The evidence is overwhelming. Radio listening is up significantly, everywhere, during COVID-19.
So, this week, I want to focus on what brands and radio stations need to do to take advantage of this increase in listeners as we enter the phased reopening of our economy.
Before that, a quick word from our statisticians:
- Radiocentre reports that listeners in the UK are tuning in for an additional 1hr 45 minutes each day. Up from 12 to 26 hours per week
- Bauer UK reports a 34% increase in live streaming for March 2020 vs March 2019
- Interestingly, Bauer reports that the demand for news is decreasing as lockdown continues while the demand for music is up
- The Kantar Barometer (source: NAB ‘Why Radio Now’) reports that 35% of South Africans are listening to radio more while locked down
- 48% of listeners to Primedia stations (947, 702, KFM and CapeTalk) say they have changed the time of day that they listen to radio. Noticeable skew toward more lunchtime listening
- Fine Music Radio (Cape Town) reports a 39% increase in online listening since lockdown began
Some insightful feedback from the 5FM social media team on how listeners are engaging with the station on Social:
- Facebook is up. Rate of follower growth up 250% during lockdown
- FB engagement and reach also up
- But Twitter and Insta are significantly down
- Twitter engagement down 38% and Insta down 44%
- According to 5FM “Facebook is typically a more ‘friendly’ neighbourhood…During lockdown, when people can’t see their friends or families, Facebook will naturally see an increase in use.”
Instagram and Twitter rely heavily on content and lockdown inhibits our ability to create new content.
“This shift in content has made the platform as a whole lot less engaging for the normal Instagram audience”
So, what next?
In Alibaba: The House that Jack Ma built, Duncan Clark suggests that the seeds of Alibaba’s exponential growth were sown during the 2003 SARS crisis when many parts of China was under lockdown. e-Commerce was in its infancy in 2003 but the SARS lockdown saw a significant uptick in adoption of e-commerce. The rest is history.
It seems that a global crisis can help people shift their fear of the unknown. Look how South Africans have adopted work-from-home, with all its technical challenges, in such a short space of time?
Radio stations have a gilt-edged opportunity right now. Coronavirus has gifted them a whole new raft of listeners, many of them younger and tuning in on their digital devices. The crisis has helped those new listeners shift their fear of the unknown.
Similarly, brands have a unique window of opportunity over the ‘opening up’ phase that we are soon to embark upon. Consumers are open to change right now. They’ve just undergone some of the most radical change in their lives and they’ve come out the other side in one piece. It’s the perfect time to ask them to switch to your brand.
Primedia Broadcasting’s Business Unusual presentation last week found that around two thirds of listeners “are willing to try new brands during lockdown if the store runs out of stock of my usual brand.”
Radio in the period after lockdown is an attractive proposition:
- Listening figures have gone through the roof and are unlikely to taper off as long as WFH continues
- The consumer’s mindset is open to trying new brands
- Numerous surveys show radio as a trusted source. Brands that get it right can benefit from that trust factor on radio
How do brands (and stations) get it right over the next few months?
Come up with creative product offerings
Make no mistake, consumer spending is going to be tight. So, don’t just offer them the same old. Look at what they need right now in their lives and give it to them:
- Dealerships could offer a six-month payment holiday or six months’ worth of petrol
- Or when you buy a new car
- Retailers could offer bus/ taxi fares to customers to get them back to the shopping malls
- Some clever short-term insurance companies have already automatically discounted vehicle insurance. Extend this offer over the ‘opening up’ phase as a way to attract new customers. It’s an excellent time for all risk and insurance products to advertise as consumer mindsets see future protection as a top priority. Likewise, many health products.
- Offer free trial periods/ money back guarantees and make them authentic
- Package products that people really need in an attractive way; like the Woolworths ‘feed four for R150’
- With the fuel price on a steep downward curve petroleum companies don’t need creative product offerings. They just need to fight for market share and remind consumers about the price
- Free sanitising device when you buy a new phone
- As we open up more, hotels and lodges should partner with local airlines to offer getaways within SA at highly discounted prices
- Free sanitising kit when you book an internal flight
Whatever you are offering, it is equally important that you get your messaging right.
The messaging during lockdown was all about solidarity and support. Messaging during ‘opening up’ is going to have to navigate a tricky path between maintaining solidarity with consumers while acknowledging that life needs to get going again.
The key will be to understand what people need in their lives. Mostly they need financial help. With food, with school fees, with repayments and debit orders. They need what they purchase to go further, last longer and offer more value.
The language needs to acknowledge what they’ve been through while at the same time moving on from the dramatic lockdown messaging of piano music and deserted streets: ‘Every Covid 19 commercial is the same’.
Brands are very good at talking about themselves in their advertising. Perhaps this is an opportunity to talk more about the consumer and what they need right now.
According to Kantar, 88% of South Africans surveyed during Coronavirus believe ‘brands should talk about how they can be helpful in the new everyday life.” They specifically mentioned that brands should recognise staff and what they’ve put up with during lockdown, as well as finding ways to offer financial relief to their customers. (Primedia Business Unusual)
Non-traditional radio is an effective way to create that necessary authenticity in your messaging. The credibility that the station and the presenter bring are invaluable. Remember that listeners have chosen to engage with them during lockdown because they trust them, and they like them. Brands trying to navigate tricky messaging should piggyback on that likeability factor.
Promotions and competitions have always worked well and will do so during ‘opening up.’ But only if the messaging moves from “win win win’ to “let’s have some much-needed fun and, in the process, see if we can help you with what you really need right now – school fees, food, petrol, cash.”
The radio stations know their audiences better than anyone. Talk to them about how to get your messaging right.
Stations need to play ball with rates
Even the biggest brands have been hit hard. Every company is feeling the pinch. Most brand and marketing managers are well aware of all the studies over the past century that show that those brands who increase spend during a recession will increase market share significantly when the recession is over.
Knowing this doesn’t stop the board slashing your marketing spend. So, if radio stations want brands to come back on air during the ‘opening up’ phase they are going to have to make it very attractive.
Nearly every company is smaller, revenue-wise, now than it was three months ago. The economy is smaller and there’s a lot less to go around. It’s counter-productive for radio stations and media owners in general to dig their heels in over rates now. Yes, it may ultimately devalue your inventory but what is the point of having lots of expensive perishable inventory when there’s no demand?
Stations need to create the demand. Not just to rescue themselves but to help rescue the economy in general. For the economy to get going again we need cash-strapped consumers to spend. Which means brands will need to discount to consumers. Which, in turn, means media owners will need to discount to brands. I suspect OOH will throw the kitchen sink at advertisers to try and recoup some of their lockdown losses. But so will every media owner and radio stations won’t be the exception.
Going forward, we’re all going to be smaller. But smaller and operational is preferable than not operational at all.
John Walls is director at Ultimate Media, the radio convergence specialist agency in South Africa.
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