Is Your Radio Brand a Commodity?

Commodities are the sad sacks of marketing. And brandSTOKE today has a great post on how to tell if your product – even your radio product – is a commodity.

  • Do you emphasize price in your marketing? In the radio context, do you argue that radio is great because it’s “free”?
  • Do you emphasize convenience? That is, is being readily available the best argument you can think of for your brand – or your distribution channel?
  • Do you emphasize “table-stakes” attributes? That is, images that are owned by all or are un-ownable. ¬†“Continuous music” comes to mind.
  • Do you mimic your competitors?
  • Do you create clever names and logos for universally available features?
  • Do you listen to the echo chamber, the chorus of “here’s-how-we-do-things” that reverberates throughout every company and industry?

If you answered “yes” to all these questions, then you are a commodity.

I would add more, of course:

  • Do you depend on historical habit as the key to your future greatness?
  • Do you see your brand as integral to its primary channel of distribution?
  • Are you named after brands that exist in hundreds of other radio markets, now that it’s so easy for me to find all those other stations online (unless you’re a national brand, of course)?
  • Are you dependent primarily – or exclusively – on music for your audience story?

The problem with commodities is not that they don’t rank high in Arbitron. ¬†They might.

The problem is that they are not defensible when habits or technology or competitors change.

Commodities are vulnerable to disaster.

* = required field
  • i’m going to interpret the tumble-weeds blowing though the comment section on this post as a big fat “YES – my station is a commodity”.

    The poignant follow up question might be – “do you care?”

    I’m convinced the industry at large doesn’t.

    If Arbitron rewards it – no one cares if it’s a commodity station or something truly special.

    Commodity stations might be vulnerable to disaster – but they’re also cheap and can be flipped quick to follow changing tides.

    Building connection and meaning in a community is unruly, takes too long, is difficult to manage from afar, and worse of all – expensive.

    Oh, just because I can articulate it – doesn’t mean I agree with it.


  • That is certainly true in many – but not all – quarters, Jeff.

    I did a presentation the other day that included a section on the rather pernicious influences of a ratings methodology that rewards passive exposure rather than intentional consumption. The results in many cases are neither pretty nor on-trend with consumers, clients, or technology trends.

  • Don Keith

    Mark, this may be the most important post you have ever made! No hyperbole here. At a time when broadcasters most need to understand branding, I see few who do. Branding is NOT “The most and best music with fewer commercials!” But ask the next ten radio operators to define their brand and see what you get. Or even worse, ask them what their listeners and–more importantly–their potential listeners think the station’s brand is.

    Don Keith

  • Thanks Don! I appreciate the comments!

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