Tag Archives: smart speaker

Radio, You’re Obsessing Over Alexa

Over the last couple of years, a new girl in town has caused quite the buzz in the radio industry. Her name is Alexa and chances are if you work in radio, you’ve had (probably way more than one) “How do we handle Alexa on our stations?” conversation.


The rationale behind wanting to run smart speaker promos on your radio station is understandable. You want to train your listeners to ask for your station on the new tech they are adopting. You know that it is a potential growth area of listening for your brand. And, perhaps there is a mandate coming down (whether it be from corporate or on the local level) that’s telling you Alexa’s important, so make sure you get those promos in.

Making your listeners aware of Alexa is a part of audience building for the long-term, so it should be a part of your strategy. But you need to sell it the right way. The dominant brand in your market will win smart speaker listening. If you spend too much time tactically promoting Alexa and less time promoting the value of your brand, you may be unintentionally hurting yourself.

It is not dissimilar to a radio station that spends too much time promoting a contest at the expense of its Base Music Position. Contesting is tactical, and so is Alexa. It can’t come at the expense of your brand.

Tactical programming should support, not come at the expense of, promoting your Base Music or Talk Position. (Coleman Insights Image Pyramid)

A restaurant that becomes famous in your hometown because it has great food and a great ambience will be the most popular in town even if people don’t know exactly where it is. It will be the most popular because it has a great brand.  People will find it when they want to eat out because it is a strong restaurant brand. However, a restaurant that is not top-of-mind and valued by consumers will not be crowded just because it puts its address in big letters on its web page. That restaurant needs to sell its food and ambience, then people will find it.

This is not to suggest that promoting Alexa as a place to listen to your station is a waste of time.  However, in the rush to build listening via Alexa, it seems that many stations are running lackluster one-off promos for listening to the station on Alexa–it’s not the kind of emotional verbiage that will change behavior. Rather than liners that simply mention Alexa, consider whether it makes sense to create a campaign that builds smart speaker listening awareness and your brand at the same time. Take into account how many people have Alexa, how they use it, and whether it fits into your marketing. If it does, rather than just running liners, build a consistent campaign. This is how to truly make habitual change.

If the brand is strong, listeners will come to the distribution in their own time. If you build the brand, the more likely it is listeners will ask Alexa for it.

So, when it comes to those smart speaker promos, don’t do it just for the sake of doing it or because you think you should. Think about how you can use every moment of airtime to build your brand. When you do promote Alexa, think about how to make it memorable, engaging and how the campaign can support your brand’s image growth.


Smart Branding in the Age of Smart Speakers

Tuesdays With ColemanAccording to a recent study from the Pew Research Center, many Americans get their news from social media. Breaking it down further, where is this “news” coming from? Friends’ posts and tweets? Articles? Alerts on the Facebook sidebar? It’s likely a combination of all three. The true sources of that news–brands like The New York Times, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, etc.—aren’t always getting credit for providing the news. In the same vein, many people will catch a popular show on Netflix or Hulu; they’re not always registering that the show they enjoy ran first on ABC or Syfy or some publicly-funded Norwegian broadcast network. To the consumer, it’s just content, and the source is where they find it. Brands that provide content increasingly struggle to cut through the noise and make themselves stand out.


In the traditional model, radio shouldn’t have that problem. Listeners tune in directly to a station. They might go to a station’s specific website or app that streams content similar to what one might hear over the air. Therefore, the listening experience is the same as it is on broadcast radio—promos and all.

And now comes the smart speaker.

Amazon Echo Dot smart speaker

The recently released NPR and Edison Research Smart Audio Report says that one in six Americans now owns a smart speaker. As I watch this and other new forms of audio technology spring up around us every day, I’m reminded that we have to keep promoting lest we end up as lost as one of the news sources on Twitter. While we can surmise that many people with smart speakers will ask Alexa or Google to “play Foxy 107.1”, it’s not a far stretch to imagine more people who are likely to order their smart speakers to simply “play New Jack Swing” or “launch [app from a large entertainment company].” In a few years, when we ask listeners where they get their music, we want listeners to still be able to tell us the station or broadcaster, not “my smart speaker”.

So how do audio content providers effectively cut through? When a station loses its foothold in a market—when awareness is down or the audience associates the station with a format or branding that’s long been replaced—we often advise our clients to go back to the Coleman Insights Image PyramidSM.

