Burns: Proper Marketing Keys Format Flip Success
May 15, 2008 at 1:01 PM (PT)
The current tight economic times are lowering the success ratio of format flips to entities such as JACK and MOViN’, ALAN BURNS & ASSOC. CEO ALAN BURNS noted in an exclusive ALL ACCESS interview. He pointed out that in order for any formats flip to succeed, now more than ever station management needs to support it with an appropriate marketing campaign. "Driving new stations into a market’s awareness has always been a challenge," said BURNS, "Now, the proliferation of digital media competition coupled with dramatically decreased marketing budgets is making it harder than ever.
In tough economic times like these it may make short-term financial sense to cut expenses, but it makes launching new stations extremely difficult
"The one station that recently left the MOViN format had that problem," BURNS continued. "Management originally committed to a good budget for launch marketing, but then wound up actually spending only 13% of it due to budget cuts. In tough economic times like these it may make short-term financial sense to cut expenses, but it makes launching new stations extremely difficult. The economy may have changed, but the laws of marketing haven’t.
"Look at what has happened with the JACK and BOB stations. Those that succeeded handsomely had tremendous launch and ongoing marketing. Those didn’t get enough marketing couldn’t break through the markets’ consciousness."
Certainly it’s possible for some format flips -- BURNS noted Rhythmic Top 40 as an example -- to succeed on smaller marketing budgets, but management has to have the patience to wait longer for results -- "if they ever succeed," BURNS warned. "With anyone who’s interested in the MOVIN’ format, for instance, we make a very strong point that you really have to market this thing because it’s an AC format. There are times where the client’s perception of a sufficient marketing budget is not the level that’s actually required.
"There’s a tendency for operators to look just at the music a station is playing, and think that if they do that right, the new format will be fine," he added. "With MEDIABASE, music is easy to look at and evaluate, but there’s no readily available database for marketing. So operators don’t see, and thus tend to downplay, the level of marketing that went into successful launches."
Execute ... And Do Mornings
Of course, there are other keys to a MOVIN’s or JACK’s success. "The reason that the SEATTLE MOVIN’ has been most successful, outside of doing a wonderful job on marketing for awareness, is that they've had great people doing great execution, and they started out with bit of an awareness advantage, in that they launched the format on Hot AC cume."
Another is having a quality morning show. "Unfortunately, some people think they can save money by not having any live announcers, and drag their feet on adding personalities to morning shows," BURNS said. "Yet KQMV/SEATTLE has a tremendous morning show, as does the MOVIN’ in SAN FRANCISCO ... and we expect big things from the new morning show in DALLAS."
When to launch a morning show on such a format? "There are two groups of thought on that -- either have it on the format launch date, or wait until the format and music image is established, then add the morning show," he replied. "I tend to think the latter is the better way to go."