Remember when you’d sit down with some of your friends to watch Carson Daly count down the top ten music videos in America according to your requests (was it phone calls back then)?
Well, in the Tampa market, 97x, an Alt Rock station launched its own version of TRL, or, calling it a “social music revolution.” This app based radio station model now gives listeners the ability to vote for the songs they want to be played. It’s like TRL for radio. This new station format launched January 18, 2013, and as of February 8 had 21,710 app downloads, so it’s growing quickly. In terms of interaction with the app, so far there have been 2.9MM votes for songs.
In true marketing form, the station puts choices in the hands of the consumers, giving them complete control of the music being played on the station. Will this be the way of the future for radio? Or is it like when you go to a frozen yogurt shop, and when you’re done creating your customized concoction, you wish you had not chosen Gummi bears, chocolate chips AND coconut flakes, because it’s so random; and then you don’t even end up enjoying it. To me, that is how the new format feels. The playlist ranges from Rob Zombie to the gentle stylings of Jack Johnson, and then back to System of a Down. It’s all over the place.
We’ve seen the growth of social TV and really seen that brands capitalize on the multi-screen engagement. I’ll be interested to see if Social Radio can build something similar, but my feeling is no. While this shiny new object is making we media planners think a little differently about how others listen to music, I don’t believe it’ll replace traditional radio. We already have Pandora, GrooveShark and Spotify doing that for us. Many media traditionalists enjoy listening to the radio for the DJs themselves. A station ridding itself of the draw of a local (or national) “celebrity” could lose credibility with its audience, thus losing listeners. Very few JACK-FM (no DJ) stations (as the media pros call it) are top rated stations in a market.
From a business perspective I think it’s very smart: it opens up a revenue stream for stations that wasn’t there before. They don’t sell just spots anymore, they’ve got social elements, as well as mobile and desktop ads to sell. It also extends the radio buy outside of just the on air experience. There is audience engagement and opportunity to capitalize on social elements, both of which are growing and more important to advertisers today. Building social and mobile capabilities for stations is a smart move; I just think it should be done in a way that doesn’t change, overnight, the way you listen to a station.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the implications of transmedia storytelling, and what that term truly means in today’s ad climate. Are we really at a point where we still have to label things transmedia? Isn’t it a given that all campaigns need to be thought through with a definitive story leading the channel strategy?
I think that transmedia is a buzzword that gets tossed around incorrectly a lot. The definition from Henry Jenkins (author of the book “Convergence Culture,” and widely considered to be the godfather of transmedia) is: “Transmedia stories are those which unfold across multiple media platforms with each new text making a distinctive and valuable contribution to the whole.” The emphasis is mine; it seems that many brands overlook the “distinctive and valuable” when it comes to trying a new platform. It’s tempting: we all want to be early adopters, to be able to say we recommended Facebook before it was part of most campaigns, Instagram when it was still just a small community of people who liked photography…the list goes on and on. But in jumping onto the “new thing now” bandwagon, it’s easy to lose sight of how each platform can add distinctive and valuable aspects to a brand’s story.
So what is transmedia storytelling in the social age? It’s having an innate understanding of what stories are best told using each social platform. It’s knowing what your target consumers are looking for in their experience on any given platform, and what their motivation is for going there. The story needs to be tailored to the mindset of the social behavior, and needs to be mindful of what the consumer is trying to accomplish in that space. The story needs to remind consumers why they love your brand, without being intrusive. To inspire participation and engagement, simply. To provide a storyline that’s memorable enough to leave a mark even if the consumer isn’t fully engaged.
It’s giving branded content contextual significance, giving every piece of social content (from a wall post to a branded Tumblr to a tweet to a…you get the point) the “distinctive and valuable” litmus test. Transmedia isn’t always the answer, but thinking though the story you’re trying to tell, and making sure your content is distinctive and valuable part of that story is a good place to start.
For decades, it’s generally been accepted that all great advertising campaigns sprout from a single “Big Idea” – We Try Harder. The Lonely Maytag Repairman. Ring Around the Collar.
However, in today’s ever-changing media landscape, are we outgrowing the concept of a single Big Idea that sells our product to anyone and everyone lucky enough to hear our message?
Media consumption today is evolving into an ever-more-personalized experience – digital retargeting and behavioral targeting remind us of the shoes we placed in our shopping cart and ALMOST clicked the “Buy” button to obtain…Smart TVs now connect our TV watching to social and digital experiences. Even radio is becoming more and more customized – stations and groups of stations on digital radio (and wired directly into our phones and newer car models) that reflect EXACTLY what we want to listen to at any given time.
As the media landscape becomes more and more cluttered AND targeted, there’s an opportunity to build campaigns that, instead of driving home the same message to a mass customer base, speak to our customers as individuals, reflecting a message that’s relevant both to our product AND to the customer. Beyond the paid landscape, part of this can be achieved through the owned and earned avenues – publishing stories that read more like content than “advertising” messages, and offer added value that reflects the context of what our consumers are engaged in. There are a few campaigns out there that are starting to use this mentality successfully- the US Department of Defense, for instance, has its own TV network (The Pentagon Channel); photojournalists creating content for Flickr; print journalists creating content worthy of publishing in newspaper and magazines; and podcasts for the general public. One such weekly podcast is entitled Armed with Science: Research and Applications for the Modern Military; the goal is to make modern military science more accessible to the general public.
To get through to today’s excessively busy, information-overloaded audience, we need to take advantage of the targeting and information we have available to us – and, as Shel Holtz recently put it, “be inspiring, clarifying, funny, useful or just plain interesting.” Move away from trying to force one slogan, one brand attribute, one message down everyone’s throats, but rather think like our audience, and help them understand that there is something about our product that they truly need.