Why Fit In When You Can Stand Out

Why Fit In When You Can Stand Out

The 5 Truths About Commercial Copy Writing

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The path between a great idea and a great broadcast ready commercial is paved with excellent copy writing. Unfortunately, often times and at no fault of the copy writer, the message gets obscured because of the too-many-cooks principle.

If it was up to copy writers alone all commercials would be divine inspirations that communicate an idea clearly and effectively. However as you know there’s more to the process including well intentioned sales people, the clients themselves and don’t forget the client’s knowledgable hairdresser who believes the product name should be said at least 6 times in a :30 second commercial to be most effective!

If you’re a commercial copy writer and you’re looking for ammunition to pull out when all of the above “cooks” start trying to help make the commercial better, arm yourself with my 5 truths about commercial copy writing.

  1. Commercials are meant to sell, not entertain 

    A successful commercial is not one that wins awards for it’s creativity or that’s funny, it’s one that motivates the listener to act. To go out and buy the product, period.

    This should be your main goal as soon as you sit down to write and if it’s not you’re being unfaithful to the client’s needs.

  2. Less is more

    It’s not just a cliché. Retailers who buy commercial airtime sometimes think that they need to fill it with as much information about their product as they can possible squeeze in. You’ll need to explain to them that this approach works against the purpose of the commercial…stimulating an emotional response which then motivates the audience to act.

    My friend Nick Michaels takes it a step further when he says, “The more words you use the LESS the listener gets to actively participate. Does your message allow for the act of discovery or is the listener a VICTIM of the message?”

    The white space you leave between the words is where the audience gets to participate through introspection and inadvertently internalizes the message you’re trying to convey.

  3. Advertising solves problems

    Let’s be honest, people don’t care about the product, they care about what the product can do for them.

    When you’re tasked with writing a commercial the first question you need to ask yourself is “what problem does it solve?” and then build a message that conveys that information to the listener in a meaningful way.

    It’s a 3 step process:

    Step 1 – Identify the need that will be filled or problem that will be solved

    Step 2 – Make the listener aware of that need or problem

    Step 3 – Show them how the product will solve that need or problem

  4. One core message is all you need

    More today than at any other time, your audience is busy living their lives and will only respond to a simple, crystal clear message that they can relate to.

    If in your creative meeting you conclude that XYZ Money Lenders ‘will solve your money problems’ make that your core message and build the commercial backwards from there. Your core message is the bullseye of the entire commercial and the fact that their lineups are short, their staff is friendly or that they have 18 convenient locations, is not. Anything that is outside of your target will only confuse the message.

    If the client insists on mentioning more than one core message suggest a separate commercial for each of them.

  5. Radio is a visual medium

    I’ve spent more years working in radio than in television but the truth is that building a picture in the mind of the listener and igniting introspection, is at the core of radio’s success. This is thoroughly explained in an article titled Visual Imagery: Applications to Advertising on the Association for Consumer Research website (quoted below).

    [blockquote author=”John R. Rossiter, Columbia University”][Mental] imagery may prove to be the primary principle for the psychology of learning.[/blockquote]

    From a practical (ie. budgetary) standpoint when you’re writing a radio commercial vs. TV commercial you have much more freedom to create than in TV. When you’re writing for radio use the medium to it’s fullest potential.

Conclusion: Commercial copy writing isn’t a lost art but it does sometimes get overlooked in the fast paced, day-to-day operations of connecting clients to consumers. I hope this list helps you do that in a way that benefits both you and your clients.

What would you add to my list? Leave your thoughts or commercial copy writing truths in the comment field below.

Better Radio Imaging Through Better Understanding

Better Radio Imaging Through Better Understanding

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Admittedly, one of the hardest things for radio people to do is to listen to their radio station the way a listener listens, but it remains a crucial skill that broadcaster’s need to develop before they can properly brand their radio station.

For far too long radio programmers have thought they heard listeners say they wanted “Less Talk, More Rock”, yet that was an over simplification of what listeners were asking for from their radio station.

With radio’s ever increasing competition from satellite, streaming, and internet radio, not to mention a flotilla of other entertainment options like digital TV, home theater and video games, we have to better understand what listeners come to our stations for and echo that proposition in our imaging statement.

It doesn’t matter how hard you want to be “The Rock Station That REALLY Rocks”, if the audience doesn’t see you as being that then you will only be “The Rock Station That THINKS It Really Rocks”. Branding begins in the consumers mind so the first step to better branding is to understand how we are perceived.

