Radio’s Dead …. (Not Quite)

[3-5 minutes]

Every time I go to a small business expo, I find that most of vendors are offering marketing solutions for small businesses.  There are so many different offerings available to business owners:  social media marketing companies, digital marketing companies, email marketing platform providers, cable companies, outdoor and out-of-house companies, and even companies that specialize in only Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube, etc. There’s a lot out there, and it can be daunting.

So far though, I have yet to meet anyone at these events from a single radio or broadcast television station.  While no one ever disagrees with the power of television as a marketing medium, it seems that everyone is foretelling the end of radio. “Radio’s a dying medium,” each of the AE’s of these various media options will tell anyone who brings up radio as an option for a small business owner.

Admittedly, I’m a fan of radio, and I enjoy these lively debates. However, I do find it tiresome is that none of radio’s naysayers has ever provided verifiable research to back up their issues with radio as a medium.  Specifically, they claim that radio is an ineffective way to connect with one’s target audience.  “No one likes to be interrupted by radio commercials.”  “Radio’s not going to keep up with smart phones, which is where we’re all headed.” and “Radio has lost its audience. People aren’t listening to regular radio anymore.  They’re on their iPods, smart phones, Sirius XM, Spotify, Pandora, etc.”

One of the key arguments against radio and for digital marketing (lumping it all together into one online mix) is that radio isn’t measurable, and that with digital, one knows exactly what they’re getting.  Both are myths.

Here’s the real truth:  1)  radio is measured in the same way that scientists conduct all research.  They use statistical analysis gathered from a slice of the population.  Nielsen tracks the listening behavior of genuine, verified human beings, which is not the case when measuring online media.  2)  According to a recent report published in the Wall Street Journal, 36% of all internet traffic is fake, using bots to hijack internal email servers, plugins that steal affiliate marketing links, identity theft and fake profiles and sneaky tactics leading to duplicate mouse clicks with spyware that “steals” human hand movement and generates additional click-throughs. See this article for more detailed information:   iMedia Connection.  The original findings were published in the  Wall Street Journal.

Speaking to the argument that, “No one’s listening to radio anymore,” consider the most recent information from Scarborough.  Scarborough is a United States based research firm that used a 3-part survey with over 210,000 respondents in this particular study.  Just an FYI, its multiple market and national studies are accredited by the Media Rating Council (MRC).

Scarborough’s most recent report showed that in the category of adults 18+ in Los Angeles, 92.6% listened to radio within the past week, whereas the number of adults 18+ who had listened to Pandora within the past month was 21%.  Incidentally, Pandora doesn’t have enough listenership to measure more often than monthly.  Also, the latest stats showed that only 10.2% of adults 18+ in LA listened to Sirius.

Another reason radio is so valuable is that it trumps digital mediums in ad recall — in other words, the whole point of advertising in the first place. (You know, the mental real estate we’re all hoping to acquire with our advertising efforts — so that when they need your product, they’re already familiar with your brand name?)

In audiences of Millenials and Gen Xers, radio had greater than 12.5% margin over search engine ads and more than 9% over mobile ads and social media.  Television ad recall still dominates all mediums, but with the multitude of channels,  shows, Tivo,  (not to mention Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc.)  television is a far more expensive and complex medium to buy for a small business owner than radio.

Radio commercials are relatively inexpensive to produce compared to television spots.  There’s no Tivo with radio, so, if you’re making entertaining, engaging commercials that are professionally produced and fun to listen to, these listeners will very likely stay tuned in right through your spots.

Plus, nearly everyone (92.6% of 18 and over adults in LA alone, remember?)  listens to the radio on their commute to work or while running errands.  It’s especially valuable in Southern California because commuters here are in their cars for an average of 2.5 hours each day, Monday through Friday, and off and on throughout the weekends as they run errands. Don’t take my word for it though — hop on the 101 or 405 on a Saturday or Sunday after 10am and see for yourself.

Regarding the last argument about radio — that it’s archaic —  radio’s signal in the United States went digital (HD) back about 8 years ago.  It’s in your car, on your computer, and every smart phone also has an FM chip inside it where you can listen for free without incurring charges for data usage.

For some reason, this chip is not activated at this time, due to agreements with service providers who make money from data usage.  iHeartRadio and other apps use data, so service providers don’t take issue with it, and support those apps.  However, the capability to use your FM chip for free is in all smart phones, as all such devices must comply with FCC requirements that have to do with emergency information availability.  You can listen to or read the whole story here:  NPR.

Plus, each radio station has a Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. and a connection to those can be included in media buys to augment your own social media efforts.  They have had email marketing programs for years now, with huge lists of listeners that can be drilled down to specific zip codes and more.  They have text messaging campaigns, pre-roll video capabilities just like television and YouTube, banner ads, and more on their websites.  There are syndicated shows that reach nationwide. There are concert events for many stations that allow for on-site, experiential marketing.  Having worked with promotion departments at radio stations, I can honestly tell you that a radio station’s Creative Services have a tremendous amount of flexibility.  If you know what to ask for and how to ask, pretty much any idea is possible.

