For years, advocates of advertising on Portland radio have referred to it as a "frequency medium." In other words, radio provides an affordable way to talk to target consumers repeatedly...all day, every day. Advertising in daily newspapers, however, only allows business owners to target their customers once per day. The cost of producing and running a television commercial prohibits most Maine small businesses from talking to their best prospects repeatedly.
Maine small business owners who think of Portland radio only as a frequency medium have been short-changing radio's opposite-but-equal benefit: Reach. Radio reaches more people during the course of a week, than any other medium.
Where as frequency provides radio advertisers with the ability to talk to customers a lot, reach allows advertisers to speak to a lot of customers. But, here is the dilemma: advertisers can't have both. For any given campaign, business owners must choose which is most critical to achieve ultimate success. But why?
I won't burden you with the algebra on this, it will just suffice to know that there is an inverse proportion between reach and frequency. Given a fixed advertising budget (another burden of Maine small business owners), if you want to talk to a lot of people (reach), then your ability to talk to them a lot diminishes. As in most algebraic concerns, the contrapositive is also true: if you want to talk to people a lot (frequency), then your ability to talk to a lot of people erodes.
Since the gods of marketing are stingy and won't allow both, then which should a Maine small business owner choose when purchasing an advertising campaign on Portland radio, reach or frequency? The answer depends on your marketing objective.
According to The Small Business Guide To Effective Radio Advertising, there are only two types of marketing objectives an advertisers can have:
1. Branding is when the advertiser wants the target consumer to believe something about a product or service. An example of a branding objective could be: Get working mothers to believe that my daycare service is the safest place in town to entrust their children. Generally, branding requires frequency or talking to people a lot. Think of it this way: Suppose you were happy with your child's current daycare but its competitor wanted you to believe they were the better option for your child. How many times would you have to hear the competitor's message before you would consider changing? Obviously, you would need to hear it a lot.
2. Promotion is when the advertiser wants the target consumer to take specific action. An example of a promotion objective could be: Get people who maintain their own cars to buy 3 quarts of motor oil at my store this weekend. Generally, promotion requires reach or talking to a lot of people. Think of it this way: suppose you were having a party and wanted 100 people to attend. You would probably need to invite 120 people since some of them will be out-of-town, have other plans, or will cancel at the last minute. Promotional advertising is similar, if the advertiser wants to sell motor oil this weekend to do-it-yourselfers, he will have to ask a lot of people since some DIYers may be out of town, have other plans, or just bought oil last week.
How To Build Reach On Radio
Based on the way consumers use radio, there are four key strategies that can be mixed-and-matched for building reach:
- Advertise in short bursts
- Advertise during multiple times of day
- Utilize multiple radio stations
- Take advantage of reduced pricing for short-duration commercials (:10-seconds or :15-seconds) to fulfill strategies 1-3
How To Build Frequency On Radio
Based on the way consumers use radio, there are three key strategies that can be mixed-and-matched for building frequency:
- Advertise for a longer period of time
- Concentrate advertising into narrow times of day
- Utilize a minimum number of radio stations
A commonly repeated myth about frequency is that to be effective, a commercial needs to be heard at least three times. This myth is busted the blog post Three Times A Charm? A Myth Understanding About Radio Advertising. When it comes to frequency there is not an optimal number, but more is always better.
Not to consider both reach and frequency when investing your marketing dollar on Portland radio is like only test-driving a car in reverse. Sometimes it's really, really important to go backwards. Other times, the right thing to do is to go forward.
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