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Razorfish’s Clark Kokich – Radio must “Do or Die” – Part 2

This is part two of one of the most important interviews you will watch, read, or listen to this year.

Clark Kokich is the chairman of Razorfish, the well-known international digital agency. He is also the author of a fabulous new book called Do or Die.

Clark is at the forefront of the digital revolution and his perspective on the direction of advertising and marketing will have huge sway over radio’s future. Read this. And share it with your peers.

What follows is an abbreviated transcript of our chat….Part 2…

What’s the best way for someone in the media business who wants to put these pieces together to “do”? What’s the best way for them to approach this process from the beginning?

I think the way to do this is with a design thinking approach, which would not be sitting down to do a traditional strategy analysis, but to really focus on the listeners or the viewers: How are they spending their time, what are they doing, what are the gaps in their information and their knowledge?

Then look for ideas from everyone in your organization. Ideas may come from your technology group, from your advertising group, from your news group, who knows.

But you really need to focus on your viewers or listeners out there and recognize that they’re redefining the way that they interact with media.

We have all these new technologies….Let’s really cast a wide net and figure out what can we do that’s never been done before, what can we do that’s better than Pandora. Let’s not call Pandora and see if we can do a partnership, let’s figure out what are the flaws in that model and what could we do better. And it really is a matter of creative thinking and problem solving based on what the viewer or the listener wants, not what we do now.

It’s not about us the industry such as we define it, it’s about you, the consumer, and you, our client, and how to link those two together – because if we don’t do it somebody else is going to do it, right?

Exactly. And that’s the thing, it’s going to happen. You either do it or you get it done to you.

You talk a lot about the importance of knocking down silos. Like all industries, radio is rife with silos: we put people in little corners and they may or may not speak to each other or they may have the wrong incentives.

Right. So silos work great when an industry is to the point where everything is figured out and you’re really just optimizing the execution and things aren’t changing. Broadcast really got to that point – somebody develops the programs, somebody runs the technology, somebody sells the ads, somebody else counts the money and there’s really not a lot of need for those people to talk to each other too often.

But in this kind of a world where everything is fluid, everything is uncertain, those silos are deaf, because nobody in those existing silos where you have experts in this or that little area has the job of throwing all that expertise away and thinking about what could we do that’s new and imaginative that what really matters.

So breaking down those silos and doing cross-functional brainstorming and problem solving is absolutely essential. That’s very hard to do in most companies.

You focus a lot on the importance of “doing” versus “saying” in the sense of creating experiences instead of telling people what they should think or saying some product is great – the traditional role of advertising. Does that imply that there’s no role at all for “saying” any more? What is the role today for that kind of blind, deaf messaging to a large number of people to communicate some message?

There’s no question, there’s still a time when you’re going to want to run paid advertising, and I think the best test is “Do I have something to say? Do I have something meaningful to say about my product or service that is relevant?” If so it’s a great idea to pay to reach your best customers with that message.

Too often, though, I think companies don’t really have anything to say but say it anyway. They just get out there and think “We’ve got to advertise! Our product is commoditized, we don’t have any differentiation in the marketplace, so let’s spend more money advertising!”

But the solution is to go back and think before spending a lot of money telling a story that doesn’t exist. Instead, let’s fix the story. We like to talk in our business about being storytellers; I think we need to be story fixers as well.

The best story is baked into the product itself. Historically, the product was just the thing itself. Now, it’s the thing plus the digital experience that surrounds it.

Clark, I want to just read one paragraph to you from the book and see if you want to elaborate on it because I thought it was just marvelous: “Marketers can no longer just say, ‘Buy our thing, it’s great.’ Instead they have to ‘do’ or risk their very existence. They must do genuinely helpful deeds for customers. They must do whatever it takes to encourage prospects to fulfill a dream where the marketers’ product takes on a supporting role. They must do what good friends have always done – service, support, sympathize and cheer on.”

It’s not just about brand perception anymore, it’s about brand reality and as marketers we’ve pretty much let the store people run the stores and the product development people build and make the product and the manufacturers manufacture and customer service service it. And then we just went out and put lipstick on the pig.

We were in the brand perception business but now I think marketers are in the brand reality business. We have to get in there and do something that really matters, because if we don’t, somebody else will.

Missed Part 1 of our conversation?  Go here. There you’ll also find links to the audio and video for the full Q&A.

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