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Radio: Be Like Mario

There is no better excuse for poor performance on the stuff that really matters than “it’s not in the budget.”

That’s because the stuff that really matters has no budget line.

Just ask Mario.

He’s the manager of my local neighborhood Dairy Queen.

“Welcome,” he cried from the back corner as I stepped inside.

Was he talking to me?

“It’s nice to see you again!”

Wow, I haven’t been in here in many weeks.

“Hello!” shouted various members of his staff as they bustled around the floor making one yummy ice cream delight after another.

All of this was for me.  And not just for me, but for every other person who walked in that door.  No matter who they were, no matter what mood they came to the counter with.

In a time when even economists create a so-called “misery index,” one of the last places you expect to find joy in the routine tasks associated with the often thankless fast food business would be the local Dairy Queen.

And yet there it was.  The smile on his face was infectious to employees and customers alike.  This wasn’t in addition to the product – it was part of the product itself.

Whatever I might have believed about Dairy Queen before – whatever impression had been left with me as a result of TV or radio spots, display ads, coupons, or whatever – all of those vanished the minute I came into contact with Mario.

All the best laid plans of the marketing geniuses at Dairy Queen matter not one bit if Mario doesn’t bring his smile and his attitude to work with him every day.

Branding – and marketing – are not just about standing for something big and communicating it until we’re blue in the face.  It’s about every single point of contact that a consumer has with your brand.  In fact, it’s usually about the smallest and most personal point of contact.

One of the great things about radio is its intimacy – the ability to connect one-on-one even while we connect one-to-many.  That is the human face of radio, and human faces require human beings who are allowed and encouraged to be human.

Get what I’m saying?

Do all the big things right, by all means.  But remember that every point where the customer touches your brand is the point that matters most to her.

Even when that touchpoint happens when she is alone at the wheel on a lonely road with nothing but voices dancing in the air.

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