Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Run the Radio Marathon to Finish in the Lead

As we continue our discussion of how different advertising media work, we come to my personal favorite.

Radio - the Marathon runner.

No, I'm not a runner. But I am in business for the long run. My time horizon for Toy House extends beyond my children. So I like advertising that also has long term benefits. Radio is one of those. A well-crafted long term radio campaign gives you slow and steady increases in top-of-mind awareness that builds upon itself exponentially.

Advantages? Here are some of the best:
  • Intrusive in nature - You can't turn off your ears. If the radio is on and you're in the room, you're listening. No mute buttons or fast forwarding like TV, no flipping pages like newspaper.
  • Can reach a lot of people inexpensively - Unlike newspaper circulations in decline and TV viewers fractured by hundreds of choices, radio listenership is going up.
  • Can get high frequency - Radio listeners stay fairly loyal to their stations and listen on a regular schedule
  • Words are powerful

Television allows the combination of words and visuals to create a powerful message, but words alone can stir the heart just as compellingly. Forget the old saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words."

"In a thousand words I can have the Lord's Prayer, the 23rd Psalm, the Hippocratic Oath, a sonnet by Shakespeare, the Preamble to the Constitution, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and almost all of the Boy Scout Oath. Now exactly what picture were you planning to trade for all that?" - unknown (anyone have a source for this quote?)

The key to Radio is repetition. You have to be on early and often, frequent and continuous. You also have to say something interesting. Like all advertising, boring ads never work.

Think about the average radio listener. She is probably doing something else while bopping along to her favorite song. Her mind is already half occupied. When the song stops and an ad comes on, her brain ignores the ad and fully engages the other activity until the music draws her partially back to the radio.

For your ad to be effective you have to say something more interesting than what she is currently thinking at the time. The biggest complaint from radio listeners is that there are too many ads. The solution is not to have fewer ads, but to have better ads, commercials that people want to hear.

That means stories. Yes, radio is about telling a story, painting a mental image, taking a listener to a new place in her own mind (your store).

If you want to do radio and be successful, follow these tips:

  • Commit to one full year - it takes a long time of continual repetition until a radio campaign gains traction. Commit to a full year and stick it out. (two years if your product cycle is extra long like flooring or real estate)
  • Run a Schedule with a minimum frequency of 3x per week - Sleep is the great eraser of the mind. It takes someone hearing your message three times in 7 days to have it sink into memory.
  • Change your ads (but not your message) every month - Keep the campaign fresh and exciting
  • Only make one point per ad - No one can remember more than one thing, so only say one thing
  • Your name is more important than your address - They'll google you if they have to find you
  • Say something interesting - Stories are interesting. Unexpected is interesting.
  • Don't sound like an ad - Ads and adspeak are not interesting. Find a creative writer who doesn't write radio ads, just persuasive, compelling copy.

Here are some samples of radio ads that tell stories and don't sound like ads. My personal favorite is Men's Bathroom.

Radio is the long distance champion of branding because of the relatively low cost of reaching the same people repeatedly week after week with a powerful message when compared to TV and newspaper. The downside is the time commitment.

It's like the old Chinese Proverb, "The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago, the second best time is today." The best time to start a long term radio campaign is a year ago, the next best time is today.

If you're a sprinter, looking for the quick hit, radio might not be your friend. It's also not for the dabbler. It takes commitment and creativity to be successful. If you have the budget to run for a year, and a creative writer to convey your message powerfully through words, radio can be your best friend.

Do you agree or disagree?

PS You CAN be successful on the radio for short term events, too, but it takes a whole different way of scheduling. Send me an email and I'll tell you how to run that campaign, too.

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