Tag Archives: marketing

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.

 

 

Nobody Likes Kale

Coleman Insights’ Brand-Content Matrix measures brand and content strength. The goal is to be in the upper right quadrant, at the intersection of strong brand and great content. While we generally share examples of where audio brands fall on the Brand-Content Matrix, today we’ll have a little fun. I’ll demonstrate how this tool can be used to evaluate the brand and content strength of just about anything. Even a vegetable.

Kale is disgusting. It is dry, has a texture so rubbery my car could drive on it, and leaves your mouth with a bitter aftertaste. Mmmmm.

But my opinion isn’t shared by millions who eat kale everyday and think it offers “great content.” It’s become a brand juggernaut in the health food space.  But kale didn’t always have a strong brand, and it wasn’t loved for its content either. If kale—kale!—can build a brand and develop strong content, surely your brand can too. Let’s explore how it was done.

First of all, while its popularity may be, kale itself is definitely not new. Kale has been cultivated for over 2,000 years in North America, and the frost-resistant crop dates back to 600 BC when the Celts brought it from Europe to Asia Minor. Legend has it that the largest buyer of kale prior to 2012 was Pizza Hut. They used it as garnish around their salad bars.

Pizza Hut using kale on its salad bar

But today, kale is found in high priced foods and beverages and is a darling of the health food industry.

Which hipster is responsible for this disaster?

Actually, it may be Martha Stewart’s fault.

Her company’s Whole Living magazine branded kale a “powerfood” in 2008. Then she published a recipe for kale slaw in 2009. The next thing you know, Dr. Oz is talking about kale and thyroids, Gwenyth Paltrow’s making kale chips, and your kale smoothie–natch, “superfood smoothie”—is $8.95.

The rise of kale was pretty handy for the food industry, as you can snag a bunch of it at Walmart for 78 cents. Which I contend is still overpriced.

THE BRANDING AND MARKETING OF KALE

Kale would not and could not have climbed its way up the brand ladder from buffet garnish at the Hut to chic miracle green without some really impressive branding and marketing efforts. Calling it a “superfood” and “power food” is utter genius. Getting the right celebrities behind it powers the engine.

This is how kale’s brand shifted from weak to strong, but it still had a content problem. You may be drawn to try kale thanks to its brand strength, but you won’t try it again if you don’t like it.

An equally brilliant move by the kale brigade was the decision to include kale as a secondary ingredient in so many recipes.

You likely don’t order a kale smoothie—maybe you order a pineapple kale or blueberry kale version. Or something like the Detox Island Green smoothie at Tropical Smoothie Café with spinach, kale, mango, pineapple, banana, and fresh ginger.

Fun fact, I’ve had the Detox Island Green smoothie. It’s delicious. You know why? IT DOESN’T TASTE LIKE KALE!

Fruit masks the flavor of the kale.

So does the spicy sweet potato and avocado sauce in a Southwestern Kale Power Salad.

“Oh, I sauteé kale! It tastes so good!” Maybe that’s because you mix in garlic and bacon.

So you see, the kale squad didn’t just run a master class in branding. They knew the taste of mere kale alone would keep its sad spot in the upper left quadrant of the Brand-Content Matrix (strong brand, poor content.) So close, but yet so far.

Because they figured out how to boost the brand as well as improve the eating experience, it could easily be argued that kale is in fact it its rightful position in the upper right quadrant, with its strong brand and great content.

I can only hope we’re towards the end of this long national nightmare. But in the meantime, I’ll tip my cap to team kale, and take this moment to remind you that there needs to be consistent, deliberate efforts undertaken to build a strong brand. But that is simply not enough.

You better also come to the party with strong content. If your content is mere kale-level, it is incumbent on you to spice it up and make it a superfood.

Finally, let’s toast this branding/content moment with a strawberry-banana smoothie.

You know, what smoothies are supposed to be made of.

How to Change Negative Brand Images Into Positives

Tuesdays With Coleman

They charged me for bags. My flight wasn’t on time. They lost my bags. That change fee was ridiculous. There’s no leg room.

The morning show isn’t funny. They talk too much. They play the same songs over and over.

Whether you’re talking about airlines or radio stations, negative images are part of doing business. How you handle it is what sets you apart.

In 2009, Southwest Airlines took on one of those typical negative images about airlines (unreasonable bag fees) head-on. At first, it simply offered free checked bags and assumed the passenger would notice. If the fare between two airlines were similar, the shopper would be saving money on Southwest thanks to the free checked bag. But that logic assumes the consumer will think that through when shopping, even though the bag savings aren’t listed in the fare.

