By skipping high-reach media like radio, a marketing expert says brands are at risk of failing. | Story


Never before have advertisers had the ability to focus so precisely on specific consumer groups. For wide-reach media like radio, this has presented a challenge as marketers focus on being accurate to their target. On top of that, marketers often approach radio with plans that ignore rural America. Marketing guru Byron Sharp says over-targeting is one of the reasons some brand launches fail.

“One of the reasons is that 40% of the people in the country never even got their message,” says Sharp. “And generally the sales team did a great job and put it in Walmart or something. It’s there, it’s ready to be bought. But nobody saw it on the shelf because they didn’t ‘bought only the first 20 markets.

Sharp is the author of “How Brands Grow: What Marketers Don’t Know.” Speaking on the latest episode of Math & Magic, the marketing professor and director of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute – the world’s largest marketing research center – says mass marketing still works, while targeting excessive can lead to missed opportunities. Sharp says ads also need to take into account that consumers have divided attention, which means creating spots that work equally well on TV and radio.

“It’s important to have distinctive audio assets, even if you’re using video,” he said. “The fact is that temporary exposures are to be expected. People won’t pay attention, and there’s nothing you can do about it. You should just be aware of it. So a TV commercial needs to work in both audio and visuals – and start paying more attention to jingles again. In the digital age, you see buying these very valuable targets. It’s what I call the “effortless” who pay premium after premium to reach the epicenter of a target. But they’ve increased their media costs so much because they target and target and target. And again, I have reduced my consumers considerably.

Gayle Troberman, chief marketing officer at iHeartMedia, said she sees this happen when media makers imagine a world where everyone drives a Tesla, for example, despite the brand being less than one percent cars on the road. “We have two things for radio – we have this mass reach and much lower CPMs,” she said.

Sharp also thinks that rather than focusing on personalizing ad copy — he says the results are “miserable” in their academic tests — marketers are better off focusing on ad creativity. “It resonates with a lot of people, with a bit of sophisticated mass marketing,” he says.

Listen to the full episode of Math & Magic: Stories from the Frontiers of Marketing with Bob Pittman HERE. This week’s episode features Troberman as a guest host.


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