If you've been watching those exciting NFL Playoff games these past few weeks, you're also getting treated to a preview of the types of ads we'll likely be seeing in the upcoming Super Bowl.
It wasn't that long ago when automakers were hawking their cylinders, horsepower, braking systems, torque, and luggage capacity. These days, you may not even know what kind of engine is in your car or whether you're in a front or rear-wheel drive vehicle.
Now, it's about how the car makes you feel. How it inspires you. What it says about you and your philosophy on life. “Love – it's what makes a Subaru a Subaru” is the state of the art of automotive marketing.
And it's not just about cars. More and more, consumer products are providing a very different view of how they connect with consumers. It has less to do with a brand's ingredients, marketing claims, or its history, and more to do with the ability to make you feel good – or at least better.
We're going through tumultuous times, to be sure. No matter which side of the political spectrum you're on, there's angst and uncertainty. If you take the time to conduct focus groups among your listeners and talk about overall moods and attitudes, many will tell you they're down, even depressed.
Savvy marketers are realizing their true contributions to our lives may have more to do with uplifting and elevating us, rather than just filling our tummies or our garages.
It's why the Internet – especially social media – is full of inspiring reminders to “live our best life” so we can succeed in our relationships, our jobs, and our lives. We're all seeking ways to feel better, during the most challenging times.
So, why shouldn't the products we buy and use help us achieve this?
That's what Mars is thinking with M&Ms. Here's perhaps the most traditional, familiar candy on the planet. Everyone has experienced M&Ms, and many of us still eat them (especially if you attend focus groups), so what can Mars say about them we don't already know?
How they're made, where the chocolate comes from, how many different colors they offer?
Does any of that really matter or have anything to do with why we eat M&Ms to being with?
Enter inspirational missives on M&M packages, designed to give us a little lift when we take a break to eat the candy:
There's an element of snark here, but that's the persona of the M&M characters in other marketing. These positive, packaged phrases are a way for a candy brand to connect with consumers in a social, modern way.
And Mars isn't alone. This side of Oreo's, the most famous cookies are the ones Girl Scouts hawk every year. We may think we're just doing a public service when we buy a box or two (or three) of Do-Si-Dos® or Trefoils® but the fact is, they are part of life's little pleasures.
So, why shouldn't the cookies reflect those feelings?
Now, they do.
Girl Scout cookies have been sold since 1917 – yup, just a few years before the first U.S. radio station signed on. So, what can this service organization for young girls say about their products that we don't already know? Most of us have been buying and eating them all our lives.
This year, they're launching a new cookie – Lemon-Ups®. And one of the things that differentiates them from all the other Girl Scout cookie varieties isn't just its flavor but the inspirational messages inscribed on each one. There are a total of eight positive phrases, each of which is designed to connect with Girl Scouts – and by extension, all of us:
What does this have to with listening to radio?
As an industry, we have historically been obsessed with marketing our product – we're the Country station, the concert authority, we play the most music with less talk, and call in to win prizes.
But the fact is, consumers listen to us for a wide variety of reasons, many of which are emotionally based. How a radio station makes us feel is especially poignant in a world where many emotions are often scrambled and confused.
Our Techsurveys have been especially good at sussing out some of the “other” reasons why people tune in. Yes, personalities, music, and information are key drivers – just as we eat Girl Scout cookies because they're yummy.
But it's those emotional under-pinnings that define a brand – or in the case of radio, a medium, a platform. That is especially obvious when we ask “Why radio?” in the Christian Music Radio version of Techsurvey.
The gold bars represent inspirational and emotional drivers – and there are a lot of them above the 40% level as a main reason for listening to Christian music radio. Mood elevation, nurturing faith, spreading the Word, encouragement, and yes, inspiration are all big drivers And their power – well beyond music quantity or contests – is what leads to the best Net Promoter recommendation scores in all of radio.
Christian music stations have tapped into these emotional touchstones, while public radio – also, core values driven – also owns a strong position in being inspirational.
Commercial radio, on the other hand, tends to be driven more on positioning statements, descriptors, and ownership statements. All of these may, in fact, have to do with historic consistency and profitability.
But when you see consumer products like M&Ms and Girl Scout Cookies eschewing banal statements about “now with new colors” or “tastes best with milk,” and instead, using the ubiquity and comfort of their brand to create an emotional, inspirational tie, you begin to understand how marketing conventions are changing.
Just not in radio.
It's not about how these products look, taste, or cost. It's about how they make us feel. And a favorite radio station or show is no exception.
Marketing sensibilities change – with the times, with emerging generations, and as media expands and morphs. If radio expects to be considered a medium, product, or service that “gets” the changing consumer, it must reassess its role in people's lives.
Radio provides benefits consumers can't get anywhere else. As JacoBLOG reader Bob Bellin reminded us in a comment to yesterday's post in discussing radio's advantages over its new media competitors:
“They can't be live, can't respond to a phone call, can't reach out one-to-one to a fan, can't do a great bit built around a local issue, can't invite you backstage to a concert.”
In short, these are the human, connective things that are inspirational, buzz-worthy, and memorable.
Just what radio needs right about now.
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