Remember when you went to the fair as a kid and there was a booth called “Fool the Guesser?” This eccentric gentleman was tasked with guessing your age (within two years), your weight (within 3 pounds), or the month of your birthday (within two months). If he got the answer wrong, you won a prize. It was a simple trick. He had to know the answer to just one question. As crazy as this guy looked, somehow, he seemed to always get the answer correct, mystifying the gathering crowd.
Was he psychic? Or are these things just obvious to an astute observer?
Many years ago, I met a radio researcher who claimed that the answer to just one question was the key to winning or losing radio stations. Just like in Fool the Guesser. Curious about what that question might be? I was too. The question was “What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of (radio station name)?”
His line of thinking was that if most listeners mentioned the base music position of the radio station, the station was in a healthy place. If they mentioned the morning show, a contest, a feature, or some other programming element before music, he would say the station was not properly branded, and in a bit of trouble. The classic radio example is Howard Stern. Howard’s brand was so powerful, it overpowered the base positions of the stations that carried his show. When he fled for Sirius, a large percentage of the brands were forced to flip with no foundation to stand on.
Today, that remains a critical question and one of the most valuable health checks you can perform on your radio station. Indeed, it forms the foundation of the Coleman Insights Image Pyramid philosophy. Listeners must be able to, in a word or two, be able to explain what your station represents. What kind of music is it famous for? This applies for Spoken Word stations as well, with the Base Talk position replacing the Base Music position.
As the Image Pyramid demonstrates, the importance of the correct answer to the “one question” doesn’t mean the other elements are not important to study as well. The base position is the foundation, the other elements provide brand depth.
The “one question” exercise can be applied to any brand. Certainly, other audio brands in the podcast and streaming segments, but in other product categories as well. Take Spirit Airlines, in the news recently for all the wrong reasons. If consumers start regularly answering the one question with “cancelled flights” instead of “low fares,” Spirit is going to have a serious problem.
While no replacement for comprehensive research, try this exercise with your brand. Ask about the first thing that comes to mind.
What’s the answer?
Executive Vice President/Senior Consultant, Coleman Insights
Sam joined the team in September 2009 when Coleman Insights acquired his firm, mediaEKG®, for which he served as President since 2006. Prior to starting mediaEKG, Sam held broadcast programming and operational positions, including Operations Director of WXRK-FM/New York, Research Director of WHTZ-FM/New York and Program Director of WMMR-FM/Philadelphia.
He began his career as a litigation, intellectual property and entertainment attorney at the Philadelphia law firm of Ballard, Spahr, Andrews & Ingersoll. Sam holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania and a Juris Doctorate from Cornell Law School.