Southwest deployed a marketing campaign called “Bags Fly Free”. But while you likely remember it now, even that campaign wasn’t successful until it was deployed like a sledgehammer, from being plastered on its own planes and baggage carts to stadiums and airports around the United States.

Radio stations often make the same mistake Southwest initially made–assuming consumers will notice when you make a change. You added a song category. You’re playing more songs per hour. You’ve got a new morning show. You’ve got less repetition. Then you wonder why it didn’t make a difference. Why it didn’t move the needle.

Maybe it’s because you didn’t really tell anyone about it outside of your already loyal P1s.

Here’s another example.

The Wall Street Journal named Delta the best airline of 2019. Fortune named Delta one of the top 100 companies to work for.

Delta’s always been great, right?

Sure, if you consider being named the least respected brand in America great. Because a 2013 study revealed Delta was one of the least respected brands in America.

Just ahead of Phillip Morris.

How in the world did Delta go from being one of the least respected brands to one of the most respected in just seven years? The answer is two-fold.

First, of course, Delta had to change the way it did business. These were the internal changes. Changing the culture. Hiring the right people. Buying new planes.

But I’m here to tell you there is absolutely no way that Delta goes from worst to first if they don’t tell anyone about it. That’s why everywhere you look, from the airport to the plane, from the website to the emails, Delta boasts about being the “most awarded airline”. Delta is only able to change the negative images into positives with a consistent, sledgehammer campaign.

Like Southwest’s “Bags Fly Free”.

So, if your radio station (or any brand for that matter) is doing something different, something great, and you are assuming the consumer will figure it out on their own, you’re wrong.

Shout it from the mountaintops. And just when you think they’re tired of hearing it, shout louder.

Then never stop shouting.

 

What Radio Can Learn From the Ford Bronco Relaunch and its New Brand Story

Tuesdays With Coleman

You probably know by now that Ford just relaunched its heritage Bronco brand for 2021 to rave reviews.

When you hear the name Ford Bronco, some of us likely think of the full-sized, white getaway vehicle used by “The Juice” more than 25 years ago.

The fifth generation of the Ford Bronco made infamous in the O.J. Simpson chase bore little resemblance to the original model. (Photo by Jean-Marc Giboux/Liaison)

Those more familiar with the brand may recall the adventurous first generation model introduced as a competitor to the Jeep CJ-5 and the International Harvester Scout, the OGs of off-roading.

The first generation of the Ford Bronco was built as a competitor to the Jeep CJ-5.

As Ford reintroduced the new models, it produced a very compelling brand story in a series of short videos.

“On August 11th, 1965 Ford Motor Company introduced the world to the Ford Bronco, America’s first SUV. A vehicle that reshaped the 4 x 4 landscape forever. And today, it’s going to do it again.”

Amid images of the American West, wild horses and footage of the Bronco models in action, a narrator tells us the images we should associate with the rebrand:

Built to take on the toughest terrain you can find

Built with adventure in mind

Built to take Americans back into the wild

Built to be the future of off-roading

Bronco: Built Wild

It appears Ford Motor Company deliberately side-stepped its more recent brand history to take the Bronco back to its off-roading roots to make us all believe that we need a Bronco in our stable.

As I watched the Bronco rollout, I couldn’t help but think of radio. Like the Bronco, radio has a rich history and faces more competition than ever (streaming, podcasting, etc.). What if the radio industry launched a campaign to remind people of its place in today’s complicated audio landscape? The medium is certainly bigger than any one radio station. How might radio tell its brand story to replant itself in the mind of listeners?

If we told radio’s brand story, we could include images of radio towers, pre-television living rooms with the family huddled around the radio, a woman listening at work, a man stuck in traffic getting a live traffic report, a woman running with headphones, or a family listening at the beach on their Bluetooth speaker.

Radio has a deep, emotional brand story to tell.

What would the narrator say? Radio was there for you when you…

Got your first kiss

Had the best summer of your life

Mourned your first break up

Drove your first car

Heard about the planes that hit the towers on 9/11.

And radio is here for you today when you…

Need a laugh or a mood boost

Hear breaking news

Are late to work and need to get around a traffic jam

Win tickets to see your favorite band in concert

Hear that your kids will or will not be going back into classrooms this fall.

Today, radio continues to occupy an important position in our society. It is one of the easiest places to find immediate, local information and human companionship.

