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“Tattoo your Radio Station on Listeners’ Brains” – An Interview with “

A No-Nonsense Marketing Smart Tip August 17, 2006

Karen Post is more than a branding expert, she's a "Branding Diva." She's author of the bestselling MP3 File

Here’s an excerpt of the interview:

You describe a brand as a “brain tattoo.”

Well, a brain tattoo is a metaphor that I use to help people really understand what a brand is, so that they grasp it is not just the logo or the tagline. It is the absolute sum of everything an organization or an individual or a company does that touches the marketplace. When you think of a tattoo on a body part, it’s put there by choice. Brands are put in your mind by choice, because you either relate to them, they express who you are, or you look at them as a friend. The brain tattoo is a metaphor – the emotional mark that lodges in your mind about someone who tries to get you to connect to what they are selling, whether it’s an idea or a product or a service.

What are your four main components of branding?

First, you must clearly understand why you are here. Is it to make money? Is it to deliver information to a community? Is it to educate people? Why are you here?

Second, you have to list your points of difference. I suggest that you create your own category. To a radio station, you come up with a new name, a new metaphor for what that radio station is so that you are creating your own category. The more distinct you can be, the more effective your marketing dollars will be, and I believe the easier it will be for people to remember you.

When I say “points of difference,” you need to look at the list and say, “Can my competitor copy this easily?” If the answer is yes, then you need to go deeper and try harder and to really do something that would be difficult for someone to copy.

Third, the personality. I don’t mean the personalities on the station, I mean the personality of the brand. If you are introducing one friend to another, you wouldn’t say, “Oh, Joe, he’s got two arms and two legs and brown hair.” You would use adjectives to describe how he behaves. “He’s a risk taker. He’s got a great sense of humor. He’s a little crazy.” Whatever. So think about adjectives that can describe your brand, human-like adjectives, and then do things that are consistent with this personality.

Finally, the promise. That’s the flip side of the purpose. Where the purpose is logical, the promise is emotional. Southwest Airlines is a great example. Their purpose is to provide transportation and shipping, but their promise is they give people the freedom to fly, the freedom to move their product around the country through their shipping.

That’s where the branding begins. Then everything you do must be evaluated against that list. If it’s on brand, go with it. If it’s not, it’s not a good way to spend your money or your time.

Radio stations generally view themselves as bundles of attributes or features. What is the difference between knowing who you are as a brand and tweaking the mix of features and elements?

I think there’s a fine line with tweaking enough so that you’ve got enough revenue being generated based on your programming and trying to please everybody and being a big, diluted brand that really means nothing to anybody.

As business people, we try to not miss one customer. I don’t know that that’s really the best attitude. I think it’s better to focus on a group of people that have like interests and values, then those listeners love you so much that they become ambassadors, evangelists, of your brand. Then they make your job easier.

If you’re involved in an organization that really doesn’t understand the power of the brand – if they’re purely, purely a sales-driven machine – then it’s going to be a tough situation to really implement branding strategies. That’s just like oil and water.

In your book you emphasize using the five senses in a branding effort. Obviously, radio stations are heavy on the ear, but are we effectively using sound in our branding?

Probably not. I owned an ad agency for 20 years in Houston, and if I look back I can remember what radio station press kits looked like. They all pretty much looked the same. There’s an opportunity to stand out and to be distinct. Even how you package your media kit. It can certainly incorporate sound, whether it’s some sort of a CD that’s included or some sort of mechanism that plays sound when the folder opens. Is the paper scented? Is there some sort of specialty item in there that has taste to it? I think there’s a lot of opportunity there. It goes back to being creative and doing things that are different.

You must have a sense, as a listener as well as a branding and marketing professional, about some of the things you like regarding the radio station branding you hear.

I don’t know if you want to ask me that question. I’ll tell you some things that I despise. I cannot stand when DJ’s are paid to ramble on about some product. They make it sound like it’s really coming from their heart, and you know it’s a paid insertion. The average consumer may not get annoyed by that, because they don’t understand how that works, but that annoys me.

I’m very turned off by uncreative radio spots, where people take the old car-salesman approach and they’re just screaming and yelling. People don’t need to scream and yell at me to get me to pay attention to their product. They need to do something that I think is cool or remarkable and is going to enhance my life.

Your book recommends that marketers invest at least 5-10% of their company’s operating budget in brand building. What do you say to those companies who plead poverty?

They’re just full of hot air, basically. Every organization has money to spend on things, or they couldn’t even be in business.

What they need to do is look at where they are spending. I find it hard to believe that there is absolutely no money. Still, I think people have to get creative and take some initiative to infuse the brand into those things they are already spending money on.

Also, I think people use, “We don’t have a budget,” as a lame excuse not to come up with cool ideas. A lot of really big ideas are free or very inexpensive. I think it takes dedication and instilling a culture of creativity in the radio station. I think that’s key.

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