Are you “Arbitron-Rated #1”?

A No-Nonsense Marketing Smart Tip July 14, 2004 You’ve heard stations use the phrase “Arbitron-Rated #1,” haven’t you? Thanks to a loophole in the official rules, you can indeed use the “A” word on your air as long as you do so carefully and factually and without intentionally or accidentally biasing diarykeepers in current or future surveys. So why don’t more stations use language like this? Beats me. They should.

Why use the “A” word on the air?

Arbitron tells me the “A” word used on air doesn’t bias the ratings process when presented in reference to the prior results of the survey – as long as there’s no discussion of methodology or encouragement to participate. That means, within constraints, it’s legal.

But can you really gain no advantage by using the term “Arbitron” on air? The phrase “Arbitron-rated #1” connects the word “Arbitron” to the word “ratings” and everyone understands what ratings are. Thus anyone who has an Arbitron diary knows how important his or her “vote” now is. Hearing that the majority of diary recipients vote for Station X could conceivably have a subtle but powerful psychological effect on listeners.

It’s the Principle of Social Proof

Psychologist Robert Cialdini has written extensively on the importance of “Social Proof.” In essence, it means that we see behavior as “correct” in any given situation because we see others behaving that same way. It’s why you can’t forget to put out the trash on trash day – because all your neighbors put out THEIR trash. What kind of computer should I buy? Let’s see what my friends are using and ask them. We don’t check Consumer Reports, we check to see who’s number one.

This is why it pays to be “the leading” or “#1” in any category. Leadership suggests performance and provides security and confidence. That which is most popular must be popular for a reason. Everyone else is doing it, so it must be the right thing to do.

It’s the Power of Suggestion

The repeated mention of the phrase “Arbitron-Rated #1” educates listeners. And when they get a diary they will know how their peers have voted. And that’s when the principle of social proof kicks in. Do I follow or fight? Others who get these diaries rate this station #1. Everyone else is doing it, shouldn’t I?

This doesn’t mean listenership is faked. But it is a subtle psychological technique that can move listeners minds, behavior, and recall in your station’s direction and give your station more of the credit it deserves. If you can find a daypart or demo or format to be “Arbitron-rated #1” in, then think about proclaiming it. Just stay on the legal side of that fine line and don’t lie – you WILL be found out.

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