Just as Bronco is America’s first SUV, Radio is America’s first audio medium. Maybe as an industry it’s time to boast about the incredible relationships radio has shared with audiences for years and showcase its strengths today. “Radio. We’re free. We’re in your community. We’re here helping you get through your day, every single day.”

What if every station told Radio’s brand story on their website and on-air?

Radio, Est. 1909. Reinvented daily.

What’s Your Word?

Tuesdays With Coleman

My favorite marketing book of all-time is “Focus: The Future of Your Company Depends on It” by strategist Al Ries, and one of the most important lessons in the book involves one simple question.

Focus Al Ries

What’s your word?

Consumers make product decisions on words, not visuals.

When you look at or think about products, you don’t spend as much time evaluating them as you might think. You gravitate to the products that fit what you think you need and select the one that is most strongly associated with the need. This is where owning a word can drive a decision.

Words can determine how you’re perceived within your category or if you are perceived at all. In automotive, for example, Lexus is luxury. Volvo is safety. Despite the fact that many cars are just as safe as Volvo and some have done better in safety tests, Volvo still owns the word. My son just bought one, without even looking at other brands.

Volvo owns the image for safety

Although other automotive brands have improved their safety ratings, Volvo’s brand image for the word is strong enough to withstand it

Sometimes a big brand owns the most important word for a category, like Starbucks for coffee. In that case, you need an idea that differentiates you and the best way to do that is with a single word, not a long drawn out concept.

Domino’s was second in pizza to Pizza Hut until it took the word “fast”. That was great until it got scared off by issues of driver safety. Jimmy John’s now owns the word “fast” for delivery because Domino’s gave it up.

Word association works for radio stations, too. For music stations, your word needs to be the first to come to mind.

There’s a reason why so many stations in the Adult Contemporary universe use the name “Mix”. The name itself can aid the perception of variety.

Whether in name or positioning, the word listeners use to define your station must be simple and clear. “That’s the variety station.” “That’s the oldies station.” “That’s the rock station.”

When your brand is strong and you own a word, it becomes synonymous with the category.

If your radio station is solidly known as the variety station, it will be extremely difficult for another station to take the position away.

If you don’t have a word, think about words that might still be available that radio stations have never pursued or walked away from. Words that were once considered “too narrow” may be perfect for our modern over-communicated world.

If the format leader owns the category word, there are other options. Your station can have a word to own for part of the category.

For example, two Adult Contemporary stations can’t own the Mix/variety image. So perhaps it’s a word like “soft” or “easy” or “lite” or “upbeat” (e.g., “makes you feel good.”)

It may be challenging to own the word “Rock” but perhaps you can own “Classic Rock,” or “Hard Rock” or 80s and 90s Rock.

Your morning show might well be served to own a word too, and it starts by determining what image you want it to own.

Do you want it to be thought of as the funniest? Most outrageous? The most authentic?

To do this, you have to use the same Outside Thinking principles that guide station images. For example, if your station has an image for playing 80s music and you’re trying to capture 90s images, adding an extra 90s song or two won’t do it. You must use specific language that tells the audience the station now plays 90s music.

In the same way, it is not enough for a morning show to be funny. The word needs to dominate sweepers, promos, the show open and close, and so on. It might be “the funniest morning show in Phoenix.” Or, “now, more from Denver’s laugh-out-loud morning show.” Or, “The (name) Morning Show. The one that makes you LOL.”

If the show is meant to be a friendly companion, say that. Controversial? Say that.

And, say it with enough regularity to matter. There is not enough time in your listeners’ busy lives to think they will pick up subtlety.

Once your show owns a word, a show that tries to compete for the same image will be seen as an inferior copycat.

The importance of owning a word is more important than ever.

As digital media consumption increases, you may find your word begin to show up in places other than AM/FM radio.

If you don’t defend your word…or worse, if you don’t have one at all, it’s time to head for the hills.

Three Takeaways from Internet Summit

Tuesdays With Coleman

I’m a big believer that radio can benefit from conferences that are not completely radio-centric but feature beneficial and actionable sessions. One example of this is Digital Summit, which is held in 23 locations across the United States.

Coleman Insights HQ is in the Raleigh, North Carolina area, where Digital Summit’s sister event, Internet Summit is held. In the past two years, this event featured marketing icon Seth Godin as the keynote speaker, and I wrote blog posts on both occasions. There was Seth Godin’s Brand Lessons for Radio in November 2017 and last December’s Direct Marketing is Easy. Brand Marketing is Hard, one of our most read and talked about Tuesdays With Coleman entries.

