The fable I am about to recount starts in the 1930s. The moral of this story, however, can improve the fortunes of Maine small business owners in 2017. The hero of my lucrative tale is Portland Radio.
Once upon a time, the owner of the Genesee Pure Food company had the dream of turning the discarded bones and skins of barnyard animals into a staple of the American diet. It turns out, if you boil these left-over bits of cows and pigs in water, the result is a wiggly, jiggly, shimmering dessert treat we now spell: J-E-L-L-O,
Gelatin desserts had been enjoyed by the discriminating palettes of the wealthy since the 15th century. The Genesee Pure Food company believed, however, that with some smart marketing, it could make Jell-O appetizing to the masses. This is where I introduce Portland radio into the story.
If you had been listing to WCSH radio (now WZAN) on Sunday October 14, 1934 at 7:00pm, you would have heard the first broadcast of the Jell-O Program starring Jack Benny. The show comprised comedy sketches featuring Mr. Benny. Between sketches, the show's cast, including the star, would endorse the qualities and benefits of the show's sponsor, Jell-O. Here is an example from 1939:
Mr. Benny, one of radio's first mega-stars, made Genesee Pure Food's dream come true. It has been 83 years since the first Jell-O Program. Today, more than 420 million boxes of Jell-O and over 1 billion Jell-O cups are sold in the United States each year.
And what became of the Genesee Pure Food Company? Fueled by radio and by Jell-O, it would morph into what we now know as General Foods. But, that is not the rest of the story.
Leveraging Star Power
Mr. Benny had a unique bond with his listeners. The Genesee Pure Food company used this relationship to leverage the sale of millions of boxes of Jell-O. This type of bond still exists between Portland radio personalities and their audiences. Some very smart Maine small business owners have used this quantifiable bond to sell their own products and services.
A study conducted a few years ago at The University of California, Annenberg School of Communications and Journalism found that 82% of radio listeners have parasocial feelings for their favorite radio personalities.
According to the study's author, Paula Woodely, a parasocial interaction "describes one-sided interpersonal relationships in which one party knows (or feels as though they know) a great deal about the other. The most common form of such relationships is between celebrities and their fans. There is an 'illusion of intimacy' between media personalities and audience in parasocial interactions."
Key Findings of The Study
- Hopelessly Devoted: 30% of respondents spend 51-75% of their time with radio listening to their favorite personality. 34% of respondents spend 26-50% of their time listening to their favorite personality
- Insatiable Appetite: 81% of respondents said they listen to their favorite personality "whenever I can"
- Can't Leave Home Without Them: 55% of respondents listen to their favorite personality on a computer or mobile device when they are away from their radio
- Seeks Long Term Commitment: 63% of respondents have listened to their favorite personality for 4+ years
As discussed in the Small Business Guide To Effective Radio Advertising, to ensure the success of an advertising campaign, stations should be chosen based on QUALITY not QUANTITY. One factor, then, that should be considered is the quality of parasocial interaction listeners have with the station's on-air personalities because:
- 75% of respondents turn on the radio because they know their favorite personality is on the air
- 79% of respondents listen to that radio station because their favorite personality is on the air
- 85% of respondents change the station less frequently when their favorite personality is on the air
- 72% or respondents talk to their friends about their favorite personality or what they heard on the program
But most importantly, more than 50% of people with favorite radio personalities have considered or purchased a product/service advertised during their favorite radio personality’s show.
Maine Business Owners Practice Parasocial Media
To leverage the relationships DJs have with their listeners, many Maine small business owners engage Portland radio personalities to endorse their companys' products and services during commercials. This has included local companies such as European Wax Center; Portland Mattress Makers; The Cathy Manchester Team at Keller-Williams; and Ocean Communities Federal Credit Union.
Here are examples of how these DJ endorsements sound:
Ocean Communities Federal Credit Union featuring Blake Hayes of Coast 93.1 in Portland, Maine.
Portland Mattress Makers featuring Eva Mattteson of Coast 93.1
Cathy Manchester Team at Keller-Williams featuring Jon Shannon of WPOR
Late last year, Steve Huss, the owner of Batteries Plus Bulbs in Portland, purchased an advertising schedule on a Portland radio station. As part of his commercial schedule, he utilized WGAN's morning hosts Ken & Matt to deliver live endorsements for his store.
According to Mr. Huss, "We have at least 3-5 people a day come in the store commenting on the ads and mentioning WGAN. Ken and Matt have done a great job...I always try to find if customers are Ken fans or Matt fans...always brings on a good discussion!"
"Since beginning our ads," says Mr. Huss, "our daily ticket count is up about 67%...pretty good investment!"
Jim Darroch, Director of Marketing for Madison based Backyard Farms, has successfully utilized the endorsements of Portland WCLZ radio personality Jenn Gondek to expand his company's business. "Our most powerful marketing tool is a happy customer telling his/her friends about our tomatoes, said Mr. Darroch. "When popular radio personalities share their honest thoughts and opinions about Backyard Farms with their audiences, we're able to reach thousands of people with the power of a friend's recommendation."
Cathy Manchester, a real estate agent based in Gray, Maine, credits radio endorsements by Portland radio hosts, including WPOR's Jon Shannon, with accelerating the growth of her business.
"When we began advertising on the radio several years ago," says Ms. Manchester, "our business doubled! We went from selling 100 homes a year to approximately 200 homes each year! Radio advertising continues to provide a steady stream of well qualified customers for us!"
Other indicators of the power of radio-personality endowments come from the personalities themselves.
First Hand Feedback
Blake Hayes of the Coast 93.1 morning show, does endorsements from several Maine small businesses. According to Mr. Hayes, "After doing a live commercial about Ocean Communities Federal Credit Union, we got a call during our Friday 'Tell Us Something Good' segment. The woman literally called from the parking lot of the credit union after transferring her auto loan there and getting a lower rate. She wanted to thank me for telling her about OCFCU."
"Here's another example," continues Mr. Hayes, "I recently did some endorsements for the gym I go to, Dynamics Fitness. I do small group training and boot camp classes there. One listener heard my commercial and started going. I met her during the boot camp class one night, and we ended up partnering together and had a blast! At the end, we high-fived and she thanked me, again, for telling her about Dynamics. It was already her second class."
"That's the funny thing, says Mr. Hayes, " so many listeners don't say 'I heard the commercial", they say 'Blake told me about it.' They perceive many of our endorsement commercials as word-of-mouth recommendations. I think it's really effective."
Mr. Hayes's morning show partner Eva Matteson also does endorsements for advertisers. She has experienced similar feedback.
"I was thrilled when a listener, unsolicited, posted in Facebook about how great her experience was at European Wax Center. She was a first time waxer, had wanted to do it, but was always scared of pain, redness, etc. After hearing my live commercials about my personal (sometimes too, personal) waxing experience there, she gave it a try and loved it. They are now a customer for life."
Ms. Matteson also received a phone call one morning from a listener who recently purchased a Buick Encore from Bill Dodge GMC Buick. "He said he bought it from because of a week-long series of first-person commercials I did describing the car's merits, features, safety, and the fun I had in driving it. He even bought the same exact model and color! that I had test driven."
More Advice For Maine Small Business Owners
- Maine Business Owners Reach Most Desired Consumers on Portland Radio
- Maine Small Business Owners Ask: Is Portland Radio Still Relevant?
- Portland Radio Dominates The Dashboards of Maine Consumers
- Should I Advertise On My Favorite Portland Radio Station? Maybe, Not.
- Portland Radio Works While Maine Small Business Owners Sleep