As we wind down the year, our blog is looking back at some of the better posts, based on page views and feedback. It is interesting that this month, “Black Swan,” is a hit movie. And last summer, we posted a blog about the White iPhone (now supposedly coming out in the spring of 2011) and the importance of building interest in brands, shows, and products. As we pointed out in that post, the White iPhone is actually a Black Swan. Read on, and enjoy the last week of the year.
Apple has announced that its highly anticipated white iPhone’s release has been delayed. It is fascinating how this company can create demand in so many different ways.
What is so different about the white iPhone besides the obvious?
No one knows. And that’s what makes us curious. That’s what makes us want one.
Those are the things that stand out and get noticed. Every time a new and exciting gadget comes out, its bleeding edge owner enjoys a few days or at most, a couple of weeks of “Oh wow, you have a new i___?” before the novelty fades into the reality that you actually know lots of people who stood in line at the Apple store to buy the new new thing.
But the lesson here is that something truly different stands out. That was the essence of the Seth Godin book about the remarkability of a cow that is purple, and its truth is even more poignant in today’s fast-moving, highly volatile marketplace.
For marketers and brand managers, the need to be different and to stand out is often at odds with counter marketing messages that urge consistency and safety.
Such is the case with PPM and radio.
Programmers can focus on viewing their radio stations as leaky buckets, plugging as many holes as often as possible to keep meters locked onto their encoded signals.
But what is the downside risk of creating those black swans or purple cows in an environment where most PDs are trying to excel at “minute-by-minute programming?”
Gord Hotchkiss, president of Enquiro, wrote about Black Swans in a recent MediaPost article, and the book by the same name by Nicholas Taleb. It was the topic of one of our posts just over a year ago (7/14/09) because of its importance in the overall media/marketing explosion.
The Taleb book states that Black Swans have three important qualities:
- They have to be outliers, falling outside of our expectations
- They have to carry maximum impact
- They force us to change our views in order to understand and explain them
In radio; Black Swans have been with us for decades. Christmas music, Jack-FM, Howard Stern, Classic Rock, Rush Limbaugh. When they first came on the scene, they were met with skepticism, doubt, and amazement. But they were all noticed.
And as they became successful and proliferated, they became part of the accepted norm, forcing broadcasters to continue to create new ways to get the consuming public’s attention. From Black Swan to mass appeal.
But when you think of it, what was the last Purple Cow in radio you can recall?
What Black Swans have suddenly appeared over the last decade?
When have you totally felt your world rocked by something, someone – a format, a personality, a promotion, a tactic – where it forced you to rethink all those “givens” you learned earlier in your careers?
That’s why a balance is needed in radio circles, and why broadcast companies need to continue to exhort, cajole, and motivate their brand managers, market managers, and programmers to dig deep to dream up and imagine those Black Swans. And give them the freedom to try something new, even if it ends in failure.
Making fewer mistakes is not a recipe for success, nor is taking fewer risks. Wayne Gretzky reminds us that “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.”
Playing “Jet Airliner” one more time may be smart for PPM maintenance. And that next tactical - but boring and unimaginative - $1,000 giveaway may create another listening occasion.
But they will do nothing to give an increasingly fickle public the sense that radio can still hit the long ball, that radio still matters, and that the medium still can excite, delight, thrill, and surprise. Consumers need to know that radio can still make magic.
And create a Black Swan.
Or a white iPhone.