Tag Archives: Tuesdays With Coleman

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starting to use plus-size models, while Victoria’s Secret stuck to its size zero models; the fashion show being seen as outdated; and the brand being seen as tone-deaf to changing attitudes.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!

 

 

 

10 Quotes from 100 Blogs

Tuesdays With Coleman

On October 10, 2017, we started our Tuesdays With Coleman blog series as a way to share branding, content and research strategy. Last week’s entry, “Seven Solutions for the Podcasting Brand Challenge,” was the final of three consecutive blogs about podcasting, centered around the increasingly popular Podcast Movement conference in Orlando.

It was also our 100th Tuesdays With Coleman blog.

We love a good benchmark, and 100 blogs feels like an opportunity to look back and mine some nuggets from the past couple of years. Since 100 quotes seems excessive, here are 10, curated from a wide range of topics, strategic advice and members of our team.

“We sometimes get too close to the product for our own good, and are unable to see it through the lens of our customers.”

Warren Kurtzman, in “Is Inside Thinking Blurring Your Strategic Vision?” explains the Coleman Insights principle of Outside Thinking and how to achieve results by changing your mindset.

“If Bill Belichick showed up to a station remote, what would he think of a station banner hastily hung behind a bored jock eating a cheeseburger?”

One of our most-read blogs, “What if Bill Belichick Programmed Your Radio Station?” features Jon Coleman imagining New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick as a radio station program director.

New England Patriots Bill Belichick

An aircheck session with Bill Belichick as your PD could get pretty intense.

“We’ve all become so hyper-focused on the now, the instant gratification of numbers, that it is easy to take your eye off the big picture.”

After attending a talk by marketer Seth Godin, I wrote “Direct Marketing Is Easy. Brand Marketing is Hard” to reinforce the value of brand marketing, despite its lack of trackability.

Seth Godin Internet Summit

Marketing expert Seth Godin

“The Trader Joe’s lesson is that you beat a leader not by being better. You win by finding the inherent weakness in their strength and creating your points of differentiation.”

In “The Branding Genius of Trader Joe’s,” Sam Milkman explores why Trader Joe’s is so profitable in an industry with traditionally low margins and how to apply the lessons to your brand.

Trader Joe's Hawaiian Shirts

“TV is looking for talent in new places and banking on that talent. Why can’t radio?”

In “When it’s Time to Hunt (for Talent), Go Outside,” Jessica Lichtenfeld makes the case that radio should look outside the industry to find fresh, new, memorable stars for the medium.

 

“Don’t confuse the lack of 90s music exposure with the desire for hearing 90s music.”

In “The 90s Music Research Conundrum,” John Boyne explains how compatibility, not appeal, influences 90s airplay on many Adult Contemporary and Classic Hits stations.

 

“It’s possible while you’re programming on intuition alone, your competition is making data-influenced decisions.”

In “How Research Won The Super Bowl,” Sam Milkman debunks the myth that Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was a crazy risk-taker in winning the 2018 Super Bowl, when in fact he used a combination of research and instinct to take down the Patriots.

Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson uses a blend of research and instinct

“There are a few iconic brands in every category and there isn’t much changing going on.”

In “Don’t Change Your Radio Station,” I explain how the instinct to “freshen things up” can be detrimental to brand growth.

 

“Chipotle doesn’t sell pancakes. Hip Hop stations don’t play Taylor Swift.”

In “Should I Play That Song On My Radio Station,” Jon Coleman warns that playing popular songs or even songs that test strongly on your station that don’t fit your brand is a slippery slope.

 

“The ultimate success of the industry will depend on its ability to build brands.”

Warren Kurtzman, in “Joe Rogan and the Podcasting Brand Challenge,” writes that while producing great content is very important, listeners won’t discover it if the brand isn’t strong.

Thanks for reading Tuesdays With Coleman. If you haven’t yet subscribed, we invite you to do so. If you have an idea for a topic you’d like us to cover, feel free to reply and let us know. It may just show up in one of the next 100 blogs.

 

 

 

 

Our Top 5 Blog Posts of 2018

Tuesdays With Coleman

Radio loves a good countdown.

WMCA-FM in New York was counting down the hottest singles all the way back in the 1950s.

WMCA-FM Countdown

Casey Kasem took the countdown format coast-to-coast with the debut of American Top 40 in July 1970 (on just seven stations!)

Countdowns have stood the test of time, from syndicated programming to the local “Most Requested,” Top 8 at 8 or Hot 9 at 9.

2018 marks the first full year of our Tuesdays With Coleman blog, providing tips and insights on branding, content and research strategy every Tuesday.

As we get ready to say farewell to 2018, it seems only fitting to highlight our five most-read blogs of the year in honor of the great radio countdowns of past and present.

With the assistance of Google Analytics, we’ve got the facts and figures and the list below (counted down, of course, from number five to number one.) Now, on with the countdown.

 

#5           Should I Play That Song on my Radio Station?  By Jon Coleman

In this blog, originally posted on September 25, 2018, Founder Jon Coleman explains that deciding which songs to play on your radio station isn’t always as clear as it seems. Jon describes how our Brand-Content MatrixSM and Acceptance-Fit Matrix can assist with your evaluation strategy, and reveals when it makes sense to take some extra risks.

Acceptance Fit Matrix

 

#4           Why Radio Stations Are Like Toy Stores  By Jay Nachlis

Associate Consultant Jay Nachlis wrote this blog on September 4, 2018, after FAO Schwarz announced the iconic toy brand would reopen in New York.

By revisiting his thoughts on why Toys R Us closed earlier in the year and examining new plans by FAO Schwarz, Jay discovers that the things that make toy stores appealing are strikingly similar to what makes radio stations appealing.

FAO Schwarz reopening

 

#3           The Branding Genius of Trader Joe’s  By Sam Milkman

While just about every Tuesdays With Coleman blog covers brand strategy, not all focus entirely on radio. This April 3, 2018 entry from Executive Vice President/Senior Consultant Sam Milkman highlights four reasons why Trader Joe’s has succeeded in the hugely competitive grocery space.

If you do work at a radio station, you’ll discover ways to carve out your own market position using lessons from Trader Joe’s.

Trader Joe's Hawaiian Shirts

#2           The 90s Music Research Conundrum  By John Boyne

Executive Vice President/Senior Consultant John Boyne reveals the reason why Adult Contemporary and Classic Hits radio stations are playing such small percentages of 90s music, despite the fact that much of the target demographic grew up listening to it.

Madonna

The center lane of Pop music, driven by artists like Madonna, began to fragment in the 90s

#1           10 PPM Tips for Program Directors: 10 Years Later  By Jon Coleman

10 years after Arbitron rolled out the Portable People Meter to the Top 10 US markets, Jon revisits a dos and don’ts list he wrote for radio program directors in the early days of PPM.

This blog republishes the 10 tips, with brand new commentary from Jon looking back at the advice through a 2018 lens.

Arbitron Nielsen Portable People Meter PPM

An early version of Arbitron’s Portable People Meter (PPM)

All of us at Coleman Insights wish you a wonderful holiday and Happy New Year! If you haven’t yet subscribed for Tuesdays With Coleman, click here and you won’t miss a single post in 2019.

“Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars.” – Casey Kasem