You know, I've heard from many people in the past week or so remarking on how I've been a champion for radio.
And then I write a blog post with this headline.
But the fact is, radio IS a lot like underwear, specifically, Fruit of the Loom brand underwear. Their new slogan: “So comfortable, you barely know it's there” sums up how invisible their product can be, despite its necessity.
Sadly, Fruit of the Loom and radio have a lot in common. Just about everyone uses both products. But it's easy to take them both for granted. We never actually see them, but we really can't live without them.
Like many brands these days, Fruit of the Loom is fighting for attention in a consumer products maze that's more like a firehose of marketing messages. Thousands of products bombard our senses every day, vying to get noticed.
The same is true for media brands. The once-simple ecosphere of radio, TV, outdoor, and print has been replaced by an infinite number of choices – streaming audio and video music services, podcasts, satellite radio, cable TV, video games, and millions of other ways we can kill time and entertain ourselves.
Radio now fights for attention – and respect – among entertainment and information media. Many people don't realize just how much radio they actually consume. But sometimes, a brand – or in the case of radio, an entire medium – gets pigeon-holed. When the public puts your product in a box, it's hard to bust out.
Last month, IHOP – the International House of Pancakes – faced that very issue as it sought to break through its decades-old pancakes-only image to communicate how the chain restaurant also serves up a pretty good burger. Their stunt revolved around temporarily change their name to IHOB to get the point across that hamburgers make up a significant part of their menu offerings.
And seemingly, every media outlet covered their wacky International House of Burgers name transformation like it was as big a story as North Korea or even Kim and Kanye. In a world where the breaking news stories of the day have become so oppressively loud, toxic, and controversial, the IHOB stunt was a welcome respite from the cacophony of national and international news filling up the news cycle.
Fruit of the Loom's new campaign for its new line of Everlight underwear isn't as radical, but it's in the same spirit as the kind of radio contest that programmers like Jack McCoy came up with decades ago in an effort to capture a market's imagination. In those glory days of '70s radio, “The Last Contest” was a bigger than life, bombastic giveaway designed to one-up everyone. Sadly, Fruit of the Loom's “cash hiding in plain sight” stunt isn't as imaginative, is more convoluted, and is limited to New Yorkers, more concerned with how the Yankees fared this past weeked against the Red Sox than about what an ad agency has concocted.
As a recent story in AdWeek by Gabriel Beltrone describes, FotL has started to strategically place stashes of cash – $1,851 to be exact (the brand was born in 1851) – in odd, obscure locations all over New York City. This street campaign is designed to hammer home the point this new line of underwear is so comfortable, you won't even notice you're wearing it.
But the contest is so complicated, and filled with so many “hoops,” that most people probably won't notice it.
But FotL and agency CP+B are banking on media attention to draw attention to their promotion in much the same way the IHOB stunt played out, and that their game will go as viral as Pokémon Go, featuring underwear and cash, rather than Charizard and Pikachu.
These campaigns are all about attracting attention to brands that have been around so long, it's easy to ignore and overlook them. And like radio, it's essential for a medium to stand out in this cluttered environment rather than consumers looking right through them.
The FotL team could use the expertise of many of the radio programmers reading this post who know how to design contests that actually work.
Easter egg hunts (especially in markets smaller than New York City) can capture the imagination of a market. Many years ago at XL102 we did an Easter “Rock Hunt” with numbered painted rocks where each corresponded with a prize. In the group, there were actually a couple of attractive items (cash, etc.), but most of the items were right out of the prize closet. It hardly mattered, because the contest was fun, clues were given out on the air, and people felt like they had a chance to win.
Of course, this underwear stunt also serves as a reminder to radio programmers that banal caller 9 contests, “everybody's doing it” soundalike cash giveaways, and “win 'em before you can buy 'em” promotions could use a little more time in the creative process. If the audience is going to truly buzz about a promotion, it needs to sound different than what other radio stations have done – for decades.
The Fruit of the Loom street team (if there is such a thing) might have been more effective had they simply driven a limo around Manhattan with a guy wearing just a pair of Everlight underwear handing out $100 bills.
Or take those wacky costumed people to Grand Central Station during rush hour, and hand out pairs of underwear – and some of the packages have cash inside. That would create some attention.
Or maybe even working with local radio stations to have DJs running around with underwear on their heads.
Hey, it wouldn't be the first time.
Jacobs Media has consistently walked the walk in the digital space, providing insights and guidance through its well-read national Techsurveys.
In 2008, jacapps was launched - a mobile apps company that has designed and built more than 1,200 apps for both the Apple and Android platforms. In 2013, the DASH Conference was created - a mashup of radio and automotive, designed to foster better understanding of the "connected car" and its impact.
Along with providing the creative and intellectual direction for the company, Fred consults many of Jacobs Media's commercial and public radio clients, in addition to media brands looking to thrive in the rapidly changing tech environment.
Fred was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2018.
Latest posts by Fred Jacobs (see all)
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