Tag Archives: Outside Thinking

How Quantum Leap Can Accelerate Your Show

A couple of weeks ago, a nasty stomach bug floored me. I pretty much didn’t get out of bed for a few days.  My time in quarantine was spent in the room that has the TV without any bells and whistles. No cable, no satellite, not even streaming. I know, the horror. It does, however, kick it old school with an over-the-air antenna that allows me access to forgotten shows that have sat in a vault somewhere for decades until unearthed and repurposed by networks most people have never heard of like Comet. That is how I rediscovered one of my favorite shows, Quantum Leap.

Quantum Leap was a time-travel series that aired from 1989 through 1993. It starred Scott Bakula as a scientist who leaps through time into other people’s bodies to fix problems. Not having seen the show in decades, the detail of the show’s introduction caught my attention.

This voiceover begins each episode:

“Theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, Doctor Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator – and vanished. He awoke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mirror images that were not his own, and driven by an unknown force to change history for the better. His only guide on this journey is Al, an observer from his own time, who appears in the form of a hologram that only Sam can see and hear. And so, Doctor Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong and hoping each time that his next leap… will be the leap home.”

That 50-second narration precedes the show theme and credits that follow for a total of two minutes.


While it has become common practice for shows to provide a “Previously on…” clip package to get viewers caught up, it is also common that shows get right into the content quickly. If you’re a new viewer, the onus is on you to figure out the intricacies of the characters and plot lines. Maybe that’s what struck me about the intro to Quantum Leap. It felt like an example of Outside Thinking; adopting the mindset of your consumer. The producers of Quantum Leap assumed that you didn’t know what the show was about when you tuned in. But each week, in less than a minute, you were clear on the premise of the show, the role of the two main characters, and the goal of each episode.

Consider the quarter-hour rule in television. Watch how, in a one-hour episode of a show, the three main story lines are reset every quarter hour or so (usually out of a commercial break). The idea is that new viewers are coming in all the time, and by quick resets through conversations and visuals, they won’t feel lost.


I’ve heard some personality-based shows in the radio, streaming, or podcast space use tag lines or slogans, which can be an effective way to quickly and simply define what a show is about. Some shows will play pieces of character-based imaging, that say the name of the personality followed by a piece of audio that helps establish their role on the show. Is he/she the funny one? The clever one? The silly one? The smart one?

These kind of tactics can feel unnecessary. Will listeners figure out the depths of someone’s role themselves, just by listening? Sure, maybe. But providing clear definitions to the audience can accelerate the process, which can positively impact the personality’s familiarity and evaluation.

As in the Quantum Leap and quarter-hour examples, there is high value when shows decide to set up and reset. Be deliberate about reminding listeners what the show is about. Clearly define roles and plot lines. Remember, if it feels like you’re doing it too often, you just might be getting close to doing it the right amount. Listeners and viewers don’t think like programmers. When programmers think like listeners and viewers, great things happen.


Outside Thinking Gives the XFL a Better Chance to Succeed

Tuesdays With Coleman

The North American sports landscape is littered with failed launches of major leagues to compete with the established players. In basketball, the ABA collapsed, and four remaining viable franchises joined the NBA in 1976. A similar thing happened in hockey three years later when the WHA failed in its effort to take on the NHL.

No sport, however, has seen as many failed professional major leagues as football, as the NFL has fended off competition from many upstarts, including the WFL in the 70s, the USFL (featuring Donald Trump as a franchise owner) in the 80s, the UFL roughly a decade ago and the very recent AAF, which was shut down after eight weeks of play in 2019.

When Vince McMahon, best known for his leadership of World Wrestling Entertainment, announced his intention to launch the XFL, many rolled their eyes in anticipation of the next major football league failure. (Full disclosure: My wife, pictured here with wrestling legend Hulk Hogan, worked in sales marketing for what was then known as the WWF 30 years ago.) Increasing the skepticism of many was the fact that McMahon launched and failed with a previous incarnation of the XFL in 2001.

