One of the lessons of the new media world is how category leaders don't own the franchise, and dominance is far from guaranteed. In radio, we have become accustomed to seeing the same radio stations on top of the heap for years - or even decades - KGO in San Francisco, KMOX in St. Louis, and in medium markets, stations like WIVK in Knoxville - all examples of call letters that you always see in that #1 position. (Of course, PPM has had a lot to say about the "new order" in many markets.)
Even President Obama has felt this pain. He took office with an incredible 78 approval rating, but has watched his poll numbers drop precipitously each quarter. He was walking on water in January, but even strong leaders can never take their constituencies for granted in this fast-paced environment.
Consider MySpace, which Rupert Murdoch bought for $580 million. Today, it has been totally eclipsed by Facebook, and while social networking is white hot, MySpace is yesterday's news. Murdoch could not get anywhere near what he paid for MySpace, a one-time leader that has seen its dominance rapidly deteriorate in the past year.
Then there's Yahoo. Remember that before Google, that's the service that most of used for various portals and search (along with Lycos and others). Now that Google owns the world, Yahoo is left to try to market its way out of this mess. And they're not doing a great job of it because all the TV advertising in the world isn't going to change the minds of consumers. They know what they know, and all the glitz and glamour of Yahoo's newest effort is just a bunch of marketing noise.
So, what does this mean for your station, your morning show, and your brand? Consumers are all driving much faster than 55 these days, making their way through products, gadgets, restaurants, and brands. To help the filtering process, they have more and better evaluative tools, from online reviews to social networks to good old word of mouth. If a new product or service does not make a good impression, consumers move on. If they've been an existing customer of a brand, but recent experiences have been underwhelming, they don't hang around for long.
If your station has been mailing it in, not researching the target, and just hoping that your audience base will simply stay tuned because they always have, think again. Even in a tough economy where resources are tight, service, quality, and innovation have to do more than hit the minimum standards.
More than ever, brands have to earn their stripes every day. They have to invent, morph, and change with the times. Wal-Mart's book pricing attack on Amazon's dominance is another reminder that leaders don't get a free pass.
An old Ziebart campaign reminded us that "Rust never sleeps." And it is true that when erosion sets in, it's tough to stop the bleeding. "Trust never sleeps" either, and stations cannot take their relationships with listeners for granted.