You Can’t Fight a Good Lie

A No-Nonsense Marketing Smart Tip August 25, 2004

Every day in your market numerous stations make positioning claims. Claims listeners don’t hear. Claims listeners don’t believe. Claims listeners aren’t impacted by or attracted to. Claims that fail to tip listener behavior in the direction of the stations doing the positioning. How is it that listeners believe what they want to believe no matter what you say?

Radio and the Cardiff Giant

In 1869 the fossil of a “giant” was discovered. He was 10 feet tall with 21 inch feet. So strange a sight was he that thousands of visitors shelled out 50 cents a piece to see him at a remote farm in Cardiff, New York.

Scientists scoffed that this “fossil” was nothing but a sloppy hoax, a bad likeness carved from a slab of gypsum. Science had spoken. The Cardiff Giant was, in the words of one writer, “an impossibility, a statue, a clumsy fraud, and just plain silly.” But did that keep away the crowds? Not on your life. The throngs kept thronging – in spite of the “truth.” So strong was the desire to believe the myth, the myth was truer than the truth.

Who is Your Market’s Cardiff Giant?

Every market has its local institution, the radio station that can do no wrong and can withstand all competitors. They own their position so you can’t. All you can do is throw your marketing dollars at the audience hoping to dent them just the wee littlest bit.

Maybe they’re really that good. Or maybe they’re the Cardiff Giant. No matter how true your message. No matter how sizable your merits. No matter how decisive your music quantity. No matter how entertaining your morning show. People believe what they want to believe. They believe in the Cardiff Giant.

Print the Legend

Positioning is poorly designed when it speaks facts which may be true – but which fly in the face of what the audience wants to believe. If the audience WANTS to believe that your competitor is the variety station, don’t waste your time trying to change their minds. If they WANT to believe that your competitor is a non-stop music machine, find a different benefit to communicate. The customer – and the listener – is always right.

If you don’t believe me, just ask Huckster extraordinaire P.T. Barnum. He badly wanted to tour the Cardiff Giant but the “fossil’s” owner refused. Undeterred, Barnum cast a fake of the fake which outdrew the original!. Remember, it’s not the facts that count, it’s what the audience believes that counts. As the movie cowboy says, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

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