What’s For Dinner
As an entertainment option, let’s try to understand why people turn to radio. Imagine this: You and your significant other go out to a restaurant for dinner with a couple of friends. What are you actually going out for, the food? Not necessarily. While the food is the object of the get together, it isn’t the reason for getting together, you want to talk, catch up and share stories. In the same way, your listeners are coming to you for the music (or information if you are a News/Talk station) but what’s making them stay and what compels them to come back time and time again? As I’ve said in other articles, songs (or information) are the bricks of this ‘radio house’ if you will, but what holds it all together is the mortar…what’s holding your ‘radio house’ together?

Better Radio Imaging Through Better Understanding
So how does all of this relate to imaging your radio station? As soon as you realize that the reason your listeners are listening to your radio station isn’t just for the music you’ll see that “Less Talk, More Rock” isn’t a very good way to brand yourself in fact it’s quite limiting. Saying that you play “10 Songs In A Row” or “100 Songs In A Row” for that matter, doesn’t cut it either. If that’s what they really want they’ll just plug into their iPod and get 1,000 songs in a row! It’s necessary to understand what makes your listener listen and then give them that wrapped up neatly in your imaging. If your audience’s understanding of what your station is doesn’t match yours then ask yourself why? Then decide if you should change your station or adjust your imaging to match your listener’s expectations.

Time to Rethink
Branding is an art that honestly, most radio people haven’t mastered yet. You need to capture your listener’s imagination while reflecting their perceptions. To help make my point I use this example often: if a radio person were in charge of coming up with the imaging statement for Coca-Cola it would be something like, “Your Favourite Blend of Sugar, Water and Artificial Coca Flavouring”. Uh, yeah, that’s what it is, but how is it perceived in the mind of the consumer? It’s seen as being the number one Cola on the market, they defined what all Cola’s are, Coca Cola was the first cola drink most of us ever experienced, which is why it is better branded as: “The Real Thing”.

    • The Hudson’s Bay Company isn’t branded as “Cloths, Perfume, Kitchen Appliances and Furniture”, it’s branding statement is “More Than You Came For”
    • Hewlett Packard is not “Printers” it’s imaging statement is “Invent”
    • Bell Mobility isn’t “Cell Phones and Accessories” it’s “We Are All Connected”
    • Microsoft isn’t “Computers”, it’s “Where Do You Want To Go Today”

Do you see how brand savvy companies have captured the spirit of how the consumer sees their product? So why would you brand your radio station as being the station that “Plays Your Favourites Of The 70’s 80’s, 90’s and Now”. It’s time to rethink the way you brand your radio station. Ask yourself, what is the unique proposition that you can offer a listener. Or better yet ask your listener what they think of your radio station.

Conclusion
While a perceptual study is a good idea I would never rely entirely on its outcome, the way they are done can be misleading. Remember it was a focus group that gave us “Less Talk, More Rock”… That being said listen to what your jocks are saying about the calls they get, at public events strike up a conversation with a listener or even hang around in the lobby and listen to what contest winners are saying about the station to your receptionist. You may be surprised at what you actually hear your listeners say about your station…because it won’t be about the food!

The Simpler the Message, the Better

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It was a beautiful spring morning in Montréal, the kind we had dreamt about all winter long, the smell of Saturday was calling out, the birds were singing their morning song, the smell of freshly cut grass occasionally blew in. My wife, my sons and I decided to go out for brunch at a local restaurant. As we sat there on the terrace I noticed a group of teenagers across the street who were holding a car wash, whether they were a softball team, soccer team, school band I wasn’t quite sure. It was obvious however that they were having quite a difficult time attracting anyone despite the fact that there had been a downpour the night before. They were waving their signs, yelling and jumping up and down but to no avail. After watching this scene for maybe half an hour and as our waitress cleared the table I had an idea…was it a need to help or just my own selfish desire to prove a point I don’t know. I grabbed a black sharpee from the car and ran across the street. After introducing myself and my idea I took 4 of their signs, flipped them over and simply wrote “Car Wash $10”. I headed back to the restaurant to enjoy my freshly frothed cappuccino and to see my plan unfold. Sure enough, before I could get past the foam topping, cars had started to pull into the parking lot and by the time I had paid the bill, there was a line-up! All in a days work I thought as I piled my family into the car to head home and turned on the radio just like I had told one of my clients the week before ‘the simpler the message the better’!

