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Sandbox Wisdom’s Tom Asacker on Radio Marketing

Here is the full text of my interview with Branding and Marketing Guru Tom Asacker. For a copy of Tom’s new book, “A Brand New World,” go here:

What is the most important thing a radio station needs to do to move from a music spot on the dial to a compelling brand that connects with listeners’ lives?

Great question. Instead of being one of a few dozen stations that play a few dozen songs over and over, with 20 minutes of cheesy ads per hour tossed in, how can commercial radio connect emotionally with its audience?

First and foremost, the station must thoroughly understand its audience and the competitive realities of its evolving marketplace. What content is your audience most interested in and how can your station deliver it in a fresh and relevant way? For example, if the commercial radio station’s audience is primarily affluent, heavy commuters and interested in various genres of music, there is little the station can do to prevent listeners from eventually switching to satellite radio. But if the station’s audience is interested in staying connected to its community, being first to learn about exciting news, events, products, etc., then the station has a unique opportunity to intimately bond with those listeners.

In your estimation, what are the biggest mistakes radio stations make in the way they market and communicate to their listeners?

The biggest mistake by far is how radio uses information to develop its programming. They think that because they do “research,” they’re delivering what listeners want. That simply is not the case. What they’re doing is playing it safe: appealing to a broad audience with watered down, dispassionate content. They’re doing the same thing that network television was doing when cable began eating their lunch in the early ‘80s.

People want new, edgy and exciting content and personalities. Take a look at some of the top syndicated talk shows: Limbaugh, Hannity, Savage, Stern. They’re anything but boring. But please, don’t confuse edgy and exciting with the smart ass, on-air babble that most listeners of commercial radio are subjected to. Most of it is meaningless, and hence an annoyance.

What opportunities do you think radio stations are missing relative to branding?

How much time do you have? Look. Business is all about timing and purpose. It’s about tapping into the Zeitgeist. The spirit of the times. The tastes and fears and dreams of the culture. Radio has a unique opportunity to stay tuned in and turned on in real time to their listeners. To constantly innovate and provide information and entertainment and infotainment in an authentic, competitively superior way. But it takes insight and guts! If any station out there has guts, tell them to give me a call. 😉

Your new book lists 10 keys to success in chaotic times. Which of those success keys do you think have the most leverage and relevance for an audience of broadcasters and why?

Mark, the world of broadcasting, like most businesses today, is like an old dog guarding a meatless bone. It chews on grand concepts like “branding” and remains hungry. The simple solution is to get back to basics. Be passionate about your story. Be obsessed with the details. Experience the real world of your audience. And make a difference in people’s lives.

If I were to choose one of my ten success keys for broadcaster to embrace, I’d have to go with number four: From Interesting to Interested. It’s really a quite simple principle, and one which 99.9999% of businesses get wrong. The essence of this principle is that it doesn’t matter at all what your audience thinks about you or your station. What matters is how you make them feel about themselves and their decisions in your presence.

Most radio stations are SHOUTING . . . “Look at me! “Am I great, or what?” and other irritating noise that no one gives a damn about. This loud voice is completely out of touch with the subtle, more compelling voice in the heads of today’s audience. Why? Because listeners aren’t interested in you. They want you to be interested in them, and to show them how their association with you will help them feel better about themselves.

If you want people to pay attention to your communication, you must tune into their frequency, instead of having them tune in to yours. Tune into their current situation. Their anxieties, desires and fears. Establish an emotional bond based on your audience’s feeling of finally having been understood by someone. Speak in term of what’s most important to them, and do it with passion, caring and energy. Then you can’t lose.

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