Mathews Brothers, a Maine small business that manufactures windows, is not the biggest advertiser on Portland radio station WGAN. Actually, some of the boxy stores who are a threat to Mathews Brothers' business run more commercials on WGAN. But if you engage any regular WGAN listener in a conversation about the station, then the name Mathews Brothers is sure to come up. It happens to me 3-4 times every week. So why, of all the hundreds of different companies that advertise on WGAN, are the Mathews Brothers commercials remembered so prodigiously? The answer has something to do with the Beatles and nocturnal predators.
The Listeners Have Been Violated
If you listen to the Mathews Brothers commercials below, then you will notice they might not be what you expect from the typical radio commercial. Their commercials are void of cliches, platitudes, and a roll-call of the company's features and benefits. Instead the commercials are rich with stories that twist and turn but always conclude with a reason to buy from the company. This violation of expectancy works in the advertiser's favor.
You may have noticed that humans do not have ear lids. As a result, our ears cannot escape the thousands if not millions of sounds we are exposed to every minute of the day. For our own survival, our brains have learned to give primary attention to unexpected sounds that's threaten our safety. It's why we will leap out of bed if we hear a stranger's soft footsteps while we are asleep, but will snore right through our alarm clocks. This selective hearing evolved from our cavemen ancestors whose life depended on the ability to detect a stalking saber-tooth tiger from among the nighttime cacophony of insects, rustling leaves, crackling fires, babbling brooks, and whispering winds. It's why the Mathews Brothers' ads get paid attention to...they violate our expectancy of what a radio commercial should be.
I Believe In Yesterday
If you aren't convinced that the success of the Matthew Brothers' advertising has anything to do with the assault on our expectancy, then check this out. The Beatles recorded more than 240 songs. The popularity of their song Yesterday, however, eclipses every other one of their records. As a matter of fact, it eclipses the popularity of almost every other pop-song ever. There are more than 2200 cover-versions of this song (more than any other pop-song). Additionally, Yesterday was chosen by both experts and radio listeners alike as the #1 song of the 20th century. Why? The song violates expectancy in a very subtle yet powerful way.
The typical pop song is composed of several versus followed by a repeating chorus. Each verse is generally constructed of 8 measures. When Paul McCartney wrote Yesterday, however, the versus contained only 7 measures. This subtle change in musical structure created a violation of the listener's expectancy. As a result, the song stood out from every other song on the radio as well as almost every other song ever written.
An astute small business owner may ask if this violation of expectancy transcends the commercial and has a measurable effect on Mathews Brothers' business. The answer is conclusive.
The Oldest Company In America No One Ever Heard Of
Before Mathews Brother began using radio adverting they had an identity problem. According to Bob Mayne's the company's Director of Marketing and International Sales, "Mathews Brothers was the oldest company in America that no one ever heard of." There were guys literally 20 miles away from us," continues Bob, "that are installing windows every day that swore there was no window manufacturer in Belfast, Maine." So the challenge, as Bob puts it, was to get Mathews Brothers "into people's head." And not just any people. According to Bob, "We sell [our windows] to lumber yards who sell to a contractor who sells to a homeowner." So to expand his business, Bob needed local contractors and homeowners to ask for Mathews Brothers windows by name at any of the 150 lumber yards where their products are distributed.
According to Bob, "The results for Mathews Brothers were swift and significant. Within six weeks, my customers were calling me up saying: I love your commercials. I'm hearing them all the time. Thanks for doing it." Bob now says, "We're no longer an unknown, we are somebody customers have heard of."
Here's a few more articles about creating effective radio commercials:
- 5 Things Your Radio Ad Can Do Without. Tips For Maine Small Business
- 6 Radio Commercials Every Maine Small Business Should Hear
- Adele Has A Lot To Teach Radio Commercial Writers
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