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Is all of your Advertising wasted?

A No-Nonsense Marketing Smart Tip September 28, 2005

Awareness yields listenership yields preference, right? You have to know about the station in order to sample it, right? That’s the conventional wisdom. And it’s dead wrong.

Awareness is Useless

To listen to a station you have to be aware of it first – that’s one of our cornerstone marketing assumptions. A bad one.

Any perusal of diary comments will reveal that listeners don’t know what they’re listening to a good portion of the time – listening credit is constantly split between stations because of this confusion. Further, the recent PPM results indicate listeners tune in many more stations than the diary had previously indicated, yet they devote few quarter-hours to these fringe stations. This unsurprising finding is called “scanning the dial” and people do it all the time. How “aware” of a station do you need to be to encounter it on the dial? Radio stations are audio speed-bumps to the dial scanner. You can’t miss them if you try.

You see, Cume is listenership. Listenership to a station you’ve never tuned in before requires one thing and one thing only: TRIAL. No matter what the mechanism, trial, not awareness, should be the primary goal of marketing aimed at building Cume.

Consider the series House on FOX. They were attracting a measly 6.5 million viewers despite all the promotion and advertising TV networks are known for. Then something happened and their ratings exploded to 17.3 million viewers. Was it increased awareness? Better marketing? Nope. It was their lead-in, a little show called American Idol. Idol put enough people in place to sample House, and only after folks sampled the show could they know they liked it. Awareness was completely irrelevant. You didn’t have to know about House to be in the right place at the right time. You simply needed to sample it. You needed trial.

In fact, I would argue that Cume leads to awareness, not the other way around. “I’ll be aware of it if I listen to it.” Just as you’re aware of diaper products only after you have a baby, no matter how much advertising Pampers does.

Do you understand how this makes much of your marketing strategy irrelevant?

Building Awareness vs. Inciting Trial

If your goal is to build awareness (wrong):

– How you say stuff doesn’t matter. It only matters that you say stuff – often. – You want to get as much exposure for your call letters as possible – The frequency of your TV buy is more important than the content of the message – Outdoor advertising is great because it helps boost your awareness in the market – It doesn’t matter what you do when your station is at a local event, it simply matters that you’re there – Word-of-mouth is nice, but you have no control over that – Phantom Cume is an eternal problem you need to solve

But if your goal is to incite trial (right):

– How you say stuff is everything. You either create intrigue or you create wallpaper. Your choice. – The message and content of your TV spot is much more important than the tonnage of the buy – Outdoor advertising is great if and only if it incites trial at the point of purchase (where my finger meets the button). If it’s purely informative or logo-centric window-dressing it is a terrible waste of money – What you do at a local event should determine whether the event is worth even going to. Just being there is a waste of your time and money – Word-of-mouth is a critical component in the station’s marketing toolbox. And if you’re not doing things which are buzz-worthy you’ll never get any buzz – Phantom Cume is a meaningless metric and the phrase should be banished from your vocabulary

How to Incite Trial

So how do you incite trial (besides hiring my company and finding out)? Suffice it to say you can use any number of available advertising and marketing vehicles, but the critical elements are these:

– Illustrate the benefits of listening (i.e., show folks what it feels like to listen) – Ask for the order at the “point of purchase” – Ask for just a little (if you don’t get a little, you won’t get a lot) – Do it in a way that stands out and demands attention (bland messages are greeted with bland response)

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