This Is The Most Dangerous Word In Radio
March 24, 2015
"Branding" is the most dangerous word in radio.
Because it is the most easily abused.
Is branding valuable? Yes. In fact, for many companies, their brand is the most valuable asset on their balance sheet.
Who knows? A brand is an "intangible" asset. Which is not to say that there aren't an awful lot of accountants who make it their job to nail down the exact value of a brand. But how do you determine how much revenue Coca-Cola would lose if the company changed its name to something else? What should be included when valuing a brand and what shouldn't? How much value does that logo really provide to shareholders?
There are, in fact, several methods for valuing brands, but these basically just turn the valuation from a guess into an educated guess. And for those of us who aren't accountants with years of experience in brand valuation, throwing around the term "branding" is particularly dangerous because our guesses are a lot less educated.
"Giles, I don't need to see the math." —Buffy the Vampire Slayer
In fact, sometimes we invoke the word "branding" precisely because it is an intangible asset. We like the word because it allows us to claim that something has value without doing all the hard work of quantifying that value:
"You should buy ads on our radio station."
"Why? I can't tell if it has an impact on my sales."
"Because it's great branding."
Or my favorite:
"We need to be active on social media."
"Why? I can't tell if it has an impact on the station's ratings."
"Because it's great branding."
In other words, some people invoke the value of branding because they know what they're talking about. Other people invoke the value of branding because they know that they don't know what they're talking about. "Branding" is an easy word to hide behind.
For decades, people could get away with their abuse of the B-word because there were few alternatives for assessing the value of marketing initiatives. But the internet, coupled with analytic tools, is changing that. For clients, the importance of branding is being usurped by ROI:
"Radio branding is great and all, but when I spend my marketing dollars on Facebook ads, I can see exactly how much revenue I make in return."
This will become especially true for smaller companies. If you are a multi-billion dollar conglomerate, you can afford to spend some money on intangible results. But when your annual marketing budget is only $20,000, you're going to want make sure that you know how every one of those dollars is performing.
But it's not just your station's clients that should be demanding this. Your station should be demanding it, too. When your station invests in marketing, it should be looking at tangible results. You shouldn't be tweeting because it's good branding, you should be tweeting because it produces a measurable effect. You shouldn't be blogging because it's good branding, you should be blogging because it produces a measurable effect. You shouldn't be podcasting because…well, you get the idea.
Don't get me wrong, these activities also have some branding value, but I haven't gotten the slightest idea what it is. And unless you're a accountant who specializes in brand valuation, you don't either.