November 25, 2015

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First Mediaworks

02/27/06 Triggers Can Be Dangerous
Words are powerful triggers, stimulating thoughts, cautions, and emotions. Direct-marketing gurus will tell you that “free” is one of the most powerful words in the English language. They will also tell you that “free” may get attention, but its use is effective only in appealing to certain demographics with certain products. Most people know intuitively that nothing is free. Hearing the word “free” triggers “there is a catch; it is too good to be true.”

Ever hear an ad that says, “We'll beat the competitor's price” or “we're better than the competition”? Hearing “competitor” mentioned in an ad triggers a thought that the competitor mention must be for a reason. “Maybe the competitor has a better product and is hurting the advertiser.” It brings attention to the product category and may be driving business to the competitor they hope to squash.

Defensive ads do work - for the competition. My cable company runs ads that talk about the disadvantages and risks of satellite TV. Rather than changing my mind, they in fact reminded me that in my last house I had satellite TV and I liked it better.

The other day, I was driving with a non-radio business colleague when a local station personality read a liner: “Radio has always been free, and always will be.” My non-radio colleague spoke up: “I've been listening to radio my whole life… all of a sudden, they are promoting that they are free. Are they that afraid of satellite radio? They sound terribly defensive. Besides that, radio isn't really free, is it? After all, I have to listen to all those commercials. Nothing is free; there is always a price.”

I almost drove off the road. The ad pegged his B.S. meter and triggered a thought opposite to the desired effect. Though the intent of these ads is to promote radio, I think radio will increase awareness of satellite radio.

Radio is a strong and valuable medium, but telling people we are free won't stop anyone from buying satellite radio, which offers valuable propositions: no ads on music channels and lots of format options. No matter how powerful radio's reach is, it will not change thinking and prevent someone from subscribing to satellite radio.

Satellite radio is not the enemy. I'll keep saying it. All radio will be elevated by the publicity it is bringing to radio. AM stations ran ads that AM was better than FM. They did not work. Neither will these ads.

A radio campaign is not the answer to new competition. Doing great radio is.

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