Over the last couple of days, we have talked about the importance of branding, even in the digital world of search and clicks. Does it really matter whether you have a great brand when consumers simply looking for the cheapest price online?
Brands do matter, and in the radio biz, they are especially important. In diaries, of course, the recall-driven system has always been perception-based. So, back in the day, radio typically did a solid job of marketing and building brands. Many of today's venerable stations are still resting on laurels that were created decades ago.
But in PPM, the sense from many broadcasters is that branding no longer matters. Consumers will somehow find your station, and the amount of "incidental" listening you receive will be sufficient enough to drive cume.
That couldn't be further from the truth. Listeners need to know about you, be aware of what you do, and have a positive impression of your station in order for you to be a true player in PPM - and in their entertainment hierarchies. That's where branding comes into play, but the lack of outside marketing (along with poor on-air reinforcement) is putting many stations at risk.
And as we've discussed in the previous two posts, consumer experience is an issue, too. Over the past several years of cutbacks, corner-cutting, and the tactical removal of listener benefits (along with the not-so-subtle addition of more advertising and promotions), consumers know what's going on in radio.
While many stations continue to test their music, not enough broadcast companies are testing radio. The combination of poor corporate radio images, coupled with perceptions of excess clutter, and the lack of live, compelling radio that matters has created a brand crisis for the medium.
Our company does a considerable amount of media research outside the radio space. We first saw signs of "brand rot" with young people in "The Bedroom Project" more than three years ago. And today, in study after study, radio's place in the media usage pecking order has slipped noticeably. Radio is "there," when consumers are in their cars for the most part, but the lack of love, passion, enthusiasm, and energy is alarming.
It starts with investment - in branding asset and liability research, in staff and personnel investment, in customer service, and finally, in marketing. Brands like NPR, KROQ, WMMR, KGO, Bob & Tom, and WTOP didn't just happen. They are the result of decades of investment in product, marketing, and branding.
And every top manager at all these franchises is well aware of the fragility of their brands, and the need to continue investing in them.
Ford figured it out. As the middle child in the Big Three, they poured money into consumer research, hired a world class CEO, started to build quality vehicles, developed consumer electronic tools like SYNC, didn't take the government handout, and marketed their success. It's always easier to be an upstart like Hyundai than an old tired behemoth like Ford. But turning a brand around can be done.
Radio has some strong assets, but the days when it could live off the good will of public service events during natural disasters has long ended. In a fickle, fast-changing environment, it's about what's happening now.
About the importance of understanding the consumer experience and not taking loyalty for granted.
About creating cool products that people crave.
About backing them up with the confidence of strong warranties.
The good news is that there is a lot we can learn from Steve Jobs.
The bad news is that we are competing against him.