Sharon Kurtzman and Hulk Hogan of the WWF

Yet, here we are four weeks into the inaugural season of this new incarnation of the XFL and—while it is far from a runaway success—there are numerous signs that the league is off to a good start. Television ratings, which provide a quick, early read, reveal that the games are attracting roughly two million viewers each on the major broadcast networks and about half that on cable networks. These audiences are comparable in size to college and NBA basketball games that have aired nationally in recent weeks. Not surprisingly, ratings—as well as game attendance—have declined since the opening week, but they remain decent. Furthermore, the XFL is generally receiving coverage from the sports media as a credible entity and even the often toxic world of social media is not rife with posts and tweets criticizing the league.

XFL New York Guardians opening day against the Tampa Bay Vipers

Before I outline the positive moves the league has made, let me take you back to 2001 and the first version of the XFL. It featured tons of WWE-style “attitude” and cast itself as a macho, hardnosed alternative to the NFL (which XFL executives derided as “the No Fun League”) and its recently-initiated rule changes designed to enhance player safety and promote greater sportsmanship. The XFL celebrated the violent, in-your-face side of football and threw in sexy cheerleaders as a bonus. It was created by people reacting to anecdotal negative comments they were hearing from football fans, and as a result, these people vastly underestimated the strength of the NFL and miscalculated what fans wanted out of football. In other words, the first incarnation of the XFL was a classic case of Inside Thinking, with its backers rolling out a strategy based on what they believed the public thought of the NFL and they craved as an alternative.

Today, however, McMahon and company seem to have learned from their previous failure. They are acting like Outside Thinkers, viewing the potential opportunity for another professional league from the perspective of the fans.

What has the XFL gotten right?

  1. They conducted research. XFL executives have been open about the fact that they took the time to ask football fans what they were seeking in another football league and they learned that the quality of the play was more important than the attitude, violence or sexy cheerleaders the first version of the XFL delivered.
  2. They invested in the product. Based on what it learned in the research and knowing it would be working with a lower caliber of players than the NFL, the XFL had more than 1,000 players converge in Houston for 18 days of intensive training camps before the season began. Having the camps for all eight XFL franchises in the same city allowed for greater quality control, improving the chances that each team would put its best foot forward when the season began.
  3. They took care of distribution. All XFL games are airing on major television networks, with weekly games on ABC and FOX and remaining games on their ESPN, ESPN2, FS1 and FS2 cable networks. The league is also offering a streaming video option via fuboTV.
  4. They didn’t directly challenge the dominant player. The XFL season started immediately after the NFL season and, perhaps more importantly, the league did not repeat its earlier mistake and waste energy on bashing the NFL. Instead, the league is trying to ride the coattails of the dominant player and get the most passionate football fans to keep following the sport after the NFL season ends.
  5. They innovated appropriately. Part of what is capturing fans’ interest are the differences between the XFL and the NFL. This includes subtle things like the broadcasting of play-calling by the coaches, in-game sideline interviews with players and embracing gambling. It also includes bigger rules changes, such as the XFL’s attempt to bring back excitement to kickoffs without risking player safety and the options for one-, two- and three-point conversions after touchdowns.

One can argue that the first incarnation of the XFL only did one of the five items above, as it was a joint venture with NBC, which aired its games during primetime.

Will the XFL survive? I honestly do not know, but its embrace of Outside Thinking makes me believe its chances of being around five years from now are infinitely better than any of its predecessors.


Start With the Customer and Work Backwards

Tuesdays With Coleman

“Start with the customer experience and work backwards.”

That’s what Steve Jobs says 1:55 into this video from 1997 in response to an audience member who was questioning Jobs’ strategic direction.

It’s an example of Outside Thinking–seeing your product from the viewpoint of your customers.

In the video, Jobs goes on to give an example of how things should not be done at Apple. “We could sit down with the engineers, figure out what technology we have and say, ‘how will we market that?”

