In the Dow Jones Industrial Average's worst year since the (gasp) Great Depression, two stocks stand out as lone exceptions - Wal-Mart and McDonald's. Both companies' stock prices actually went up last year.
What can we learn from this finding, and how does it apply to our own businesses?
In tough times, consumers run to familiarity and economy. In the case of both Wal-Mart and McDonald's, both companies understand the times we're enduring, and emphasizing their value to Americans who are increasingly tightening their spending. "I'm Lovin' It" speaks directly to getting familiar food on the cheap, and Wal-Mart's image was built on amazingly low prices.
Radio can benefit from this trend toward cheap and reliable, because that's what our medium is all about. We're free, wireless, and easy to use. No subscription fee, nothing to buy, familiar, reliable.
In our contesting, how can we help listeners get through the tough times? Making mortgage payments, helping listeners with their utility bills, and contributing to getting their credit card debt down are all direct paths to the emotional triggers that are driving consumer choice and anxiety in '09.
And with local concerts and entertainment, radio has the chance to provide free (or low-dough) outlets for listeners who can't afford $9 to see a movie, much less $75 to see an NBA game.
Finally, sales at the local level often miss the boat. For months now, Paul has sent out several mailers about the importance of couponing. And of course, Americans are now clipping coupons and looking for deals at unprecedented levels. Radio can and should participate in this phenomenon. In fact, why not lead it?
There are basic tools that stations can employ to activate the coupon psyche, generate sales, and energize revenue for key local clients. Those databases you've been aggregating are marketing gold - but if and only if you utilize them strategically and respectfully. Lately, we've seen some bad examples of stations misusing listener databases, which are the quickest way to drive the audience away, and generate "unsubscribes."
The tools are there. But they have to be utilized intelligently. Just like Wal-Mart, McDonald's, and Subaru (who we highlighted earlier in the week), there will be winners in 2009. Will your company be one of them?