Seth Godin Internet Summit

Marketer Seth Godin delivered the keynote address at Internet Summit in 2017 and 2018.

One session I attended (and hadn’t originally intended to attend) was called “It’s More Than Data: We’ve Been Doing Content Strategy Wrong,” presented by Paxton Gray. Gray is the Executive Vice President of Operations at a digital marketing agency called 97th Floor. While the content of the session itself was useful and interesting, there were two other things that really caught my attention and made the visit to this room memorable.

Upon introducing himself, Gray offered the chance to win a copy of Seth Godin’s latest book, “This is Marketing” (somehow it always comes back to Seth Godin) and a $100 gift card to an attendee who comments on his most recent LinkedIn post. The post was this:

97th Floor hosts a marketing book club

There are a number of clever things about this strategy. Of course, I took the bait and went to his LinkedIn page, and before seeing the post I sent a connection request. Then I read the post, which tells you about a Book Club he started at his company. They buy a book for everyone at 97th Floor that wants one and sometimes discuss it over dinner. By asking for recommendations of books, podcasts or blogs, he’s created post engagement and increased the chances of it going viral. So of course I plugged Tuesdays With Coleman, he engaged back right away, and then I didn’t think about it for the next week.

That was until I opened my LinkedIn page to take a peek at my news feed, and guess what came up—a post from 97th Floor.

97th Floor hosts an Alumni Night

This one shared a picture of the company’s recent Alumni Night at Topgolf. The post explains how 97th Floor alumni have access to an alumni network that includes a dedicated Slack channel that allows them to stay connected and share job opportunities. Once again, it’s a post with a pretty good idea that promotes company culture without having to say, “Our culture is awesome!” (Sidebar: if that’s how you promote company culture you might not have a great company culture.)

There are ideas and inspiration to be found outside the lines of where you’ve always expected them to be. So this year’s takeaways for the radio industry are:

  1. Attend a non-radio conference.

We love radio conferences, including the always great Worldwide Radio Summit. Radio is embracing Podcast Movement, a very wise move. But do you think radio could benefit from a conference like Digital Summit, which is loaded with sessions on items like website optimization, social media, SEO and email marketing?

I do.

  1. Start a book club.

In our fragmented world (see last week’s blog, Disney+, Decision Paralysis and Your Brand for more on fragmentation), we’re all consuming different content. The thought of having programming and sales reading the same book, listening to the same podcast, subscribing to the same blog and then comparing notes feels like a good way to improve communication and learn some new things together in the process.

  1. Embrace alumni.

While the idea of an alumni network may not be transferable, we do know radio loves a good reunion and that listeners build connections with personalities. Often their favorite personalities go away, never to be heard from again. By periodically embracing its past, radio can find another outlet to maintain the bond between listener and station.

Thanks to Paxton Gray for the inspiration for today’s post. Keep those ideas flowing!

4 Lessons From the Last Blockbuster Video

Tuesdays With Coleman

There is no reason why a Blockbuster Video should still be in business.

But in fact, there are quite a few reasons it is.

And when you’re the last one standing in a business segment that many might perceive is from the Mesozoic era, it’s probably a good exercise to ask the obvious question…

How is the last Blockbuster still in business, and what can I learn from it?

The last Blockbuster Video on Earth is in Bend, Oregon—population 94,520.

Last Blockbuster Video

This is the last Blockbuster Video on Earth.

No kidding, if you go to Blockbuster.com, there is a link that says, “Blockbuster Store Location” that pops up with only the Bend store.

Just 15 years ago, there were 9,000 Blockbusters on Earth, and generally speaking, we all know what went wrong.

Blockbuster missed the move to DVD-by-mail (it even passed up the chance to buy Netflix for $50 million in 2000. Oops). Blockbuster missed the move to DVD in a box (Redbox). It missed the move to streaming. And, perhaps the biggest self-inflicted wound was the dreaded customer-service killing late fee.

So, we know why Blockbuster closed. What’s the last one doing open?

Is it because Bend is such a small town? Doesn’t hold water. Bend is a Nielsen rated market (#196), and what about all the smaller areas that had Blockbusters?

Is it because Bend doesn’t have high speed internet? No. It does.

Well, what? What is it then??

LESSON 1: Promote what differentiates you

When you walk into the last Blockbuster on Earth, the employees wear gear and they sell t-shirts that scream, “Last Blockbuster in America!”. You can buy a “Last Blockbuster” sticker for $2.

