Thursday, October 23, 2014

TSL: Profiting from a Limited Time Only Strategy

“The problem with your business,” the consultant explained, “is that your customers are saying, ‘If I don’t buy from you today, I’ll buy from you tomorrow.’”

That discussion wasn’t about radio, but it certainly could have been.

Each time a listener decides to listen tomorrow instead of today, the opportunity for an additional listening occasion is not only gone now, it's a possibility/probability that there won’t be any listening tomorrow either – especially if the decision to not listen today was rooted in too many “average” experiences.

On the one hand, predictability is important:  imaging (packaging), brand personality, talent, delivering and occasionally exceeding expectations, etc.

On the other hand, if the content never changes and yesterday’s show sounds pretty much like last week’s and last month’s and last year’s, a lack of listener enthusiasm can be manifest in “I’ll listen tomorrow” behavior.

The solution? The PSL – Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Metaphorically of course.

The PSL is a Limited Time Only (LTO) event. It gets attention and creates urgency, while combining the familiar, traditional brand expectations with something fresh.

The result for Starbucks is increased traffic.

How much? According to, in the 4th quarter of 2013 Starbucks saw 5% more foot traffic and 7% more sales - roughly $800-million worth of PSLs.

Knowing anything good deserves pre-promotion, Starbucks allowed some of their best customers to buy the drink early.

Taco Bell is also adept at the LTO strategy marrying familiarity with fervor via limited time menu items. They're also pre-promoters. Fans of the Beefy Crunch Burrito already know that its long-awaited return to the menu will happen nationwide on December 20th. Check it out on Facebook.

Radio’s LTO time line is different of course - it may only be a couple of breaks.

But, like the PSL or Beefy Crunch Burrito, our version of the LTO should:

  1. Be in-sync with and polish core values
  2. Have sufficient crave-ability to generate traffic and word of mouth
  3. Appear on a regular cycle
  4. Be well-promoted
  5. Have an anticipated arrival and be missed when it's gone
One break or one month of something special, radio LTO’s are anecdotes for to the ennui-driven decision to listen tomorrow instead of today.

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