We have long believed that one of local radio’s strengths is its ability to make meaningful connections with its listeners. At a time when just about everything is digitized and reduced to algorithmic calculations about who you are and what you like, true engagement is something that only hometown radio can pull off.
But what kind of personal approaches are most impactful? Which one truly resonates with most people, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, politics, and locales?
It’s about birthdays – a day when all of us enjoy being in the spotlight, celebrated and feted by friends, family, co-workers – and yes, your favorite radio station. That’s a big part of the reason Film House’s “Birthday Game” was one of the most successful contests in radio history.
In a blog post by Optimove that quotes research they’ve conducted, Omer Liss and Maya Shaanan make the point that birthday emails are top performers, and that on that special day, “All people want is just to be remembered.”
And that was a reminder to me the radio and records industries have an official “Birthday Czar.”
“Heavy Lenny” Bronstein is a beloved character in the business, known to thousands who have worked behind the mic or donned satin jackets. Lenny (who is no longer heavy, by the way), has spent 40+ years in record promotion, most often as an independent promoter.
Lenny’s first love was radio, wound his way into concert promotion, and eventually worked for labels as well as representing independent acts. He’s been at it for decades.
But perhaps he is best known for starting the practice of sending out birthday (and anniversary) cards to everyone and anyone in radio starting way back in 1970. In fact, Lenny has turned it into an art form.
As he told me, “I always believed that extra personal touch was appreciated in our busy world.”
Lenny’s “birthday book” now numbers in the 5,000-6,000 range. Before email and Internet cards, Lenny spent 5+ hours on Saturdays, penning, addressing, and stamping scores of cards for those marking a special day.
He notes that he’s touched thousands, and perhaps even saved a few marriages along the ways by reminding recipients they were celebrating an anniversary.
Why is this so effective? As Lenny knows so well, “Getting a birthday in the system can be a heckuva nice surprise for a listener, telling him or her that the station IS part of their lives.”
That resonates with the social media acknowledgment phenomenon we see clearly in our Techsurveys. Many resondents say they actually listen to stations more that interact with them socially. A thoughtful greeting on a special day can go a long way toward bonding listeners with their favorite station and personalities.
A recent MediaPost story underscores the importance of birthdays as a marketing tool. And there’s even this surprising finding: men are much more likely than women to be web-active on their birthdays, especially regarding ecommerce.
Perhaps that’s why many Classic Rock stations like Hubbard’s WDRV/Chicago go out of their way to celebrate their fans’ big days. You can click the video below to see how they tie in their format, their brand, and individual birthday celebrants.
For ecommerce, younger respondents show the most activity on their birthdays. So, it’s no surprise Entercom’s WZPL/Indianapolis earns exceptionally high open rate with this “Half Birthday” video featuring their morning producer, Will. You can watch it here.
Bottom line: radio stations that gather birthday data from email database members have an easy path to making someone’s special day. A personal greeting in the station’s voice or delivered by a key personality can stand out and have impact.
We have also worked with brands where the airstaff makes phone calls to birthday celebrants – again, something that pure-plays and satellite radio are just not going to do.
There are special days every year in people’s lives – key holidays and milestones. But nothing is more universally celebrated than a birthday.
Radio has the power and the personality engagement to have impact when it matters most.
Whether you’re “Heavy Lenny” or a radio station, it is easy to make someone’s day.
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 1,000 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.