Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Seeking Elmo

Changing tastes, lagging brands, increased competition, evolving consumers, and increasing difficulty in attracting your target’s attention: sounds like this could be a list of challenges facing any number of industries including ours.

In this case though, we’re talking about the toy industry and Mattel and its Fisher-Price line in particular. Today’s Wall Street Journal noted the company had it’s first quarterly loss in more than three years and was hurt not only by the weak economy, but also by factors like a struggling brand (Barbie) and the lack of a hot, new item, like last year’s T. M. X. Elmo.

Innovation of course is one way to keep a brand prosperous. If you attended the A&O pre-CRS Seminar, you know that one of Starbuck’s brand traits is ‘staying fresh through innovation.’

However trying to deliver too much of a good thing can confuse consumers. Mattel’s Magic of the Rainbow” fantasy doll did so many other functions too (a remote control, CD-ROM game, button-activated fluttering wings) that, “‘Girls asked – is this a doll?’” according to Chuck Scothon, Sr. VP of Mattel’s girls division who admits, “We put too much in.”

The challenge for Mattel – and arguably other industries including radio – is to be “fresh and new” without being so overly innovative that consumers are left confused by what the core product actually is.

Brands are a promise of value and experiences. Violating your promise or delivering an ‘average’ consumer experience diminishes the brand’s power. Delivering on your promises and providing an exceptional experience strengthens your brand’s power.

Examine each item in your station’s brand folder and determine how powerful it is, considering relevance, customer experience, stand-out-ability, freshness, and its potential to generate new listeners on its own or via word of mouth.

• Is the listeners’ experience in synch with what they truly want? If not, how do they need to be modified?
• Are your true brand assets attracting your listeners’ attention?
• Is your station on multiple platforms? How is the quality of that cross-platform experience?
• How can you deepen your station’s brand experience?

“Something in the Air” author Marc Fisher, speaking at Rutgers’ Eagleton Institute of Politics listed ‘reinvesting in creativity’ as one of radio’s top ways to be innovative.

Consider doing just that in the next week. Spend a few hours with your creative staffers reviewing what on your station that can be evolved, updated, spun or reinvented to deliver not only a better brand experience, but one that causes listeners to tell others about.

In the process, you might discover your station’s next Elmo.

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