That’s Inside Thinking.

Contrast this with, “What incredible benefits can we give to the customer?”

That’s Outside Thinking.

If someone in your industry were to take Jobs’ advice, starting with the customer experience and working backwards, what would it look like?

Picture a whiteboard filled with all the experiences consumers have with your brand including how, where, when and why they use it.

We would consider all points of possible friction, and then determine if there are more effective ways to deliver the experience.

How would this look at your company?

Business teams are far more likely to take stock of how they deliver the customer experience and adjust it based on their experience with the product. When approached in this manner, there’s always the danger of “we’ve always done it this way” syndrome.

By taking the Outside Thinking approach–starting with the customer experience and working backwards–that’s where you’ll discover the new approaches and innovations that truly create passion and loyalty.

Coleman Insights to Present “Outside Thinking” to Christian Music Broadcasters

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC, August 23, 2018 – Christian Music Broadcasters (CMB) has announced Coleman Insights Executive Vice President Sam Milkman has been added as a featured speaker at Momentum 2018, the organization’s annual conference that attracts more than 700 radio and record industry professionals in Christian music formats.

In this rapid-fire session, Milkman will demonstrate how Christian music programmers can better understand the habits, needs and perceptions of their listeners to build powerful, clearly defined brands that motivate listeners to tune in time and time again.

CMB Executive Director Michelle Younkman says, “We are looking forward to having Sam join us at Momentum 2018, Christian Music Broadcasters’ premier event. His expertise and insights will help CMB accomplish our mission to encourage, engage and equip our attendees to reach more people.”

Milkman will present “Outside Thinking: Flip the Script on How You Think About Your Radio Station” Thursday, September 6 at 10:15am at Momentum 2018 at Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando.

Find details of Coleman Insights’ presentation here. For information on Momentum 2018, click here.

Introducing Coleman Insights

Tuesdays With Coleman

Back in May, we delivered a presentation at Worldwide Radio Summit called “Outside Thinking: Flip The Script On How You Think About Your Radio Station.”

Inside Thinking is what happens when you think like an employee of your company. Outside Thinking is what happens when you think like a consumer or prospective consumer of your company.

It was the principles of Outside Thinking, one of our core philosophies at Coleman Insights, that led us to a few debuts in the digital space a few days ago.

First and foremost is our new video, “This Is Coleman Insights.”

Why would we produce a video explaining what Coleman Insights is all about? After all, our company has been around since 1978. We work with hundreds of radio stations and media brands. Shouldn’t people already know what they need to know about Coleman Insights?

That’s Inside Thinking.

Outside Thinking dictates that there will always be prospective customers with no previous knowledge of our brand.

Inside Thinking tells us prospective and even current clients understand what goes into our projects.

Outside Thinking calls for introducing the people behind the projects. As Jon Coleman notes at the start of the video, “Research can be kind of intimidating, sterile, and have a lot of grey in terms of interpretation.”

A Coleman Insights study features a group of media research experts working collaboratively behind the scenes to ensure the insights we deliver are crystal clear and actionable, and anything but sterile. We wanted to introduce those people and the process to you.

We’ve also made some improvements to our website.

You’ll notice that video is front and center, and you’ll find some FAQs answered by our senior consultants.

Outside Thinking is thinking like your customer, so we’re offering answers to some of the questions we often hear.

I hope you’ll watch the video of our Outside Thinking presentation, which you’ll also find on our site.

We’ll continue to look for ways to practice Outside Thinking here at Coleman Insights and look forward to sharing the journey with you.

Outside Thinking Video Released From Worldwide Radio Summit

 RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC, May 31, 2018 – Coleman Insights has released the video of its keynote presentation delivered at Worldwide Radio Summit in Hollywood earlier this month.

In “Outside Thinking: Flip The Script On How You Think About Your Radio Station,” Warren Kurtzman, Sam Milkman and John Boyne explain the tenets of Outside Thinking, which involves approaching radio station programming from the listener’s point of view.

