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Awareness Doesn’t Matter

A No-Nonsense Marketing Smart Tip September 22, 2004

We do a lot of marketing to justify building awareness for our stations and lots more to solve the phantom problem of so-called phantom cume. Meanwhile it’s all a vast waste of time, effort, money, and strategic focus.

The Chicken or the Egg

We need awareness, it is argued, so awareness can translate to cume which can translate to P1 and quarter-hours. This is what we assume, but it’s all wrong.

Look at the statistics and you’ll clearly see that stations with strong P1 scores tend to have the highest awareness, but which came first, the awareness or the fans? I say FANS come first, and “awareness” comes from fans, not vice versa. Radio, after all, is fairly unique in that it is FREE and EASY to listen to. Most stations, in fact, are discovered by word-of-mouth and random dial-surfing, NOT by the kind of awareness we design too much of our marketing to generate. In our zeal to create awareness we forget that the game is really about “trial” and “preference.” The goal of “awareness,” therefore, is a complete waste of time.

But what about “Phantom Cume”?

“Phantom Cume” is that notion that there are folks who listen to us, but don’t remember they listen to us in order to give us Arbitron credit. Are those people out there? Sure they are. But who are these people, exactly? And should we spend our marketing dollars to influence their top-of-mind recall?

People who say they listen but don’t recall doing so on an unaided basis are invariably marginal, peripheral listeners. The kind of folks who provide barely any quarter-hours at all. In fact, the definition of people who can’t remember listening to your station is people who provide almost no listening to it. Targeting these folks is like targeting cold zips with direct mail. Fish where the fish are, gang.

What an Awareness Problem Really Is

If you have an Awareness problem what you really have is a “no reason to try” problem or a “no reason to prefer” problem. Focusing your marketing on awareness is playing the wrong game altogether.

For any mature station, a “recall” problem means people either don’t like your station or don’t understand why they should like it. And “phantom cume” means ditto. It turns out that nothing creates fans and erases phantoms like a little daylight and a good strong brand.

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