While the kids had thought to bring all of their buckets, wash cloths, hoses, soap and a change of cloths all the elements you need for a successful car wash they hadn’t thought about how they were going to attract their customer. Their attempts were confusing at best, each one of their signs had different messages each explaining in a different way what the car wash was for, why they should stop and let them wash their car etc. What they needed was one simple and clear message to attract customers “Car Wash $10”.

Think It Through
So how does this apply to branding your radio station? Think about it, you’ve spent millions of dollars buying and setting up a transmitter, setting up a radio station, hiring the right people and picking the right music, but how much thought have put into the message you’re using to attract customers.

It has been said that radio people are so close to their radio station that all they see are the trees. Radio listeners on the other hand see the forest, the bigger picture. Well these days in our over communicated world (as Nick Michaels calls it)  I’ll take it a further step back! Radio listeners today are seeing that forest as they fly down the highway of life doing 100km/h!! So how do you expect them to see what it is you’re selling amidst a landscape filled with messages? We have to create a message that is so simple, so clear that nobody can miss its intention. “Car Wash $10”.

Some products can be as easily identified by there positioning statement as by the brand name or logo. Here are some examples:

• “The Real Thing”
• “Mm’mm Good”
• “I’m lovin’ it”
• “Eat Fresh”
• “Just Do It”

Your Brand Message
So what message are you giving to your listeners?

• Your Favourites of the 70’s 80’s 90’s and Today
• The Rock Station That Really Rocks
• Give us 30 minutes. We’ll give you an incredible variety of songs
• The only radio station that gives you 50-minute music hours
• Rebooting your workday, with all your favourite songs from all your favourite stars

All very nice but memorable? No. You need to pick a word or short phrase and own it. Make it signify what your station is in the mind of your listener. Your message needs to be sharpened to the point where it can cut through the clutter. Keep it simple, keep it focused, keep it clear, keep it consistent and you’ll get them lining up around the corner.

Effective Radio Imaging is ‘Brand Advertising’

One of the biggest misconceptions of what radio imaging is, is that it’s ‘marketing’ when in fact it isn’t at all, it’s ‘advertising’.

The difference between marketing and advertising is that marketing talks about the company (in this case the radio station) where advertising talks about the consumer (in this case the listener) selling the positive attributes of the product, your radio station!

Radio listeners are a hardened bunch, which comes from years and years of being bombarded with messages not just through the radio, but through the TV, on billboards, even in public bathrooms. Everywhere they go someone is trying to sell them something! Radio listeners have become quite adept at using their bullshit alarms. When they hear BS it shuts out the message. Radio imaging that takes the ‘marketing’ route is automatically ‘STOPPED’ from entering the brain and your message that you are “The Rock Station the REALLY Rocks!” is lost in the ether.

There are two kinds of advertising:

  • ”call to action’ advertising and
  • ”brand’ advertising.

In the case of radio imaging ‘call to action’ ads are your typical:  “Listen at 5 for the Drive at Five” or “coming up in the next 30 minutes your chance to win…” a message that asks the listener to do something (listen) at a particular time of the day or to do something specifically as it relates to the radio station.

Effective radio imaging is ‘brand’ advertising

In order to do effective brand advertising you need to first understand how you are perceived by your listeners. I’ve said it many times before “branding starts in the listeners mind”. Once you understand that you can build on it and then help the listener to expand what he believes to be true about your station with each progressive imaging liner…with each progressive imaging campaign.
If you want to win the hearts of your listeners you need to get into their minds. And the key to getting into their mind is not through marketing…it’s through brand advertising.

Consumers don’t buy products anymore they buy brands. What are you doing to build your radio station’s brand?

5 Ways to Instantly Improve Your Radio Imaging

THINK OF RADIO IMAGING as the packaging around your radio station.

Imagine for a minute, a box of Tide, Coca Cola or Wheaties sitting on the grocery store shelf in a plain brown package with black crayon lettering and drawings to describe what’s inside: Soap. Soda. Cereal.

These companies put a lot of money, time and research into their products, why would they give up when it came to creating it’s distinctive packaging?

Why should you…?

Download this free report and get your radio imaging back to where it should be…the distinctive packaging for your product.

5 Ways to Instantly Improve Your Radio Station’s Imaging (.pdf 520kb)

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