by Tracy Johnson
For those who subscribe to Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, this will be familiar. Tzu was an ancient Chinese general and military strategist. His philosophies on fighting wars became a marketing playbook for many brands. One of his principles of war is to focus an attack on a narrow, defined target. Concentration of force.
This concept does not imply gathering massive, overwhelming forces. Rather, it’s directing your assets to deliver an impact when and where required in a focused attack.
Advertising guru Roy Williams (The Wizard of Ads) explains how it applies to marketing
One of the most common mistakes in advertising is to spread your ad budget across several different media so that you don’t leave anyone out. But persuasion – in most instances – requires repetition and familiarity. Would you rather reach 100% of the people and convince them 10% of the way, or reach 10% of the people and convince them 100% of the way? Don’t spread your money too thinly by chasing the unicorn of “media mix.”
Let’s unpack it with an object lesson I learned from my mentor, Alan Burns.
Concentration of Force can be demonstrated as follows:
The lesson: You can teach listeners only one thing at a time. Then, and only then, you can introduce another concept. It’s the fastest way to build a meaningful brand as a station, a radio show or a personality.
It would be great to just perform a show, demonstrate your personality, talents and abilities, and wait for the audience to discover the magical, wonderful reasons you are God’s gift to entertainment, wouldn’t it?
Sorry, it hardly ever works like that.
Your show would be better served if it spent all (or at least most) of your time focused on one key aspect of your show. Perfect it and become known for it.
When the audience learns that one thing, you can teach them something new.
Concentrating resources means having a keen focus on doing fewer things well. Resolve to only be active if we make an impact. This will allow you to think bigger, plan further in advance and be strategic, rather than tactical.
Imagine that you have a great new idea for a feature. Based on learning theory and concentration of force, what strategy will have maximum impact? This is where the hand-wringing begins. How often should you run it? Daily? Weekly? Once in awhile?
Most of the time, program directors and personalities just go with what feels right. Their gut. But there’s a better way if you bring science into the equation and focus on concentration of force. Let’s look at it logically.
How does this apply to radio and, specifically, air personalities?
Most shows work too hard to create too many things. They try to become everything to their audience at once. As a result, they never really connect because they spread their emphasis in too many areas.
Building a personality brand happens in stages. But most personalities want overnight success. They just aren’t patient enough to build one thing at a time. Trying to rush your way into listener hearts and minds usually produces an opposite, negative effect. The audience is overwhelmed and nothing sticks.
Learning theory proves it’s impossible to teach a young child algebra. They must first learn to multiply and divide. And before that, they must learn to add and subtract. Of course, they can’t do that until they understand how numbers relate. But they won’t grasp that concept until they learn to count.
Learning those math concepts requires repetition. Teaching children addition with flash cards seems like it will never end. Going through care after card produces a blank expression. Until suddenly, one day, it all clicks. They get it. All that repetition finally resonates and pays off. And you’re wondering how that happened?
It was the repetitive exposure to the cards.
Social psychologists have proven it takes 12 exposures to content for a respondent to be able to recognize it well enough to have a response. Twelve exposures! Now factor in in listening levels much lower than you think. Then consider that most listeners use the radio in the background.
In fact, more than 50% of your audience tune in for a total of less than 3 minutes per day.
How long does it take for a contest, game, promotion or feature to become famous?
Now imagine that you have a variety of contests, promotions, features or games that are at least average in appeal. Maybe you have five games that you play once a week.
How long does it take to get traction?
Note that this is assuming you play the game at the same time, as listeners tend to be habitual, pattern listeners. If you rotate the game through different quarter hours and hours, it’s unlikely the game will ever become familiar.
And, I would argue that finding enough features that fit your station, match your character profile, are strong in appeal and you’re really good at…is difficult.
Add to that the mind clutter of managing so many different elements. The competition for attention adds another barrier to listener understanding.
That’s why you should grow a show by adding one element at a time. Put it in place, develop it, promote it and become known for it. Then add something new.
You may argue that a show becomes redundant by scheduling the same features at the same time every day. That’s a valid point only if the feature isn’t good. That’s another reason to be selective and do fewer things better.
If it’s really a hit, it’s hard to burn it out. One client has been running a benchmark feature four times each morning for more than 14 years. It’s the strongest, most identifiable part of the show. After 14 years, it’s just starting to show fatigue in listener research.
The point: Worry about burn in, not burn out. Great features can run for years. If and when fatigue sets in, start a new feature!
A friend of mine is a personal trainer. Every time a new client comes in for a first time consultation, they are asked what they want to achieve.
Usually, the client wants to lose a few pounds, firm their legs or butt or just “look better”.
The trainer listens, then ignores what the client says they want. He puts them on a program to train the core muscle group first. The first few weeks are spent exclusively on working the abs and deep core muscles.
Why? To be effective in reaching their desired results, they must first build a foundation, one step at a time. Concentration of force leads to faster progress.
Concentration of force is a real thing. If you watch for it, you’ll see it everywhere. Don’t you think it’s time to apply it to your radio show?
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