Strategy Playbook: #3 Did Your Marketing “Work”

Co-Founder and Insights Director

So far in this series we've covered #1 Ratings Realities and #2 Content-Cume vs. Passive-Habit

This time I discuss how to avoid just "throwing money at a survey", and being very clear about what you're really trying to achieve.

What 's the measurable outcome? Do your campaign goals match OR contradict your brand-values and long-term objectives? 


Precise Campaign Goals

The key is to have a very clear, precision idea of what your campaign is designed to achieve. No different to your own advertising clients – practice what you preach!

If it’s a generalised “improve our ratings”, you’re already set up for disappointment, because of all the potential influences highlighted in this series.

And given all the new, ever-evolving Social Media marketing options, lack of precision-thinking will leave you stranded. Unable to review effects and plan next steps.

Affecting specific surveys is hit & miss, even just taking into account methodology quirks. It must be a much longer, less emotional, and more analytical view.

An exception is a big-ticket (and it has to be big!) tactical spike, designed specifically for the short-term. The caveat being that the outcome may only last for one survey, unless linked to a more meaningful, long-term driver of habit-change such as a major personality and/or format move.

Examples of Precision Goals

These have elements of the classic marketing adoption-cycle of awareness-trial-liking-usage-preference-exclusive/loyal.

And which is evolving into a much "fuzzier" and more complex, less linear concept – see Scott's excellent Radio Today article on the New Marketing Model 

Here, I outline some  fundamentals …

The examples marked as long-term, should not be expected to produce immediate ratings action. They might, which would be a bonus, but changing people’s ingrained listening habits usually takes time and patience.

BTW starting a campaign at the same time as the diaries go out, is a misguided concept, way too late to be effective. You want your message Reach & Frequency to be kicking in well before the first “needles in the haystack” listeners are handed their diaries.

And because your fate in a survey is mostly decided before the last 2 weeks (or earlier) of sampling, a campaign is better timed from at least 2 weeks before the start, through to 2 weeks before the end of a survey. That’s if you’re going for a shorter-term spike.


Otherwise, for habit-changing, you can pulse across longer periods of months, quarters and so on. Especially when tied to natural changes in lifestyle, such as seasonal .

  • Greater brand awareness (long-term) … within those previously unaware e.g. as measured by a research question like “name all the radio stations you can think of in your area”. If you’re not mentioned, you’re not even on the radar for that person, with no immediate prospect of one-off trial listening, let alone regular usage.
  • Trial/sampling (long-term) … you’re aiming to stimulate curiosity listening by those aware of you, but “haven’t got around to it yet, can't be bothered” (a common response to “why don’t you listen” research).

Known as “consumer inertia” – Google it. Faced by all industries, it’s a grind, even when it’s a free product!

Listener inertia is greatly underestimated by most radio people, but explains so much more of your ratings situation than is comfortable.  


Potentially deflating, when you spend your long working days in the fantasy-factory radio station environment . Trying to create momentum, painting big pictures and executing small details of killer content&marketing, that absolutely will smash it in the next book.

  • Converting trial into regular usage (long-term) … encouraging samplers to intentionally and more regularly cume you, for a personality, music differentiator, mood choice or other content base.

Often a case of getting onto someone’s habitual, daily listening “menu", where they cycle through a set of stations they know, and use for specific reasons.

The car preset is an excellent barometer of your inclusion or exclusion, and a potential research question “which stations are on your preset and why?” Reinforces the need for a unique POD (Point-Of-Difference), where you’re not the same as the rest of the pack.

  • Converting cume into habit preference (long-term) … e.g. where you want to burn in a specific breakfast show as #1 choice (“change your mornings”), or exclusive talk or music POD (the only station that___).


Being “the best station” at something, or the even weaker “better” does not cut it in our fragmented app-world. i.e. if you think of your station as an app, "name one (meaningful) thing you do that no one else does", and worth paying for.

A parallel on-air campaign is of course essential for this, and the previous goal, using the same creative.


  • Call-To-Action spike (short-term) … tactical, hot promotion. Not strategic, unless accompanied by a significant habit-changer. For instance, an external message like “win a (___) at 7.30 tomorrow morning, on the new (star personality) breakfast show”.


Strategy Playbook Recommendations

  • Be very clear about your marketing goals – how you’ll measure the results, and over what period of time.
  • What’s your unique and meaningful Point-Of-Difference? “Best” is not good enough, because that still says “the same” as someone else.
  • Most marketing will realistically be longer-term, to change or reinforce perceptions and  habitual listening.
  • “Listener inertia” means it can take months, not weeks …  even longer, well beyond a single ratings period!
  • Visualise getting on to presets.
  • Be patient.


Eriks Celmins is Managing Director of Third Wave Media and InsiderFocus, consultant for research, strategy and content. Find out more here.

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