Daughter Focus Group. Rideshare Audio Research. Sail on Sailor.

He Went To Paris, Jimmy Buffett on Radio Margaritaville

we’re moving…again

Two of our career moves happened the summer before the senior year of high school for two of our children. You just had an emotional reaction to that sentence. We were courageous parents mixed with a portion of disciplined risky behavior.

Aside from providing the girls with a path to success for the transitional year, our goal was for them to see how their parents reacted to the transition of uprooting our lives. It would help them in their new season, and they would be reminded of their courage during the volumes of change coming throughout their adult lives.

It sounds better typing it than it did living it. Here’s the reality. I went to bed most nights thinking these moves could be the best thing that ever happened to them, or they would end up on a stripper pole one day. It was the former, and my wife gets the credit for showing our daughters how to manage the fear and successfully make this transition.

there’s a free focus group in every human contact

During each of those moves, I made it a point to drive each daughter to school every day of their senior year. Maybe I had some guilt about the massive cheese move? Possibly. But I knew these days were numbered and I needed to be in the moment with them. Plus, as all good branding and content leaders know, there’s a free focus group in every human contact. Parties, support groups, baristas, and your family.

Parents know their kids react differently to the same messages delivered by the same parents. I allow the kids to control the radio so I can see what they’re listening to and how their music tastes change in those rapidly changing teen years.

Also, it’s a good psychology experiment. One child might let you listen to your radio stations because, as in my case, it was my job. However, the other one might pick their preferred genre because they dislike the content on your station. Too bad, Dad. Now you have some background on where I’m going with this section.

Olivia Rodrigo singing Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" at 2022 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

Recently, I was riding with the youngest child as we were getting ready to move her into the dorm for the college sophomore year. She controls the content every time we get in the car. We have a go-to song from those daily car rides to school during her senior year in high school. It’s Olivia Rodrigo’s song Brutal. Her goal is for me to sing it at Karaoke.

During a ride last month, she asked me if I heard the new Olivia song vampire. “Yes, I heard it on the radio last week,” I proudly said. She rolled her eyes. We listened again on this ride and I said, “It’s got a Carly Simon vibe about it.”

More background: At the end of her freshman college year, she introduced me to her favorite new song as we drove away from the dorm. When she says “new song” she means discovery. It was Carly Simon’s 1972 hit You’re So Vain. I assumed it was because of Olivia’s performance of Ms. Simon’s iconic hit at the 2022 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction. Wrong again. She discovered the OG version on Tic Tok. New music discovery has changed a bit since the early ’70s.

“feels more real”

The beauty of the college experience is the opening of the mind. We’re introduced to different ideas, genres, people, and music. I asked her to search for another Carly Simon song, You Belong To Me. When Carly reached the hook, my daughter said, “No, I’m not feeling this one.” I asked her to search for the original version by the Doobie Brothers. She liked it better because it “feels more real.”

This whole exchange took about two minutes as I drove and she navigated her Spotify account. Then she said, “You’re So Vain is the better song so it’s the one on my playlist.” And there’s your focus group moment.

closed in a binder or hidden in a laptop

As brand managers, do we react to what the clients are telling us? Oh, we hear it. We pay money to get this information, but do we follow through and enact the information into our plan and product? Are the goals absorbed during the presentation and then closed in the binder or hidden in a laptop folder until we’re ready to plan for a new study?

I’ve been fortunate to work with many research companies in my management career. During the buy-and-sell days of the radio industry after the Telecom Bill, I counted seven different research vendors in our budget over nine years. A total of eleven different vendors since the mid-90s.

The changes with those vendors were propelled by two factors: brand conflicts with a certain station in our cluster, or the new owner had better relationships with vendors used in their company. It’s a powerful education, but it’s a lot of noise, and the overload of information and direction can cause analysis paralysis.

good stewards of that money

What do we do with all this information? I’m thankful for research because I’ve worked in situations where we didn’t have that gift. Beyond the gratitude, there’s an emotion driving me to process and execute methodically. If the company is willing to fund the research tab of the budget, I think we need to be good stewards of that money and manage the results.