The video covers session highlights, including how listeners choose radio stations based on habit, needs, perceptions, language and lifestyle. “Listeners don’t go through a formal process of deciding which stations to listen to,” explains President Warren Kurtzman. “By understanding the reasons and ways listeners select and use stations, programmers can utilize the principles of Outside Thinking as part of their strategic decisions.”

The video of “Outside Thinking: Flip The Script On How You Think About Your Radio Station” is now available here.

What Radio Stations And Diets Have In Common

Tuesdays With Coleman

About a month ago, I started on one of those “two shakes a day” diets.

Wait, I’m not supposed to call it a diet. About a month ago, I started on one of the two shakes a day LIFESTYLES.

Isagenix Diet Shake

I’m only slightly embarrassed to say I needed something to get me started toward a healthier way of living.

So I’m on the plan. Shake for breakfast, shake for lunch. Modest dinner, mainly protein, and healthy snacks along the way. You know what? The pounds and inches that I picked up in the radio station kitchen (who brings all those free donuts?) are starting to fall off.

I’d like to maintain this LIFESTYLE as long as I can.

The process gets me thinking… besides eating the donuts in the kitchen, what other bad habits might I have picked up at the radio station, and how can we “shake” them?

Radio programmers generally do a great job of keeping good habits. But like diets, it’s easy to lose your way. Here are some ways radio stations fall “off the diet”:


At our presentation at the Worldwide Radio Summit, Outside Thinking: Flip The Script On How You Think About Your Radio Station, we demonstrated how delivering too many messages at once inhibits any of them from breaking through. Check out this guy I ran into at an amusement park.

Outside Thinking Too Many Messages

He’s wearing a radio station t-shirt featuring their name, call letters, an extra frequency, slogan, morning show and workday positioning. Whew! That t-shirt could lose a few pounds.


You’re utilizing music research as part of your radio station’s strategy. “The Plan” says 00s Rhythmic Pop music not only doesn’t add potential audience, it is incongruent with your brand and the fans of your most appealing music don’t like it. “Yeah, but that song tested really well!”

Doesn’t mean you should play it.

This also applies to adding titles in between library music tests. “It’s only a few songs”. The next thing you know, your library is bloated with titles you shouldn’t be playing.

Put down the cookies.

Trust the music research and stick with your strategy.


Your listeners are the lifeblood of your radio station. They often provide the most valuable feedback you can hear, giving you the opportunity to do more of the best things and cut out things they don’t like. Get out of the office and talk to them. You’ll even burn a few calories in the process.


You’ve done a market research study, you’re clear on the strategy, but who is in charge of delivering your radio station’s message day in and day out? Your air talent.

By regularly airchecking your jocks, you can create powerful buy-in from your team and ensure the plan is executed properly.

Just as a personal trainer is charged with keeping me disciplined and sticking to a workout schedule to stay fit, a program director is charged with keeping air talent disciplined and on message.

The bad habits of radio stations really aren’t that different from the bad habits of a diet.

Unfocused messaging? Kind of like bouncing from diet to diet. “You know, I tried that one for a little while but it didn’t work”. Why didn’t it work? Because it was the wrong diet (message) or because you didn’t give the diet (message) a long enough chance to be effective?

Not following the music research? That’s like straying from the diet here and there. “Hey, a little ice cream won’t hurt me.” “I can cheat with a few slices of pizza.” When you have a plan, whether to better your radio station or change your life, you have to remain focused and disciplined.

Maintaining focus and discipline will be the only way I continue to be successful with my new lifestyle.

And it’s also the only way you’ll continue to be successful with your radio station.


Three Ways Radio Stations Misunderstand Their Listeners

Tuesdays With Coleman

Last Friday, May 4th, Coleman Insights delivered a presentation to the Worldwide Radio Summit in Hollywood called “Outside Thinking: Flip The Script On How You Think About Your Radio Station”.

