Is Your Radio Station “Good Enough”?

A No-Nonsense Marketing Smart Tip June 15, 2005

The best defense radio has as an industry is the one I call the “Good Enough Defense.” It goes like this:

Defending the Radio Industry

Yeah, I can get more choice via Satellite, but the radio I get now is “good enough.” Yeah, I can tune into WiFi streams at work, but my radio is “good enough.” Sure I could tinker with my iPod, but in the course of a busy day the radio is “good enough.” Absolutely, I could buy an HD Radio once I understand what the Hell that is, but my present radio choices are really “good enough.”

Compared to the modest difficulty and cost (in dollars and time) of subscribing to and installing Satellite, of hunting down the right streaming audio, of programming your own custom playlists and ripping your CD collection, of buying a brand new radio that allegedly offers “more,” compared to all of those options, flipping the “on” switch and pressing a button or two is the easiest thing in the world. No wonder it’s “good enough.”

More than anything else, the “Good Enough Defense” is why the moat around our industry’s castle is so broad and so deep. This is why only a few million people subscribe to Satellite. It’s why iPod owners continue to listen to the radio. It’s why radio will persist in one form or another for a very long time.

Why Leading Stations are so Difficult to Unseat

The smart strategic thinking in Radio stresses the importance of meaningful differentiation (as opposed to the minor tweaks that we too often substitute for differentiation). This is because the more similar two stations are, the more the “Good Enough Defense” takes hold.

This is why it’s so hard to “middle” two strong but polar formatted stations (like, say, Active Rock and Classic Rock or Hot AC and Mainstream/Soft AC) unless one of them is deeply flawed (like, say, you just stole their Morning Show). It’s why New York’s LITE FM is so unassailable. Becoming similar to LITE in order to fight LITE is to suffer the “Good Enough Defense.” LITE will be “Good Enough,” such that switching is more trouble than it’s worth for an alternative which is similar.

It’s Hard to Top “Good Enough”

This has consequences for stations that compete head-to-head in any format with entrenched leaders. The more similar to the leader you are, the more likely you are to have your head handed to you on a silver platter. Just because you see a market doesn’t mean it presents a hole.

So does this mean I think the leader isn’t doing a “great” job? Who cares. “Great” in our industry is a ratings outcome, not a performance one. “Great” can shift like the Saharan sands.

“Good enough” is forever.

[Thanks to Branding consultant Tom Asacker for the “Good Enough” inspiration. I’ll have more on Tom’s new book A Clear Eye for Branding next week]

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