Last Blockbuster Video merchandise t-shirt

It could very easily just be the last Blockbuster on the planet and not tell anyone about it. But what’s the fun in that?

Media brands make subtle changes to their strategies and hope the audience notices. Or, the positioning doesn’t cut through. That’s not how you build an image.

A great exercise for any brand is to think about what truly makes it different. Why consumers choose it over other brands. You may find it’s not what you’re promoting now.

Once you determine what that differentiator is, you hammer it like you’re the last Blockbuster on Earth.

LESSON 2: Use memories and nostalgia

A man drove 1,000 miles to the last Blockbuster because, he said, he “just wanted to relive [his] childhood”.

Its social media is littered with photos of customers taking pictures of themselves at the last Blockbuster on Earth.

Blockbuster brings back memories.

You know what else brings back memories? Music. Funny, radio can be pretty good at capitalizing on emotion too when it remembers to tap into it.

LESSON 3: Make your brand easy to use

We’ve covered the paradox of choice too many times to count in this blog. Today’s consumers are overwhelmed with choices and “subscription fatigue”. A customer at the last Blockbuster on Earth compares Netflix to a dating app. “You’re on it for hours, it’s almost overwhelming.”

No, it is overwhelming.

Customers appreciate the incredible customer service and recommendations provided by the staff at the last Blockbuster on Earth.

Radio is free and already curated. Make the listening experience as easy, painless and personal as possible.

LESSON 4: Make it a fun place to work

When I was a radio program director, you could always tell which station in the cluster was mine. The studio of the last station I programmed was the one with the inflatable couch and the autographs of the station’s celebrity guests on the orange wall that the air staff painted on a Saturday while listening to the new Kings of Leon on repeat.

Just as listeners can tell if your team is having fun, so can customers of every business.

The employees at the last Blockbuster on Earth clearly love working there.

There are pictures of them through the years in the owner’s office.

They write handwritten notes, have been known to offer home delivery, and host movie trivia nights and movie dance parties.

If the last Blockbuster on Earth can thrive, your radio station can too.

Just run it like it’s the last Blockbuster on Earth, and you’ll be just fine.

Be True To Your Base Position

Tuesdays With Coleman

Does your brand have a base position? No matter what industry, whatever the size of the company…you must have a clearly understood base position.

When we work with radio stations, we often refer to the foundation of our Image PyramidSM—the base music or talk position. For the other components of the pyramid (personality, specialty programming, contests, marketing, news and community) to enhance the performance of your station, listeners must instantly understand the basics of your brand.

Coleman Insights Image Pyramid

Is it the rock station? The sports station? The hit music station?

It’s not only essential for listeners to understand your base position in a simplistic way—you have to understand it as well. It has to be in the fabric of everything you do.

My wife Sharon and I are “foodies” who love to explore the burgeoning restaurant scene where we live in Raleigh, North Carolina.  One of our favorite restaurants clearly has a base position.

Royale is a French-American bistro that opened in November 2016 and at the time, the only way to make reservations was via Instagram. The menu was limited, with no more than five or six entrees choices available. Still, the food was delicious, the service was outstanding and the atmosphere was hopping. After one or two visits, you couldn’t help but have a strong and clear perception of what Royale was all about.

Royale Restaurant Raleigh

Royale/Raleigh, North Carolina

Royale is a hip, downtown Raleigh hotspot with high quality French-American food.

That’s their base position.

Over five or six dining experiences since, we have observed changes to Royale.

You can now make reservations online—albeit only on Resy, not on OpenTable—or even by phone. The menu includes more choice while retaining its distinct French-American flavor. Heck, they now even have a nightly special.

These changes allowed Royale to broaden and become more mass appeal without compromising their base position.

By evolving and staying true to their base position, Royale added brand depth—similar to how a radio station adds brand depth with personalities and contests. Just as radio stations need to establish a clear understanding of their base position before focusing on other elements, Royale set a defined expectation of what the brand stands for.

Restaurants have a wide range of strategic options at their disposal, just like radio stations.

Royale could have looked to expand their customer base by, for example, lowering prices. That would have compromised the quality promise in their base position. They could have started accepting coupons or expanded their menu options outside of French-American cuisine.

Coupon

These moves may offer short-term gain but in the long run would be severely detrimental to the brand.

Just like restaurants, radio stations evolve and add brand depth. That brand depth, however, has to be in concert with the base position or it will erode the brand.

It’s as true in the restaurant business as it is in radio. When you add depth while remaining true to your brand, the sky is the limit.