Where Exactly Are We?
January 6, 2015
Ability is what you're capable of accomplishing. Motivation determines how you approach your capability. Attitude determines how well you'll do it. But here's the conflict: Radio is as universal as water; sampled by 244 million Americans weekly. And yet within the clerisy of ownerships there's far too little emphasis on skill development. Hardly a revelation and more of a "yah-so-what" yawn, with a substantial number of programming clients in all size markets, we can point to a distressingly growing shortfall.
For example, many programmers and their talent ranks lack an understanding of where they are on the marketing warfare map, how to strategically conduct themselves from year to year, or worse, how to sort it out. PPM has afforded us a dark/light contradiction: "Don't worry about the old stuff like branding the format since it all comes down to a meter" weighed against the reality that even in a PPM environment, out of sight, out of mind, for the time people aren't listening to their radio (yes, even "heavy-deep" P-1 listeners don't afford their favorite station limitless devotion of time and attention).
Decisions determine destiny. How can we make them if we don't know our real plot on the market's battle map? Let's review.
The Rule of Leadership: In most formats, history proves the first brand in that format remains the leader. So, if you base your competitive strategy on "better" you'll likely fail. Focus groups show us listeners can't really identify "better" but they can articulately describe "different."
The Rule of the Mind: Diary or Meter, the Nielsen battle is fought in the mind. PPM shows first-preference listeners drift off by percentage over a period of weeks; like the tides they come and they go, not maliciously of course but by their nature. Memory fueled by marketing reactivates lapsed listening. But if a perception doesn't exist in a listener's mind, it just doesn't exist. And you can't change listeners' minds without a lot of money and a lot of luck.
The Rule of Focus: You can only occupy one place in a listener's mind; so you have to sacrifice to gain. The best brands we know do this by identifying their core users (Starbucks, Nike, ESPN), and then connect them to a unique phrase that's credible.
The Rule of Repetition: Even in metered markets you'll find the WTOPs of the world with high hourly brand-counts meant to educate new cumers and reinforce P1s. You can't overdo a good brand based on a kept-promise. You can't burn out your position, nor overplay high-testing titles (at least in archetypical formats).
The Rule of Duality: The third or fourth stations in any format will fail. Ultimately every format becomes a two runner marathon.
The Rule of Resource: As hard as it may be for staff and leadership to acknowledge, without adequate resources, you'll fail. Without them, your position must evolve to a "Guerilla" fighter where you can play by different rules.
It's the job of an innovative leader to find a way to compete. It helps if the company shares these values and recognizes that we can't control the wind speed or the moon's gravitational pull. Life's challenges aren't meant to paralyze you, but instead help you and your company discover exactly who you are. Your real job is to see your position not as it is ... but what it can become.