Coleman Insights Image Pyramid

The Pyramid starts with a well-established base music, talk or news position. Once a station has effectively communicated its base position, it can build its way up the Pyramid by growing or strengthening its images. (“Images”, in this context, are phrases and concepts that people associate with your station. These can range from, “the Classic Rock station” to “the station that rocks too hard for my taste” to “the station that has the best contests and giveaways.”) Things like sponsoring events and contests, advertising intelligently and running promos are some of the tools we recommend to make our client stations top of mind in their respective markets. Even when listeners actively choose what they want to listen to, it’s important to remind them what you are and why they’ve tuned in.

In this age of constantly growing multi-platform listening, don’t forget to keep pushing those images. Evaluate how many times per hour you’re communicating your base position. Remind them what they’re listening to and what the brand stands for. Ensure your personalities have a clear understanding of how to reinforce the position and how often. Well-communicated and produced promos can complement the listening experience. It’s wonderful when your station is available to listeners at the press of a button, the swipe of a finger across a screen or a voice command in a living room, but don’t forget to remind people who you are and why they’re there with you.



Radio’s Encouraging 2018 Outlook

Tuesdays With Coleman

For the first blog post of 2018, our three Senior Consultants—Warren Kurtzman, John Boyne and Sam Milkman—continue their roundtable chat to offer their thoughts on the radio industry and the role of research in 2018.

Coleman Insights Warren Kurtzman Jon Coleman John Boyne Sam Milkman

Senior Consultant Sam Milkman, Founder Jon Coleman, Senior Consultant John Boyne, and President Warren Kurtzman


I think we need to start a discussion of how the radio industry looks in 2018 by looking at the largest radio companies.


There are some very positive signs that started to take shape at the end of 2017.


Right. Entercom’s acquisition of CBS should make it a stronger player, iHeartMedia continues to deliver strong operating results and will hopefully reach a deal with its bondholders soon. Cumulus should emerge from Chapter 11 as a healthier entity.


With the three industry leaders in stronger financial positions, I’m hopeful we’ll see more investment in their products, meaning investments in people and talent, research and marketing. It’s pretty exciting when you see the medium-sized players—the Hubbards, Bonnevilles and Beasleys of the world—expanding their portfolios and investing in their products. They are seeing the results of those investments.


That’s good for everyone, from listeners to advertisers to radio industry employees.


I think radio is really figuring out its place in the digital space now, too.

Digital radio smartphone


Definitely. The industry is increasingly going to advertisers with multi-platform solutions instead of just selling spots and that’s causing an increasing percentage of station revenue to come from digital.

On the content side, I think it is important that stations remember that all their digital assets are an extension of their brands and should be consistent with what’s coming out of the speakers. Visitors to a station’s website, readers of a blog, someone checking the station’s Facebook page should all clearly understand what the brand stands for.


Smart speakers will play an important role this year.

Amazon Echo Dot smart speaker


They will, and that’s another good example of radio embracing new technology. Many stations and companies were very quick to integrate their brands into Alexa Skills, running promos instructing listeners to use it, and are figuring out how they can utilize it to generate more in-home listening.


We continue to see pretty big changes going on in the research side as well as a result of technology.


Quality control is more important than ever. Technology allows us to measure things differently and recruit research participants differently, but it also opens up a whole bunch of additional factors that require researchers’ attention.


Yes, I think quality control should be a consideration for any research company you decide to go with. We need to spend more time explaining this to our clients and the industry as a whole.


Let’s do a little of that now! It all starts with using high quality sources of sample. It’s amazing how many vendors of questionable sample pitch their wares to research companies every day. We’ll talk about this more in future blogs, but one thing we need to stress is how much using high quality sample impacts the accuracy of the data research companies deliver.


Another of our biggest ongoing investments is in online security, which helps make sure that the people who participate in our studies are who they say they are. There are things we do to prevent hackers and “professional test takers” from getting into our studies in the first place and then advanced analysis tools we use once we have the data to weed out respondents who don’t meet our quality control criteria.


My last thought is that as an industry, to get better, we need to constantly examine pre-conceived notions of what consumers want. We have to always ask if there’s a better way of doing things.


I agree, Sam. To circle back to where we started this discussion, I believe our ability to do that should be enhanced by the improved health of our customers. It’s really fun to be bullish on the radio industry as we begin 2018; coming to work every day in an environment where there’s investment rather than cutting is dramatically more satisfying!