03/25

Radio is Bad at Technology, but…

All right, let’s just say it.

Radio is really bad at technology.

Sure, we can mess with Twitter and Facebook and YouTube, but your five-year-old has mastered these.

Being able to function in the presence of technology with something less than the capacity of a pre-teen is not the same as being good at technology from the perspective of a brand.

Technology today is helping to broaden the definition of brands and transform them into experiences. In fact, the future of brands is as experiences across media and platforms.

That’s why Nike’s fuelband makes sense for a company that sells shoes. Because while Nike sells shoes, that’s not what you buy.  You buy fitness or endurance or wellness or comfort or a competitive edge or whatever else you want the ticket to your particular goal to read.

You buy the shoes not just because of their style but because they’re part of a larger experience that satisfies your desires in interesting, engaging, vivid ways. It’s the experience, stupid.

Now nobody ever assumed the company that makes shoes would necessarily be the company that’s great at technology, but Nike either grew or acquired or partnered to develop this capability, so today technology is as central to the company’s DNA as any pair of shoelaces on any shoe.

Radio can do this, too.

Partners abound.

But it begins with recognizing that your brand is more than your station and more than your stream – it’s the center of an experience that has less to do with the brand itself than the way it intersects with the lives of its consumers.

Because while radio may be bad at technology, radio can be superb at humanity.

It was interesting to watch the USA Today video on how the auto dashboard is changing and how the “new face” of radio includes new competitors while also locking in all the stuff folks take for granted. According to Russ Johnson, an Executive VP for Pioneer, “AM/FM Radio in the car is still going to be very important for the consumer.  Localized delivery of sports, local personalities, music content, news…It’s going to be very difficult for globalized sources to provide that access in a speedy way to the consumer.”

Note that Russ didn’t say “Radio plays an uninterrupted selection of somebody else’s music – who doesn’t want that?” Nor did he say “Radio has techno-doo-dads and bells and whistles you can’t find anywhere else.” No, he’s focused not on the utilitarian aspects of the medium or any presumed technological advantage. Instead, Russ nailed it: It’s about better humanity. Relevant sports, personalities, news, mixed with music – this isn’t the formula of Pandora, it’s the formula of radio.

So what happens when you take that humanity advantage (assuming you haven’t squandered it or cut it from your budget) and leverage it in new ways with technology?

Done right, you get an experience. An interesting, engaging, and vivid experience.

Isn’t that what the Dave Ramsey show is?  The radio show isn’t the brand, Dave is. And every “line extension” is another effort to create a new experience that moves consumers.

How can you stop thinking of your brand as the ugly luddite step-sister and start thinking of it as the foundation of a compelling consumer experience?

How can you stop thinking of your brand as a channel of distribution and start thinking of it as a destination for unique content and unique experiences?

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  • Ryan Williams

    Ries and Trout always preached against doing line extensions of basically any kind. Has the world completely changed?

  • http://www.markramseymedia.com Mark Ramsey

    We definitely need to update our reading lists. But my use of the term “line extension” is imprecise. At issue is what your category really is. If your category is a frequency for somebody else’s content, good luck to you. If you are Dave Ramsey, why would you ever stop at a radio show?

  • Ryan Williams

    I’m wasn’t necessarily advocating Positioning as the correct strategy in today’s media landscape (although the book has a lot of good ideas). In years past though it has been heavily used in radio circles and “line extensions” is not a commonly used term. I think you are using it to mostly mean something other than what was discouraged in the book. It’s also worth noting that P&G (which is the authors’ favorite example) has been opening up recently to more line extensions (in the traditional sense) of their various brands.

  • http://www.markramseymedia.com Mark Ramsey

    Even Ries’s daughter has disavowed more than a few points from those books, rightly and very often wrongly.

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