Does Your Gut Need Checking?

Many of us accept that radio’s role in the music discovery process for consumers is pretty much assured for some time far into the future.  For so many years radio was the primary, if not only place for a large percentage of consumers to hear new music releases for free – and to experience these new releases in the context of other songs they liked.

Yet, as consumers have more options for sources of free or low-cost ways to listen to music, terrestrial radio’s position at the top of the new-music-discovery pyramid is threatened.  With so many other choices emerging, even if we maintain a plurality leadership position, we face holding sway with fewer consumers and having less influence with music labels.

In current-based format battles, stations have often sought to be imaged as the one that plays the new songs first.  Some of this is actually taking risks on new titles sooner, but part of it is communicating the benefit to consumers.  Despite situations where stations have bludgeoned consumers with slogans and positioners about being the first to play new songs, the image doesn’t always connect.

In some cases being the first to play new songs doesn’t connect because the station ends up playing too many stiffs.  In other cases, however, the messaging gets in the way.  What’s the benefit to the consumer?  For those who are actively seeking new music and using radio for music discovery, the benefit is clear.  But, for the (often) larger group – a little less plugged into new music – the benefit may not be so obvious.  In the latter case, getting the messaging dialed in exactly – right from the start – can make or break the tactic.

Whether it’s a perceptual or simply extra questions attached to a station’s music testing, a little bit of research can help to dial in the words, so that the positioning appeals not only to the widest group of the targeted audience, but to the group for whom the concept has real gravity.  And, getting the words right, allows the station to more finely tune the production supporting the tactic and how the personalities describe the tactic.

With so many new sources vying for the positions we’ve accepted as part of radio’s bundle for so many years – with so much at stake – it’s critical to get station messaging as close to perfect as possible.  Getting consumer insights on what we say and (where possible) how we say it, is too important to pass up.  The idea of consumer research is to make statistically sure that our instincts are aligned with consumer opinion – the proverbial gut check.