10 Questions with a Research Guy – Part 2

Greg Diamond – ByrnesMedia

Last month we heard from Larry Campbell of Campbell Media Research, based in Seattle, Washington. Larry gave us a rundown on his background, how he justifies research expenses to clients, and the pros and cons, do’s and don’ts of Focus Groups and Perceptual Surveys.

Thank you to everyone for their positive feedback from part 1.

Here, then, is the final part of our chat with Larry.

5.   “Auditorium Music Tests are the most accurate way of finding which songs work and which ones don’t on any given station. How are these studies conducted and why are they so effective?”

It is better to say “Auditorium Music Tests (AMTs) may or may not be the most accurate way of finding which songs work and which ones don’t on any given station.”  It all depends on how the music tests are screened and recruited.  Many research companies recruit respondents using the client station’s weekly cume and its primary competitor’s weekly cume as the primary screening criteria along with screening for gender.  We do not, because we know it is not good screening.

Some of you know about the Pareto principle which maintains that “…for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.”  In radio we know that approximately 30% to 35% of any well programmed station’s weekly cume is made up of P1 listeners (listeners who listen to that station the most, as opposed to 2nd most, 3rd most, etc.).  P1 listeners generally generate approximately 70% of its hours tuned and average quarter hour share.  If 100 weekly cume listeners of a specific station are recruited for its music test, approximately 70% of them are P1s to the station’s competitor, which will distort the true musical tastes of your station’s P1s.

We call our “Auditorium Music Tests” Comprehensive Music Tests.  They are comprehensive because they combine the testing of 800 songs in one two-part test session, plus administering a questionnaire to obtain answers to important questions of concern from a large group of the station’s highly pre-screened P1 listeners in a Strategic Target Listener Study.

Comprehensive Music Tests take place after the completion of a Strategic Market Study, Format Search Project or a Strategic Market Tracking Study.  This allows for the station’s core target audience to be accurately ascertained through the results of the study.  With the passage of time, the station’s core target can change based on many factors.  Consequently, before every music test we investigate the composition of the station’s core target audience – the Pareto principal listeners if you will – and define or redefine the station’s core target audience by age, gender, station preference, time spent listening and some other variables that are proprietary to our recruiting methodology.

We conduct random calling from a central data collection center in Toronto into the market where we are recruiting respondents for our music tests.  We do not use local market research firms to recruit our music tests because they recruit from lists of research respondents that they maintain for all types of research projects, year after year. 

We have every respondent complete a validation questionnaire before the music test begins on a scheduled day or evening, to make sure that every single respondent meets the screening criteria we established for the test.  There is no “garbage in – garbage out” with our tests.”

We deliver the results of the Comprehensive Music Test and the Strategic Target Listener Study in the Analyst®, the most sophisticated music sorting software program available to radio programmers and consultants.  

Only with proper recruiting will an Auditorium Music Test be “…the most accurate way of finding which songs work and which ones don’t on any given station.”

6. Explain your list of steps to marketing a radio station.

Step 1 Format – The first step is making sure you are presently marketing the best available format. You need to determine if there is a format available that would lead to substantially increased ratings, revenue, and cash flow.  You cannot know unless you take a look.  Also in this step, the Strategic Market Study will tell if you are maximizing the ratings potential of the format you are presently marketing.

Step 2 Target – Once you totally understand your format situation, you determine and define your core target listeners from the knowledge provided by the results of the Strategic Market Study.  You define your P1 target listener group by age (broad and narrow), gender, music preference, time spent listening and other important targeting criteria we will teach you about.  From the format comes the station’s target.

Step 3 Programming – Once you have determined your format niche and the core target listener group that will lead to success through their heavy listening, you have to determine what programming elements and features, and station qualities are the most important to your target listeners.  Additionally you need to find out how your target listeners “grade” your station’s performance in the areas of critical importance.  We have developed norms to evaluate the perceptions of your listeners’ regarding your station’s programming from “A” it’s excellent” to “F you’re failing.”  Your station’s listeners give the grades – not us.

Wherever you have grades lower than an “A” you need to go to work on improving that programming element or station quality to get it to an “A.”  This is especially true in terms of your grade for playing the best songs for the tastes of your target listeners.  If you’re not getting “A’s” or high “B’s” you’re not winning, but you can with improved grades!