And the reason that radio trumps television in this regard is that unlike television, most people (and yes, there is research to back this up too) listen to one or two stations whenever they turn on their radios.  In other words, it’s a station choice versus a programmatic one. Also, a lot of companies will allow their employees to listen to the radio at work, whereas television watching is considered too distracting.

Here’s another fact to consider: when you choose radio as a medium, you’re in very good company because every other medium advertises on radio.  Email marketing companies (for example,  Constant Contact), online service-pro connections (Angie’s List, to name one), search engines (Google.  And, who could forget the old Yahoo! jingles?), cable companies, television shows and movies, mobile service providers  — all of them advertise on radio. The stats from 2014  (Miller Kaplan Arase, LLP’s research) tell the story:  other mediums spent over $33million to have their advertisements sent across the airwaves of Southern California.

For the first two quarters this year, they’ve spent even more — from January through May of this year, over $22 million has been spent specifically by “competing  mediums” on radio media buys here in Southern California. Not only is radio not dead as an effective advertising platform; it’s thriving — partly on ad buys spent by the very entities whose account executives ring radio’s death knell.

If this arcane medium is so ineffective why are these media giants using it themselves? It’s simple:  the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.  That straight line — especially in Southern California — can be navigated best, and at the best price, by surfing SoCal’s radio waves.

There is a lot of value in digital marketing (email, social media, Google adwords, etc.), but to discount radio as a powerful marketing platform for a small business is a mistake.  I disagree with these evangelists of the All-Digital Era.  For businesses in Southern California interested in creating thriving companies,  using radio as part of your media mix just makes a lot of sense.  Oh, and by the way, did I mention that radio is still free?

Timing Is Everything

[Approx. 2.5 minutes reading time.]

Cause marketing is getting a lot of press these days as one of the best ways to boost the visibility of your business. Several Fortune 500 companies have credited a 70% increase in sales over time to their cause marketing.

As you plan your campaign, keep in mind that timing is everything. It’s one of the three pillars of a successful PR campaign: when you launch and the duration, the originality and creativity of the idea, and the target audience.

Within those parameters, the campaign also needs to fit within the context of the brand’s personality and generate momentum toward target goals. Hopefully, it will be part of a bigger brand strategy, rather than something randomly done to try to generate some publicity for your business.

With these thoughts in mind, here are five ways to craft a successful cause marketing campaign, while being of service to the community.

Five ways to be more time sensitive:

1. Be open-minded. Think outside of the (holiday) box. Unless your idea is the cleverest one that any journalist has ever seen, avoid doing any cause marketing during the holidays. Remember, if it’s not new, it’s not news.

That’s why jumping on the charity band wagon from Thanksgiving through New Years, makes it virtually impossible to get anyone to pay attention.  Think about it: how many calls, mailers, and emails from charities do you get at the end of the year, hoping that you’ll donate to them for a last minute tax deduction? Plan a cause marketing campaign when you won’t be competing for donations with everyone.

2.  Be topical. Pay attention to the news. What is going on right now that’s affecting your community?  Can you help solve this issue somehow? Can you get onboard immediately? In 2009, with unemployment rates being higher than they’d been since the Great Depression, we created a campaign that helped to make it easier for people who were out of work and needed all the financial assistance they could get as they struggled to rejoin the workforce. Back To Work Wednesdays was a very successful campaign in terms of the number of people it helped, the amount of media coverage for our client, and re-branding the client as a more caring member of the community – rather than just another dry cleaner in Los Angeles.

3.  Be first. Whether it’s first in your community or first anywhere, if no one else has done it, you’re newsworthy right out of the gate. It’ s the biggest perk to being original — but that can also make it scary.

If you do several Google searches and don’t find evidence of anything similar, you may question yourself, “If this is such a great idea, why is no one else doing it?”  If it’s a fun, helpful idea, carefully plot out each step from beginning to end. You may want to check in with a couple of people whose advice you trust, and who make bold choices themselves.

Go with your gut instinct and take the risk. Keep it quiet until you launch officially so that you don’t get copy-cat campaigns by your competitors. Once you’ve put the word out, celebrate! Coming up with truly unique ideas that are relevant to your business takes imagination and courage, so give yourself a pat on the back.

4.  Be a team player. The Downtown Glendale Merchants Association found out that by February, many of the city’s food banks were nearly empty. Helen McDonagh, the DGMA President at the time and Elisa Glickman of the Historic Alex Theatre came up with a brilliant idea to use Valentine’s Day to “Share The Love”. It Factory Media collaborated with them and added the tagline, “Because hunger isn’t romantic.”

By sharing the spotlight with other Glendale businesses that were willing to participate in the food drive, everyone benefitted.  Food banks were replenished and participating businesses garnered both positive publicity and foot traffic as residents of Glendale contributed non-perishable food items.

5.  Be green — when you can.  Some ideas can’t be repeated.  Very topical causes don’t happen every year (at least, we hope not!) but when it’s possible, try to come up with an evergreen campaign.

Once you’ve found a time of year that works well for your company and target audience, brand it to make it your own. Repeat it every year. Your vendors and customers will look forward to it, and your donations should increase as you put the word out each year. Consistently giving back to your community demonstrates reliability, and healthy relationships are built on trust. It’s an honor to have people rely on your business in times of need. It makes the world a better place, one city block — and one url — at a time.