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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Decision Stress - Traditional Radio's Friend

2006 has been the year of extensive reportage about the demise of traditional radio. Many of these stories focus on all the wonderful choices listeners to traditional radio now have and how these choices will whittle away at radio's tune in and time-spent.

Research we have conducted this year with over 12,000 listeners of traditional radio all across the U.S. has uncovered a little secret that I'll let you in on. Radio's got a friend called "decision stress". Not a new term, this marketing term originally coined by Alvin Tofler in the classic book "Future Shock" gets to the heart of choice in the human brain. In his book written in 1970 about life in the future, Tofler examines what he foresaw as the overstimulated individual, the bombardment of the senses, information overload and the decision stress associated with all of this over stimulation.
If traditional radio has done anything right, its brands are comfortable and recognizable.
Related to today's entertainment choices, decision stress plays a major part in how the average consumer selects what they will view, read and listen to. When faced with too much decision, the average person will respond by attempting to postpone decisions or reduce the choices - sometimes logically, other times emotionally. In most cases, most consumers faced with this decision stress, will gravitate to brand strength to aid in easing the decision-making process. It clears the stress of making a decision even though considerable thought may allow them to choose more wisely. Nonetheless, brand strength can be the antidote to decision stress. In study after study this year, over 80% of the time consumers we interviewed about their radio and digital options chose brand over generic.

Why is this important? If traditional radio has done anything right, its brands are comfortable and recognizable by the average consumer and when placed in a position to remember or choose, for example, from among thousands of Internet sources for music and their traditional radio station(s), they choose to recall terrestrial radio brands. As you know, building brand takes years and there are only a handful of products competitive to radio whose brands have broken through the consumer psyche - Apple's iPod is one.

Reading media reports this year, you'd think traditional radio needs all the friends it can get in order to succeed into the future. Perhaps one of radio's most important friends, decision stress, has not been considered by those in and out of the business when considering all of the tools from which radio benefits.

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