During the session, Coleman Insights President Warren Kurtzman and Executive Vice Presidents/Senior Consultants John Boyne and Sam Milkman explained how radio station programmers can fall into the trap of Inside Thinking—a boardroom mindset, as opposed to thinking like a listener.

Outside Thinking Worldwide Radio Summit

Coleman Insights’ Sam Milkman and John Boyne at Worldwide Radio Summit

Soon, we’ll be sharing the entire presentation so you can discover how successful radio stations utilize the principles of Outside Thinking to build powerful brands with consistently impressive ratings. In the meantime, we’ll share three ways radio station programmers misunderstand their listeners. This misunderstanding, rooted in Inside Thinking, causes radio stations to over-focus on things like short-term tactics. It encourages programmers to make knee-jerk decisions by not being patient. By recognizing these three misconceptions, radio stations can recalibrate their focus and think like a listener.


We’d love to think our listeners know the names of all our personalities. We picture them playing every contest and attending all our big station events.


Like other entertainment options in your listeners’ lives, radio plays a role—but it is likely not the most important role. Listeners generally don’t engage in a deep, well thought out process of choosing a station.


Surely if we tweak our clocks and go from one to two 80s songs per hour, all our listeners will know and we’ll get credit for it.


Listeners not only don’t notice the little things we do, they often don’t notice the big things. You’ve heard listeners call your station by the wrong name or dial position. They’ve thought your morning show was on the competitor. Because listeners aren’t paying close attention, changing an image takes a great deal of time and patience. Clock changes, like in the example above, aren’t enough. You have to tell the listener about the change, repeat with regularity, and stick with it.


By using carefully placed tactics, contents and clock changes, listeners can be made to listen at specific times.


Like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, listeners wake up at the same time every morning. They get their coffee at the same time, shower at the same time and commute at the same time. They also generally listen to radio stations at the same time. Your station needs to be a part of their lives and habits. This is much more realistic than trying to manipulate them to listen at times that may not be possible for them.

Bill Murray Groundhog Day

Going through the same daily morning routine isn’t just “Groundhog Day” fiction

There’s lots more to share regarding how you can use Outside Thinking to flip the script on how you think about your radio station.

Subscribers to the Tuesdays With Coleman blog will be notified first when the presentation video is made available.

If you’re not yet a subscriber, click here and watch your inbox!

How Will Your Radio Station Use Outside Thinking?

Tuesdays With Coleman

Later this week, we’ll be in Hollywood to present “Outside Thinking: Flip The Script On How You Think About Your Radio Station” to the Worldwide Radio Summit.

What is Outside Thinking?

Let’s face it. Most of us in the radio industry don’t listen like a typical listener—we inadvertently practice Inside Thinking. We believe listeners hang on our every word, adjust their schedules to play our contests and choose to listen to our stations because of a deep bond they have with our brand. The reality is quite the opposite.

But radio is hardly the only industry that wrestles with getting stuck in an Inside Thinking mindset.

The film industry, centered in Hollywood where we’ll do our presentation this week, also risks succumbing to Inside Thinking.

The Big Picture: The Fight for the Future of Movies

In his new book, “The Big Picture: The Fight For The Future Of Movies”, author Ben Fritz gives examples of how Hollywood has shifted its thinking over the past few years.

In the past, Fritz writes, “no other industry pumped out so many products so frequently with so little foreknowledge of whether they would be any good. The only feasible business strategy, it appeared, was to sign up the best creative talent, trust your strongest hunches about what looked likely to appeal to millions of people, and hope you ended up with Back to the Future instead of Ishtar.”

Ishtar movie

Hollywood’s shift to Outside Thinking has resulted in what Fritz calls “The Branded Franchise Era”. Rather than focusing on putting out films they hope will be successful, Hollywood has hedged its bets more often with proven franchises. Marvel, Fast and Furious, and Despicable Me are examples of franchises that regularly take in over $1 billion at the global box office. Pixar will release Incredibles 2 this summer and Toy Story 4 next summer.  This is an example of Outside Thinking because not only does this strategy minimize risk, it feeds audience demand. Hollywood moved from releasing the movies they thought they should put out for any number of reasons (artistic, contractual, etc.) to movies audiences wanted them to put out.  Outside Thinking means walking in the customer’s shoes.

