February 15, 2013

It All Comes Down To Stationality
By Robby Bridges

Robby Bridges

I absolutely loved social psychology in college. I'm sure all the other the kids were taking that class because they were pre-med or unsure of a major, but I took it to better understand what makes up a person's behavior patterns so I'd better understand how to apply it to reaching them thru media. Something that always stuck with me is that people, especially over time, be them healthy and benign or unhealthy and disruptive, fall into patterns. Generally, people tend to "trust the devil they know" as the old saying goes because of creature comforts, stability, security based on experience direct behavior. Further, it will take a major sea change to cause a disruption of the patterns people fall into. What does this mean? People have routines to accomplish their daily tasks; people tend to be attracted to the same kinds of people in dating over and over; people who always drink too much, and so on.
            Radio, like other utilities, is a brand decision by a consumer, period. Radio's purpose of information, entertainment, companionship is long established and the consumer simply makes a choice of one and generally sticks with it. This is why radio stations have P1 listeners (heavy users) and P3 listeners (semi active or occasional listeners). It goes to a person’s cycle behavior. Their pattern is either to pick something and stay with it or to be a constant "island hopper"...in other aspects of life this person might be classified a free spirit or an "active consumer.” When it comes to making this choice, the offering of a station must be clear--what is your brand and why pick you over the others is the question ALL consumers make with all choices. All terrestrial radio is free, so there's a step up over the main consideration in consumer's other choices, so radio operators should first and foremost consider the following:

1. Do I have a competitive signal? Without a powerful signal there is a major disadvantage as most listeners are not active consumers. They make the easiest most comfortable choice to satisfy their need and forget it, and they are not apt to change their pattern. Guess what? Most people hit scan, find a signal that comes in where they use radio, and if they are generally satisfied, they are P1 or P2 listeners and many even develop passion for their choice. The signals they find? 99% of the time they are one of the big gun signals in the market

2. Does the market know I exist? Before a person hits scan, or if the person is apt to scan, marketing yourself and what you offer continually can influence the choice of the consumer. But once you've reached them, be clear in what you offer and then meet the expectation. and meet it every time they use your station.

3. Am I consistent? Do I have benchmarks? Do I always air what I market myself to be? Have I had 6 different formats or air staffs or PD's in the past decade?                                                        

            This is all basic stuff, and yet I far too rarely hear people in our business talk about stationality and brand. We all seem to get bogged down in song sound codes, how many many times do we let the morning show talk in a give hour, what do we name our weekend contest...all important but secondary to stationality. Think of the most successful brands in the world: Disney, Apple, McDonald's...you immediately envisioned the logo and recalled an expectation you have of the product. Yet, so few radio stations have a clear brand and even if they do a clear stationality, by saying what you are and being it is good, but also creating an experience is what drives passion and repeated usage.
           Branding is easier of the two to understand but it should dictate stationality. When I was in Providence at WCTK, our branding was "Today's Country Hits.” There's a clear brand. It said we play country, we don't play unfamiliar songs or indie music--these are hits and we play only the most popular current hits. Accessible, straight forward; a person scanning the dial for country would be very clear what we were. Take a look at Music Choice on cable systems or SiriusXM; their channel options are "70s" "Hits" "Swing"…pretty clear. What took WCTK to #1 in the market (despite a so-so signal in the DMA and coupled with big marketing and promotions) was stationality. Our imaging was consistent every time you turned us on: bright and fun and bigger than life. Every quarter we did big promotions and talked about them a lot; we did lots of community events; all of our personalities were very different in style and yet everyone did the same liners/contests and energy and created the feeling that the party was always going on, it was up to the consumer to not be a part of it all day long. Think of your bank. If you are happy with your bank, you've deposited with them a long time, you've taken a loan out with them, participated in their rewards program, you've known a few of the tellers a long time and while the manager is a young kid, he seems very nice. They sponsor a food drive every year, their logo is the same as it was in 1993 and the ATM is where it always has been...their slogan? "Your Community Bank" That’s branding and stationality or bank-ality as the case may be.
          I'll give you a few other examples of long successful, legendary stations, monster billers and again, clear branding with unique stationality:
          KIIS-FM/Los Angeles; bigger than life in everyway, celebrity DJs, unreal giveaways and promotions, consistent jingle logo. That brand is so well defined and clear in LA and has met expectation for so long, I'll bet you don't need to show a client the PPM (which always looks good) to sell them.
          WABC/New York; true in their years as the biggest Top 40 in North America, true today as a talk station...actually some elements of the Top 40 format are still resonant in the talk format; an array of big personalities, jingle logo, impactful presentation, consistency                                                                                                                                 
            I could go on and on in every format; I'll end with this. I was very fortunate and proud to be present for the launch of Nash FM 94.7 in New York a couple weeks ago. What is so exciting about the station is how it immediately established its brand and stationality; "America's Biggest Country Station" There's your branding. Sample it if you haven't, all hits and the occasional 90s superstar...expectation of brand met. Custom jingles with a unique sound, big imaging that is very New York without sounding CHR and the promotions/air talent are STILL to come...very exciting.
            Going toward spring (and not a second too soon, if you hate snow like I do) consider how clearly you are defining your brand, if you are meeting that expectation when you attract a consumer and what you create (Stationality) to build passion/listening occasions with them and to differ yourself from competitors.

Robby Bridges is a host on WPLJ/New York and the True Oldies Channel on Cumulus Media Networks. He is also President of BBOR Productions, developing and marketing syndication, music and production pieces nationally. Previously Bridges has worked in various capacities at WCTK/Providence, Z100/New York, Q102/Philadelphia, WODS and Mix 98.5/Boston and elsewhere in New England. Robby can be reached at 203-333-9108 or bridges@bborproductions.com.


Nicki Farag,
SVP of Promotion,
Def Jam Recordings

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