The other day, we took two of our grandchildren to a wildlife safari park here in Virginia. It was a simply magical day. But that’s not the part of the story I want to share. It is that both kids were wearing their Boston Red Sox baseball caps.
As we were getting ready to leave we met one of the animal caretakers who screamed “YES!” Then a second later, she exclaimed, “They’re both Red Sox Fans!” Instantly, there was a bond between complete strangers.
I’m convinced that Minnesota Vikings fans bleed purple. I know one whose whole wardrobe is virtually branded with Vikings colors and logos; even his lawn mower.
Sports franchises truly understand the power of their brand and building their fan base.
So, whatever happened to this sort of thing with radio stations?
Jerry Lee recently sold his only radio station, WBEB in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was 55-years ago this past May that Jerry and his partner David Kurtz put the station on the air. It signed on as WDVR. In the 1980s the call letters were changed to WEAZ and the station was branded as “EZ 101.” The station brand was not only well known, but fixed tuned FM radios were given out by the radio station to area businesses to play the station in their stores and offices.
When the station updated its format, and changed its call letters again, this time to WBEB and branded itself as “B101.1,” giant bees appeared at events all over the “City of Brotherly Love.”
The End of an Era
Marlin Taylor (no relation) was there from the beginning and recently blogged about the station’s sale to Entercom. His article was titled “End of an Era.” You can read it HERE
“While I pretty much grew up with a ‘Can Do’ attitude…seeing Jerry in action confirmed that staying pro-active and constantly on the offensive were keys to a meaningful and effective life! If you need proof, just take a look at the 55-year track record of the station at 101.1 on the FM dial in Philadelphia.
There’s no question that Jerry was and is a promoter, pure and simple! And, yes, he’s a Futurist…a person who studies the future and makes predictions about it based on current trends and conditions. I would also add…always looking down the road to see what challenges and opportunities lay ahead, then utilizing (his) assets to most effectively counter-act or benefit from them.”
As Jerry changed his brand over the years to keep his station’s programming and image in vogue with the times and his target listeners, he understood the power of familiarity in attracting and keeping a radio audience tuned to his radio station. Mark Ramsey suggests that “familiarity IS preference.”
Most recently, Jerry rebranded his station as “101.1 MoreFM.” This change, like all the others, was promoted in every imaginable way and became familiar to listeners virtually overnight.
Once upon a time, you couldn’t drive in New Jersey without seeing a WOBM-FM bumper sticker on the car driving in front of you. They were everywhere. They made this station VERY familiar and Paul Most, a former GM of WOBM-FM, always used to say “When you can’t be heard, you’ve got to be seen.”
Once upon a time, all radio listening was recorded using a diary, kept by a listener for seven days. Years of diary reviews at the Arbitron headquarters in Maryland proved to me that the radio stations most familiar to their listeners got the most “votes” from their fans.
When PPM measurements were introduced, the importance of unaided recall seemed to take a back seat with radio operators. Best Practices in large radio companies replaced the old tried and true ways of doing things. Radio promotion, except for over a station’s own airwaves, was cut from station budgets.
New Media Platforms
The shiniest new media platform on the block is the smart speaker. A recent research study, “The Smart Audio Report” from NPR and Edison Research, showed that traditional OTA radio was seeing the time people spent with radio, being the most disrupted. People in the survey said traditional AM/FM radio was the thing most replaced by audio listening via their smart speaker.
Having now owned three Amazon Echo smart speakers for six months, I can tell you Alexa is very addictive. But she’s also very precise. To have her serve up what you want to hear, you need to say it correctly, in the exact way she is programmed to understand, or else she will serve up some really bizarre things.
My household pretty much matches the research on why audio consumers love their smart speakers: 1) it’s fast, 2) it’s convenient and 3) it provides great choice.
In an interactive voice world, if people are familiar with your brand, they will ask for it by name. If not, the digital assistant will make that choice for you. That will make branding more critical than ever.
This means that the way radio promoted itself to its listeners back before PPM – the unaided diary days – will be the way it will need to promote itself in a world of voice control devices.
“Brands are a risk of being marginalized in a voice driven world, so brand marketing may matter even more.” -Bryan Moffett, COO, National Public Media
“Brands now have a chance to behave like human beings, talking, understanding, guiding, empathizing…voice is the single biggest vector of emotion, emotion is the biggest driver of preference. This is a true 1:1 marketing opportunity and a chance to build relationships like never before.” -Mark Paul Taylor, Chief Experience Officer, Global DCX Practice, Capgemini
Jerry Lee never deviated from his proven path of spending on promotion and delivering a quality product.
Everything old is new again, when it comes to branding a winning radio operation.
3 responses to “Whatever happened to…”
When you play the hits & promote the hits, you’re station’s a hit. And you define the hits. Thanks, Prof. DT.
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Growing up in the 1960’s in rural Kansas when there were fewer radio stations up and down the dial than today, my parents, grandparents, and others identified a radio station by it’s city of license. If they heard something on KSAL, they referred to it as “Salina.” KNCK was called “Concordia.” KMMJ was “Grand Island” and even though Topeka had several radio stations, only WIBW reached North Central Kansas and it was known as “Topeka.” Fast forward a few years and I began my radio career at “Concordia” while a senior in high school. Fifteen years later I was blessed to buy KNCK with some other partners. During a part of our time of ownership, we were an affiliate of ABC’s Memories format and like other affiliates, we positioned the station by its music “Memories 1390 KNCK.” Eventually the plug was pulled on the format because of too few affiliates and we had to create a new brand even though the radio station’s “anchor tenants” were unchanged from Day 1 back in 1954, local news at 7-8-Noon-5, severe weather coverage, and the rest of typical full-service hometown content. I LEARNED MY LESSON and from that day forward, we became “Concordia Radio KNCK.” Even though we switched to Jones and later Dial Global, the brand remained the same. Eventually we dropped syndicated programming in favor of local programming. We sold the station last year after nearly 28 years of ownership.
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Thank You Joe for sharing your radio story and adding to the conversation. -DT