The recession has taken a toll on many aspects of the media business. But you could make the case that brands have suffered the most.
You can see this by expanding your view to consumer products. Many venerable brands have taken a beating due to a variety of factors, ranging from neglect, a lack of investment, and the march of technology.
This last factor has played a major role in reshaping "radio" as a brand, and along with it, some major stations that once dominated the ratings and the trade press landscape. They are shadows of their former selves, no longer great and powerful stations that towered over the communities they serve.
Avi Dan, CEO of Avidan Strategies posits that consumers are simply less loyal. And as the economy cratered, they look for better deals and new options, shucking some of their old brands and habits. As we know in the worlds of media gadgetry and entertainment, the choices seem to be growing exponentially, providing consumers with a lot of choice.
In that spirit, Dan offers five tips, originally posted on the Forbes website, for what smart marketers can do. My comments follow in italics:
1. Learn what consumers are thinking: Technology is an incredibly powerful tool when it comes to learning how and what consumers say when they are talking about a particular brand. The tools that let marketers do this range from a simple search on Twitter to sophisticated software packages that track the sentiment of what's being said by millions. Both offer greater insight into consumers than was ever available before technology became central to communications; and, fortunately, make it easier to understand how to strengthen loyalty.
This has been a difficult area for radio because of shrinking budgets, but I would suggest that even the reduced dollars spent on research may be missing the mark. Knowing what songs test has value to be sure; but knowing the extent to which your audience is wandering away to Pandora, Slacker, iTunes, YouTube and other music sources may provide more insight on consumer behavior. We are wrapping up our sixth annual Technology Poll and I can tell you that the findings are spectacular and may surprise you. Knowledge is indeed power.
2. Marketers need to reach consumers on multiple platforms: In a technology-infused age, consumers are constantly shifting and "multitasking," playing a multiplicity of roles simultaneously. The key is for marketers to be where their consumers are on the Web. While targeting people according to their Web-surfing behavior is part of this, it also involves being invited into consumers' increasingly fragmented lives. If a consumer complains about a brand online, the brand should be there, ready to assist. If you build an iPhone app, don't build it just because apps are the hot new marketing tool, but because the brand can offer something useful that can be delivered via technology. A game that has nothing to do with the brand doesn't do the trick; a portable recipe app that a harried mother can use while at the grocery store does.
Too often, radio operators put on the blinders when it comes to grasping how technology usage is changing. The "take it or leave it" attitude about accessing broadcast content is out-of-touch and dated. Consumers appreciate it when you give them the opportunity to enjoy your content on a new platform. In some ways, the cool image of the gadget itself even rubs off on your brand. It is fun to read The New York Times on a Kindle, and it doesn't diminish the value of the print edition. Similarly, giving your audience the chance to listen to your station on their smartphones is a treat that they savor. And Dan is right that these apps need to provide a utility or something cool or clever that enhances your brand, while making it easy to access your stream.
3. Engage the super influencers: As consumer-generated social media evolves, it has built its own hierarchy, one in which certain users have built powerful distribution channels on which to state their opinions on current events, their passions and brands. These Super Influencers might maintain a well-read blog, hundreds of Facebook friends or thousands of Twitter followers, but the result is the same: They have inordinate influence on how the rest of us think about brands, and on whether or not we might buy them.
Whether you're in diary or PPM world, your P1s and the listeners who happily spread the good news about your station are your most valuable assets. Too often, stations take their email databases for granted, abuse these special listeners, or simply spam them with emails that do nothing to meet their needs. If you wish to identify your "sneezers," the standard Net Promoter question can be used, something that has been a part of our Tech Polls for several years. You can run around after P3s and fringe listeners all you like, but if you don't take care of these "super influencers," your brand will inevitably suffer.
4. Experience instead of messaging: The best companies of our generation understand how engagement and positive customer experiences create brands. Google (GOOG - news - people) and Facebook are experiential brands, as are Zappos, Twitter, Netflix (NFLX - news - people), Amazon, Apple (AAPL - news - people), Starbucks (SBUX - news - people) and Nike (NKE - news - people). These companies understand that we are living in a world where consumer loyalty isn't formed in reaction to a message, but through a series of experiences over time that the brand and company create.
What is your "listener experience" all about? And it has nothing to do with the fact that you promise to play "10 in a row" or that you're "The Concert Authority." What is it like to interact with your brand? What happens when a listener calls the station with questions, drops by to pick up tickets they've won, sees your interns and your tent at an event, calls the request line, sends you an email, etc. Other companies that interface with the public spend millions on the experience because they realize the downside of angering customers. In radio, we barely consider this. But I can tell you that in the rare cases where programmers and managers place a high priority on servicing and pleasing listeners, it is not hard to stand out among the crowd in a good way.
5. Do well by doing good: Marketing is no longer an economic function alone, but a social force as well. Within minutes of the Haiti earthquake, donations requested on Twitter started flowing in via text messages in coordination with the phone company. Pepsi (PEP - news - people) bypassed the Super Bowl for the first time in 23 years, and instead of buying $3 million spots in the game, announced on its Facebook page that it will donate $20 million to worthy causes. Social ideology increasingly reinforces brand loyalty.
In the big scheme of things, radio does well. We've all seen the results of radio's efforts when disasters like Haiti or Katrina strike. But stations, DJs, and shows have a chance to have an impact on the local level when a cop is shot, a family suffers a tragedy, or an important charity in town is hurting. While big global brands will perform well for entities like the Red Cross, your stations and your team have the opportunity to make a difference where it counts - in the backyards and streets of your best customers.