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The Brand Cycle

Midweek Motivator

100_100_timby Tim Moore


Radio is motion. You can’t freeze the ball (though some programmers seem to get stuck there). If you aren’t gaining listeners you’re losing them. You can’t win without your P-1 core nor can you win solely with that group. In a wide sense the only rule is, there are no rules. There are only concepts extracted from Nielsen PPM and Diary analysis. As programming partners to many clusters and format brands Audience Development Group has built a model that helps explain where a brand should be in the evolution of a format, and what strategies are appropriate for those brand development positions on the ADG Brand Cycle. On engaging a new client it’s the first test we apply. If you can’t isolate where you are and apply the tenets that fit that place on the Brand Cycle, you may fail.

The Brand Incubation Phase

Start-up formats or format changes necessarily place you here. When metrics show a cume rating below ’10’ (less than ten percent of the available target is sampling you weekly) the market universe is largely unaware of your brand and at this early formative period, there is no perceived need for it! Too many radio leaders are in denial about this formative stage believing in the Field of Dreams approach (they’ll find us eventually). There is one mandate for any format in this incubation position: raise sampling through external cume-building. It costs money and there is no “short way.” Failing to understand the implication of the term “cume rating” (we’re surprised at how many don’t) can be fatal. Cume building is essential and unavoidable for a new format. Shaving expense by trickling-out marketing effort is sunken savings.

The Brand Competition Phase

Once adequate cume is a reality–10 percent in-target or higher– all things being relative, we can shift from awareness-building to “differentiation” tactics. In most markets the Law of Duality exists and every format ultimately becomes a two horse race. It’s here your tactics must change with on-air and external marketing, underscoring the compelling difference between your brand and whomever exists in format plurality. If you can’t win a perceptual battle for “difference” you can’t win. This phase may last for years depending on format hill, your opposition’s intrepidity, or simple financial reality. Not every company can wait-out a protracted campaign. When you ultimately achieve a lead of 2:1 in share, or a perceptual study shows you own 3:1 “favoritism” in a format, you know you may be ready to shift to the third phase of our Brand Cycle.

The Brand Retentive Phase

In the study of brands, Nike, Coke, Apple, Bang & Olufsen are all in a Retentive phase of their cycle. They are so entrenched in top-of-mind and market share, their man focus is on retainingtheir leadership by “freshness-dating,” nuance innovation, and super-service to their heavy-users. WTOP, WOGL, KBCO and other iconic stations can claim this phase. Wishing doesn’t make it so, only metrics do. Here, rules shift again: attacking ourselves, war gaming potential opponents, and innovating through small measures. Apple and Starbucks do it annually.

ADG puts great emphasis on defining strategic and tactical thinking based on sound principles that include the caution that every radio brand has a place somewhere on our Brand Cycle. Not knowing where you are, where you should be or worse, employing concepts that are inappropriate for your current mission (Incubation, Competitive or Retentive) leads to failure. Treat competitors with courteous contempt; never let them out-game you.

Tim Moore

Tim Moore

Managing Partner

Audience Development Group