The Illusion of Infinite Choice

The Illusion of Infinite Choice

by Andrew Curran

There has been a lot of talk about radio’s competition coming from an ever-expanding supply of sources. Infinite Choice is a buzz word that keeps many executives up at night. What will we do when consumers can access virtually anything they want any time they want? Well, it may not be quite as dire as feared. It turns out that just like listeners to your radio station, mobile users are not created equal.

According to researchers at Dscout, the typical mobile user taps or swipes her phone an amazing 2,617 times per day. Think about that. Each day, a mobile user generates 2.5 hours of screen time. That’s more than 10% of the total time in a day, and close to 15% of waking hours.

But wait. There’s more. Heavy mobile users make up the top 10% of overall usage. They tap and swipe their screens a remarkable 5,427 per day and spend 3.75 hours on their screen.

Thinking it through, it might be easy to assume that the explosion in daily mobile consumption is users watching Netflix. Not so. It turns out the average session lasts less than two minutes. Interesting, huh? So what is going on here?

It’s Infinite Choice

A smartphone offers users the world at their fingertips: Facebook, Twitter, texting, email, playlists, streaming, search, information, YouTube, Netflix, banking and gaming. Once in awhile, there’s even a few phone calls and texts mixed in.

But even with infinite choice, when it comes to actual usage, it’s not what it seems. It’s all an illusion.

An astonishing 90% of overall sessions involve using 3 or less apps with 52% of sessions involving only 1 app. Most often, the single app being used is Facebook or text messaging.

Ready for more stats? Get this. There are 2.2 million apps available in iTunes. And more are added every day.

With so many options available to mobile users, how does an app stand out? How can a brand be important enough to attract some of that usage? What is the critical component that opens the door to driving engagement for a radio station? In a world of infinite choice, the answer is: TOMA

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TOMA=Top Of Mind Awareness

To cut through the clutter of millions of options, brands must fight and win a marketing battle that centers on TOMA. TOMA is an acronym for Top of Mind Awareness. It is the brand someone thinks about first in a category.

Grocery shopping makes for a great example.

Each aisle is filled with hundreds of choices for similar products. Brands are stacked side by side hoping to attract a shopper. But other than a special offer at a low price that causes an impulse buy, which brands are purchased? Usually the ones you thought of and wrote down when created your shopping list.

Which toothpaste wins out over the others on the shelf? The toothpaste that wins TOMA.

In a world of infinite choice, people seek familiarity. We all are drawn to brands we know and trust.

According to author and tech guru Nir Eyal, consumers want familiar, but they want it done differently. Fresh is important, but they’re not seeking something entirely new.

The author of the book Hooked says that.

People don’t want something truly new. They want the familiar done differently.

Fortunately, most radio stations don’t need to invest time and resources on Top of Mind Awareness across the entire market. Why? Simple. Not all listeners are created equal. A radio brand, by design, isn’t relevant to a vast majority of the people in your metro.

Instead, focus only the heaviest users who have the most listening to give and will generate the biggest impact to building a fan base.

It’s the 80/20 rule in action. Or maybe it’s the 90/10 rule.


As voice controlled devices apps with voice activated search grow in popularity, TOMA is even more important. Radio’s ease of use will become less of an advantage, especially in the car. When a user can summon anything they want with a word or phrase, the word or phrase will come from what is most top of mind.

TOMA a tremendous advantage, but most stations can enhance their ratings and increase occasions of listening by leveraging this advantage. That’s why creating mini-brands through memorable features is so important. And it’s also the reason building a smart database to track preferences and behaviors can be so effective. The more you know about each individual, the more effective it is to market to those heavy users.

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Infinite choice is real. The choices are there, but the impact of infinite choice is an illusion. Real marketing power comes from building a fan base of heavy users.

Remember: the top 10% of mobile phone users consume 50% more screen time than average users. Similarly, heavy P1s dominate radio listening.  Just 3% of a station’s cume generates 50% of the total quarter hours.

Apply leverage to those who can truly raise ratings and revenue. Find heavy users that already like and prefer your brand, learn about them and love them!

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Author: Andrew Curran

Andrew Curran is the President and COO of DMR/Interactive, the leading strategic marketing agency for radio and digital audio platforms. DMR/Interactive provides data analytics and integrated marketing strategies that include precision-targeted, multi-contact personalized campaigns across mobile, digital, social, telephony, direct mail, e-mail, word-of-mouth and database marketing services. For more information, visit DMR

Following programming roles with ESPN Radio and iHeart Media, Mr. Curran joined DMR/Interactive in 2004, was named COO in 2011 and President in 2013. He has been a featured speaker at numerous industry conferences including Nielsen Audio’s Client Conference and Hispanic PD Clinic, the Country Radio Seminar, CMB Momentum Summit and the Worldwide Radio Summit.

Curran was named a 2012 Radio Ink Rising Star of Radio and also serves as a board member and past president of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Cincinnati, OH. Curran graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Boston College and received his MBA from Thomas More College. He resides in Cincinnati, OH with his wife Liz and their four children: Anna, Bridget, James and Claire.

Email Andrew
Follow on Twitter: @DMR_radio

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