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Listeners don’t care about you

The best way to get people to understand what your station does and why they should listen is to just spell it out, right? To be direct?

Sometimes, sure. But usually – and especially in the kind of “usually” that accompanies a competitive marketplace, the answer is “no.”

You know what I’m talking about.

We’re “Classic Rock,” so let’s call ourselves “Classic Rock” and make sure our TV spot shows lots of album covers to illustrate what we play and how deep our variety is and to remind them what an album cover looks like for anyone who cares about an album in the first place.

This is fine for the first “Classic Rock” station in a market, but what about the second? And what about the station that doesn’t quite fit the definition of “Classic”? How do you communicate a definition that’s muddy (and here I’m talking to you, too, Mr. Hot AC)?

Check out these words from the new book Death to All Sacred Cows:

Being direct does not mean being effective. It can mean that. But more often than not, bending an idea slightly, adding some nuance, a touch of style, a soupcon of cleverness, and a light dusting of the unexpected leads to the most successful marketing campaigns.

And the authors continue:

When it comes to marketing and advertising, being boring, plain, and direct presupposes that the people to whom you are marketing actually care about your product.

And trust me, they don’t.

I am constantly disappointed by how low we broadcasters set our bar. “Let’s call it Z103, let’s hire the usual suspect of a station voice, let’s slap on the positioning line ‘the best mix’, let’s run the TV spot with people dancing in cubicles, then let’s sit back and wait for the tidal wave of ratings to roll in.”

More often than not, the wait never ends.

Compare that to, for example, the introduction of JACK and its sister Variety Hits flavors.

NO description of what the station plays:

UNUSUAL station name

DISTINCTIVE station voice.

UNCHARACTERISTIC policy on DJ chit-chat and between-song clutter.

Seemingly WRONG-HEADED library strategy where bonafide “bad songs” were actually in the playlist.

POSITIONING LINE that is without a position and is, essentially, a throwaway – a diversion to make you think you’re missing something across the street.

MARKETING that fails to “describe the station” in terms of what music it plays (and don’t try to tell me that “we play what we want” represents a description. If I tell you “I’m playing what I want,” what am I playing?

JACK is the case of a station and format that attracts attention because it is designed to attract attention. It’s that attention which creates trial, and it’s that trial which creates cume.

Too many stations bow with too little interest in attention and too much interest in description.

But nowadays, to the bland brand will go bland ratings.

Listeners don’t care about you. You must attract them on their terms, not yours.

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