Outside Thinking in Hollywood goes well beyond selecting which films to produce. As Hollywood alters its content, the moviegoing experience is also changing. This change is often driven by disruptors who have adopted Outside Thinking.

Outside Thinking led to the development of Alamo Drafthouse. Noticing how frustrated customers were getting with endless ads, a limited selection of sugary concessions and frequent rudeness from their fellow patrons, Alamo aims to vastly improve the experience of attending a film. The chain features over 30 beers on tap and comfortable recliners, refuses to show commercials before the feature presentation and has a strict no-texting-or-talking policy that will get you kicked out after one warning.

Alamo Drafthouse Texting Policy

Customers love it.

Inside Thinking is raising movie prices again because it’s what’s always been done. All the while, more and more entertainment options from streaming services encourage those who used to be regular moviegoers to stay home.

Outside Thinking is MoviePass, whose latest offering is a $9.99/month plan that gets you tickets to four movies a month (they claim over 91% of theaters participate) and a subscription to iHeartRadio.


So this week, we’ll bring a taste of Outside Thinking to Hollywood for radio’s consideration.

At the core of Outside Thinking for radio stations is understanding why listeners choose your station in the first place. This can impact everything from how you deliver your messaging to the way you execute your contesting.

During our presentation, we’ll illustrate:

  • The differences between Inside and Outside Thinking;
  • What factors drive listeners to choose your station at specific moments in time
  • Specific examples of Inside Thinking to avoid at your radio station

Over the next few weeks, we’ll share Outside Thinking tidbits with you so you can face the future the way your listener will.

It’s time to flip the script.

Is Inside Thinking Blurring Your Strategic Vision?

Tuesdays With Coleman

If you work at a radio station (or in any business, for that matter), it’s easy to get caught up in Inside Thinking. We sometimes get too close to the product for our own good, and are unable to see it through the lens of our customers. When you’re the manager of a radio station, this can lead to blurred strategic vision, exemplified by statements such as, “We just need to know what’s most popular with 25- to 39-year old men because that is our target.”

Is that really enough?

This is the final installment of a four-part series that revisits a Radio & Records column I wrote in 1999. It describes scenarios I ran into when speaking with radio station managers about research projects. All of these scenarios, including Scenario 4 – No Strategic Vision, still come up with regularity 18 years later.

The inability of some managers to look at their stations from any other perspective than from inside the stations’ walls manifests itself in Inside Thinking. These managers believe that listeners:

  • Care deeply about radio
  • Are paying close attention to our stations
  • Can be manipulated

Conversely, Outside Thinkers believe the opposite. They understand that listeners’ station choices are:

  • Driven substantially by habit
  • A result of instantaneous need fulfillment
  • Based on a simplistic set of perceptions they have of different stations
  • Impacted by the role of language
  • Determined by their lifestyle

Listening to radio station

This very different mindset leads Outside Thinkers to approach research with a much more strategic point of view rather than simply trying to find out what listeners do and do not like. They use research to ask questions like:

  • What is my station’s awareness level in the market?
  • How different is my actual product and what people perceive my product to be?
  • Where do the musical tastes of my market really lie and are they moving in the direction that I believe they are?
  • Does the fact that my target demo share dropped by 25% over the last two Nielsen books really mean that my position in the market has weakened?
  • Am I focusing my energy and my resources on the right things?

Our suggestion that radio managers take the Outside Thinking approach to their stations—and their research—provides a good final thought for this four-part blog series. Our previous installments warned against obsessing over methodology, not investing in research when your station is successful and confusing tactical and strategic research. Outside Thinkers rarely make these mistakes, and as a result, their stations are far more likely to enjoy long-term success.