Is it always correct? Nope. Been there. But the greater concern is wasting the information gleaned from those projects because we didn’t have the discipline to execute the results, or because we were afraid to move our cheese.

smokin’ for work and free food from strangers

Rideshare clients last week included a security guard who finished his bong before he got in the car. I’m sure he could move quickly if there was a security issue. There was a late-night ride with two men from a foreign culture. They were picking up pizzas and going home. I made a comment about how good those pizzas smelled at 11 p.m.

They spent the next five minutes speaking their native tongue then transitioning to English and asking me if I wanted a piece of pizza. I kept refusing. You can’t eat food from strangers in 2023, right? “You spent a career in radio stations eating food from happy listeners. Get over it,” I said to myself. “I’ll take one piece.” Venito’s Pizza is one of the best.

two steppin’ research

A group of young ladies from Indiana were going to the Nashville Palace to two-step. I quiz clients about their audio consumption habits. One of the ladies was a Spotify fan. The other was an Apple Music user. When I quizzed them about their preferences, the answers came back under the category of comfort. Simply, it’s what they were used to and they had no intentions of changing. The women were in their early 20s.

We make brand habits early. Getting someone to change requires more than another choice. Just ask Meta about Threads. Last month, Gizmodo reported the Threads app had lost 80% of its daily users. August numbers will be posted soon and maybe the curve will turn, but it’s a solid reminder about how difficult it is to change user loyalty.

Back to my rideshare clients: the third woman told me her parents still listen to a radio in the kitchen. This comment made me feel old until we arrived at our destination and one of the clients said, “I hope we get a driver as cool as you on the way back. Thanks for talking to us about new music.” Radio keeps you young or it kills you. I prefer the former.

the power of perception

During the ride from Opryland to Lower Broadway, I polled a North Carolina couple about their audio consumption habits. They were in their early ’50s and their answers ranged from using traditional radio in the car to listening to Pandora in the house. When I asked why they preferred Pandora over Spotify, “Because Pandora is free,” was her response.

Clearly, they were listening to the ad-supported version on Pandora. I didn’t want to disrupt their perceived win and let them know Spotify has the same “free” platform. I thanked them for participating in the unscientific Rideshare Audio Consumption Poll. Ask your customers questions about your brand. Look for answers that will make you shake your head. They say knowledge is power. It’s revealing, too.

Buffett in-the-moment

High-fives to Sirius/XM radio for being in the moment with Jimmy Buffett’s death last Friday. We woke to the news Saturday morning and the Radio Margaritaville channel was 100% Buffett tunes over the weekend. It’s not surprising for an artist who has a branded music channel. I heard tribute audio from listeners Saturday morning and it caught my ear. This isn’t a new concept for radio to react to the passing of an iconic artist. But in today’s weekend pre-programmed radio world, it was nice to know someone was paying attention for a Saturday morning change of direction.

MAPCO Brewed Awakening display sign.

MAPCO is a C-store and gas station operating in eight states. I made a pit stop at one of their 370 locations this week and the prepackaged donut display caught my eye when I was leaving with my coffee. Brewed Awakening. Tongue-in-cheek, alliteration, and marketing cynicism are some of the most fun moments of the creative process. Find people in your organization who think this way. No, I didn’t go back and buy the donuts. I already had a bag of Nutter Butter Bites to go with my dark roast.

(This post originally appeared on LinkedIn on September 8, 2023. https://bit.ly/3PvufPn

Ron Harrell

Ron Harrell

Ron Harrell is a contemporary media consultant specializing in brand analysis, strategy, execution, and talent coaching for radio and audio mediums. Connect with him for a No Cut & Paste review. http://www.harrellmediagroup.com

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top