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The Hunger Games You Are Not, Radio

It has been a long time since radio broadcasters had sizable ad budgets to work with – a remarkable irony since radio is, after all, in the business of investing the sizable ad budgets of its clients for what broadcasters argue is a quantifiable and worthwhile return.

Since then we have relied on bowing our new brands with stunts: Events or circumstances designed to garner attention and trial that give fans more of what they are likely to want – right up until it becomes less of what they are likely to want.

Take the introductory-tactic-du-jour: “10,000 songs commercial-free.” We know folks don’t like spots, right? And we know they like music. So let’s give them an economically unsustainable train of music to win their attention and trial.

And then, right before song number 10,0001, let’s roll into 10 to 15 minutes of commercials per hour and signal to them that the party is over and they can officially go back to whatever their habit was before our silly stunt.

PR Guru Ryan Holiday nailed it when he wrote:

Deep down, I think anyone in marketing or launching anything fantasizes that they are premiering a blockbuster movie. And this illusion shapes and warps every marketing decision we make. It feels good, but it’s so very wrong.

We launch a brand one way, but sustain it in a way that is much less compelling – disappointing, even – to the very audience we spent that launch attracting.

And the worst part is, every listener knows it’s coming and behaves in an utterly predictable manner when it comes: Away she goes, taking her attention and listening with her.

Consider the difference between a station that launches with a ton of music and then follows it up with a ton of spots and a station that tries hard every single day to earn the attention and usage of its audience.

Check in with any powerful morning show and ask them how it would work for them if they just did one great show a week and phoned in the rest. Do you know any great morning shows that do that? No, of course not. That’s not what defines “great.” It’s what defines “mediocre.”

As a listener, I want you to do right by me all the time, not just when you launch, and not just on Monday or on Thursday.

Broadcasters can do all the stunts they want, but the mistake is when the stunt is viewed as the end of the launch rather than the beginning.

Create compelling stations that can be sustained every single day. Bake the marketing in to every hour.

The Hunger Games you are not.

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