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Format Attacks

Midweek Motivator

100_100_timby Tim Moore


Radio stations change formats all the time. Many fail. If the idea of losing audience in a zero sum game doesn’t bother you, then you probably don’t need to accept that you’re always in a state of readiness either as an attacker or a defender. Successful radio stations are always at war. Every week All Access breaks the news; somewhere, someone flips formats under the assumption they can seize a chunk of audience share owned by someone else. Yet history proves in most formats the first-in with a brand remains the leader. In the event you intend to attack a seemingly lightly contested format hill, think like a military strategist.

One violation of a cardinal rule is enough to invalidate a strategic plan. In attacking a brand leader, violate two and you’ve already lost. The two iron laws of overtaking someone else are as follow:

1. Strike for the heart. 2. Know your enemy.

“Strike for the heart” is only a corollary of the first principle of war: concentration of force. But what is the area of vulnerability or the “heart” of your competitor’s success? Is it music inaccuracy, unremarkable talent, branding anemia? You can’t attack four or five points of vulnerability but you can attack the “heart” of a competitor’s identity. And the key to achieving your objective does not turn on being better. If you base your strategy on “better” you’ll fail.

“Know your enemy” may lead you to your rationale for attacking them. But successful stations we’ve launched aren’t stations that did something better than their competitor. They prevailed because they did something different. Harry Beckwith wrote about this in his epic book Selling The Invisible where he cited multiple iconic companies that attempted to base their new product on “better” and failed. Beckwith also showcased companies that did something differently to lever away consumers from an established brand and succeeded beyond their imagination. If you don’t truly know your enemy and believe by moving closer to them somehow you’ll prevail quickly tilts the odds of winning in their favor before the battle really begins.

How many times have you seen a challenger attack the top-rated CHR, Country, or News Talk leader only to hear the sound of one hand clapping made so by low sampling and awareness, resulting in even lower conversion to audience share? Too many programmers operate in a Byzantine maze; little or no research, corporate pressure, and far too few resources. But, if tomorrow morning you’re presented with the task of a frontal or flanker attack on a competitor, at least try to prepare for your adventure: (1) Define your target. (2) Define your new position. (3) Define your programming components. (4) Define your “difference.” (5) Define your weapons-not the ones you wish for but those you hold in hand.

To many format launches are a nullity. Downsized resources met with lofty objectives have reduced your margin for error. As a competitor you’re either a victor or a casualty.

Tim Moore

Tim Moore

Managing Partner

Audience Development Group