mass-appeal hits of the genre.

WOULD YOU RECOMMEND THAT PDS PLAY THESE SONGS MORE?

While faring well in Contemporary Music SuperStudy 2 is a good indicator, a Program Director should not assume that the tastes of their target audience will perfectly reflect what we see here. Evident from all of the custom research we do is that different markets, demos and strategies will yield different music recipes.

HOW DO THIS YEAR’S RESULTS COMPARE TO THE FIRST CONTEMPORARY MUSIC SUPERSTUDY?

It’s very similar. Alternative/Rock’s 12% share of the Top 100 is up a hair from the 11% seen in last year’s study. Moreover, it’s a lot of the same material. Seven of the nine top-tier songs mentioned above also fared very well in last year’s study. The new additions are “Trampoline” and “Hey Look Ma, I Made It.”

CAN YOU GO BACK AND COMPARE THESE RESULTS TO 10 OR 20 YEARS AGO?

The short answer is: we don’t know. We wish we had Contemporary Music SuperStudy data going back that far. It is likely, based on what we know from other indicators, that Alternative/Rock fared better back then, but by how much, we don’t know. We hope to continue the Contemporary Music SuperStudy series in the years to come so that we can build such trends.

ONE “NON-STUDY” QUESTION. AS YOU KNOW, WE RUN A P1 STREAMING CHART EVERY WEEK PROVIDED TO US BY BRIDGE RATINGS. OVERALL, HOW IMPORTANT DO YOU THINK STREAMING DATA SHOULD BE TO PDS?

If I were sitting in a Program Director’s chair, there are a lot of data points I would want to consider, including streaming metrics. Of course, as with anything, you want to be smart about what streaming data tells you and what it doesn’t.

THANKS FOR SHARING ALL THIS INFORMATION AND YOUR INSIGHTS, JOHN. WHERE CAN READERS GO TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE FINDINGS OF CONTEMPORARY MUSIC SUPERSTUDY 2?

On our website, you can find a recording of the webinar and read further about the study in our Tuesdays with Coleman blog. You can also sign up to receive notifications about future blog posts and the upcoming release of the Contemporary Music SuperStudy 2 song ranker.