Step 4 Positioning – Before you advertise to increase cume you have to understand how to best position your station in the minds of target listeners.  Positioning is how you effect the perceptions of your core target listeners, not what you do to your programming.  Federal Express claims a niche with its target consumers who have to make shipments around the world with urgency and reliability when it took the position, “When it absolutely, positively, has to be there overnight.”  We have learned a lot about what makes a truly effective position over the years, and frankly it is one of the most difficult and complex steps in marketing a radio station.  Effective positioning can be accomplished, however, and it has to be done for a station to achieve extraordinary success.

Step 5 Advertising – A radio station has to advertise both strategically and tactically to sell its key benefits and uniqueness, build top of mind awareness and increase cume.  It is not uncommon to find a new client station with huge “top of mind shortfall.”  This means its aided weekly cume far exceeds its unaided weekly cume.

Like positioning, it is very difficult to effectively tell target listeners about a radio station’s key benefits in a 30-second television commercial.  It is virtually impossible on a billboard or bus card.  This is where a series of focus groups with target listeners can be invaluable to a client in getting rid of totally ineffective advertising concepts, and find an advertising concept that will really work for the station.  We offer a study called the Promotional Effectiveness Test for this very purpose.

Step 6 Strategic Sales Management – I cannot tell you how many stations we’ve worked with that saw a golden opportunity to substantially increase their market share in our studies, did a great job of implementing their strategic marketing plans, achieved improved rank and shares in their target demographics, but kept on selling their station’s inventory like they did in the past, leaving truckloads of lost revenue on the table.

Managers will say, “Wow Larry, we’re sold out for the next two months!  This hasn’t happened in the last 6 years!” 

I’ll say, “Hmmm…you know it sounds like the demand for your station’s inventory exceeds the supply.  I think this means you’re under pricing your inventory.” 

They’ll say, “Well it’s too soon after the book to raise our rates, we’ll upset our advertisers.  We’re running an extra spot or two in every break to accommodate our old advertisers and all of our new ones.”

I’ll say, “Hmmm…you know, you may not have these improved ratings much longer if you continue this sales policy.”

7.   Is there such a thing as the best time to conduct research?

Yes.  The best two times to conduct research are:

When you realize you just don’t have the answers you need to improve your station’s competitive situation and ratings and could use some help.

When you’re in a very strong competitive situation with great ratings and you would like to strengthen the station’s dominance and develop a plan to defend its success in the short and long run

8. You do a lot of work with a Toronto-based company when it comes to perceptual studies and recruiting for music tests. Tell us about that company and why you use them as often as you do.

We have used them for all of our market research studies over the past 12 years.  They were first referred to me in 2000 by a colleague in another industry who had worked with them.  In my experience, they are the best market research and data collection firm I have ever worked with, and that includes hundreds of firms in Canada, the U.S. and Europe.  They are better than the others because they are uniquely precise, efficient and intuitive.  They staff their interviewer and recruiter positions with articulate and intelligent employees.

We have an excellent relationship with their management team and we communicate easily and effectively.  We 110% trust them to do the very best job possible in collecting market research data for us.

9.   What have been the most noticeable format trends that you’ve uncovered over the last couple of years?

The first and most obvious is the increase in the popularity and success of Top 40 CHR formatted radio stations.  The quality of artists in this broad genre, and the songs being produced by these artists are exceptional.

A concerning trend is the polarity of a significant amount of the new rock music being released, with 35+ rock listeners being turned off by many of the active rock and alternative rock artists and tracks.  In fact, we see many of the new active rock and alternative rock tracks not doing well with core rock listeners age 18-34.

News and information stations are experiencing good times due to the economic problems locally, regionally, nationally and worldwide.  Plus the turmoil in the world based on political, ethnic, racial, religious, gender and other assorted differences and disputes creates an environment where people want to know what’s going on.

10. Anything else you would like to add?

If any of your readers would like to discuss any of the issues I have touched on in our interview, or talk through other concerns, please have them send me an email at larry@campbellmediaresearch.com  or call me at 1 206 399-7740.

My thanks go out to Larry for taking the time to offer his keen insights into one of the critical aspects of our industry.

As mentioned, feel free to contact him directly for more information on how he can help your station, or contact me at greg@byrnesmedia.com and I can also assess your situation and offer a plan of action for continued or future success.