Revisiting the Field of Dreams
May 17, 2011
"I don't understand it. This is a really good product." Echoing through the halls of tormented media management, this plaintive remark is heard more and more. Many of the radio failures we've come upon share the same pathology -- seemingly good ideas still sitting in the bleachers at The Field of Dreams.
With the passage of time one would expect we'd learn that consumers just don't commit much time paying super-close attention to radio (or any other product, for that matter). It makes little sense to plan a format launch, spend money on research, consulting and personnel, only to do virtually no marketing to support it. Like the movie namesake, the fever-dream approach of "If you build it, they will come" usually ensures the battle is lost before it starts. The marketing cemetery is filled with great ideas and grand schemes left unsupported.
Many non-essential products like radio simply don't pass the test of urgent or need-apparent. "Non-essential" means they didn't pay for our service. Focus groups remind us how relatively little attention people pay to radio as a product. Long ago, Marshall McLuhan offered a comparison between "hot" and "cool" mediums. People pay close attention to Survivor or Idol, but at happy hour they're not likely to wistfully reminisce about the incredible five-in-a-row-set you played in afternoon drive. Unfortunately, many of us insist on ignoring this universal truth.
In order to win the left frontal lobe, you're required to remind people of your value through relevance, simplicity of core message, and targeting that goes to the heart of where your core constituent is likely to be found. Too many programmers believe a diet of slick phrases and production tricks accomplish this end. Instead, clear, creative-but-simple communication works every time if vividly and repeatedly circulated to the right target. "Vividly and repeatedly" does not infer two billboards and a week of cable TV.
If you're an established French restaurant, don't add a Friday night fish-fry. If you're a soft AC, tell your audience you're the Lite Rock or Soft Rock brand. You may be thinking, "This is basic positioning 101... I already know this stuff."
If so, why has PPM shown us that "Phantom Cume" is far more acute than when measured through traditional methodology? In short, a lot more people are out there exposed to radio stations than actually attributed; some growth can come from your outer-cume.
We once believed top-of-mind shortfall was a vague condition, we now know it's a tipping point between ratings success and failure. Without addressing external marketing and smarter targeting, simply because you built it, they most assuredly will not come.
If your talent can't profile the listener, can't identify your format's core promise, or are unable to articulate your station's specific difference (on which everything turns), you have the agenda for the next great staff meeting.