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The Midweek Motivator – Bravado and Miscalculation

If you knew you had a one-in-three chance of succeeding with a competitive attack, would you still launch it? There are no empirical formulas for calculating the percentage of how many format-flips fail since industry publications never list “Ratings Misfires by Market.”Rest assured the data would be unsettling.

In military war-planning there exists a universal trinity for launching a campaign against an opponent: Surprise, Violence, and Speed. However out of fashion for some, business can never overdo the study of battle lessons applied to competitive relationships; there is an uncanny nexus. Consider these three elements related to a format change in any market.

About 50 percent of all surprise flips surprise no one. Thus, “Surprise,” one of the cardinal rules of warfare is either ignored or carelessly cast away through poor security. Tip-offs shared with vendors and resource people are easily read clues to the marketplace. If you want to diminish your chances for a frontal or flanker coup, just open the door for advanced notice inside your opponent’s camp. Insurgencies never succeed when the opposition is awake and prepared to preempt or block your strategy. This happens all too often, and limits a challenger before the battle ever really begins.

“Violence” translates to competitive attacks in business as devastatingly good product launched with minimal mistakes, then surged in the opening days and weeks. When you achieve complete tactical surprise by ambushing your competitor with your new brand using flawless execution, you achieve the shock-and-awe equivalent of an unexpected artillery barrage. Even for some well established defenders of format leadership in a market, a programming ambush can be disquieting, even devastating.

When a competitor achieves a shock-and-awe launch reinforced with aggressive external marketing, he or she also achieves market disequilibrium; the cards are reshuffled at least temporarily. Everything in that format gets set back to zero. Most defenders of first-place stations will tell you “It’s okay, we have a plan,” that is until someone punches them in the mouth. Unfortunately, too often execution elements aren’t in place, planning is incomplete, and counter insurgency marketing is watered down or non-existent. If so, the walls are already breached.

Conversely for the attacker, it is better to postpone a win than to design a defeat on schedule. Plan calmly, attack with all-out emotion. Post this one in your office.

“Speed” in the world of radio and other mediums demands moving with rapier quickness to “pour it on.” The excitement of a format launch is stimulating and rewarding but like a Seal team temporarily secured on a beach, you can’t stay there.