Merchandising In Its Relation To Radio
( Originally Published 1932 )
RADIO has fought its way into recognition as a full-fledged medium of advertising. It isn't a novelty any more, and it isn't just an experiment—at least, not to the majority of advertisers who are using it.
As a medium of advertising, radio usually has a definite job to do. Unless it can do that job, and accomplish the work it is designed to do, it has no excuse for existence. The advertiser who uses it, therefore, is interested in seeing to it that this purpose is fulfilled.
He must see to it that radio carries its message to those to whom he wishes that message to go; he must see to it that the message, when delivered, is effective; and finally he must see to it that any action inspired by that message can be turned directly into profit to himself. In short, he must merchandise his program.
Merchandising has been defined as the process which is required to make goods quickly, smoothly and economically from the producer to the consumer, and to keep the purchasers of those goods satisfied. Just how may we apply that to radio merchandising? F. G. Silver-nail, in charge of sales promotion for the National Broad-casting Company, has defined radio mechandising as "taking radio out of the show business and giving it a four-way sales force." By four-way, he explains, it is meant that radio programs, effectively merchandised, will make themselves felt within the advertiser's own organization, within his sales organization, within the ranks of his dealers and finally, among the consumers and potential consumers of his product.
The radio advertiser will ask, naturally, in what ways a radio campaign may best be merchandised. But that isn't as simple a question as it would seem to be. There are different kinds of merchandising for different kinds of radio campaigns, and for different kinds of advertisers. We must select a merchandising plan that will fit the specific needs of the individual case—and individual cases vary widely in their character.
To know what merchandising methods are best adapted to a certain radio advertising campaign, we must go very carefully into a great many other phases of that campaign. We must know, first of all, why the advertiser is using radio. It may be to make the pronunciation of his trade name better known. It may be to introduce a new product, or a new use for an old product. It may be to tell of a change in model. It may be to strengthen the morale of his own organization. It may be to increase the number of his dealers. It may be to explain the use of his product better than it could be done through other media. It may be to meet the competition of some one else who is using radio. It may be simply to increase sales, which in the last analysis is the fundamental purpose of any advertising effort. It may be purely an experiment, to compare radio with other media in results obtained. Or, in the searching glare of a critical analysis, it may be found that the advertiser has no specific reason for using radio at all.
To make sound merchandising recommendations, we must also know what the advertiser sells, to whom he sells it and something of his sales policies. The maker of automobiles can make use of certain merchandising methods which would be out of the question for the maker of candy bars. He might even follow up each inquiry, of a certain nature, with a personal call by a salesman—certainly impossible for the candy bar maker. The latter, on the other hand, might make effective use of sampling—obviously impossible for any maker of articles of high unit cost.
The advertiser who sells to women may merchandise his program in an entirely different way from the one who sells to men, or to both men and women. The advertiser who sells through retailers, too, has many forms of merchandising available which would be impossible if he sold direct-by-mail or through other channels.
We must also know the extent of the territory in which the advertiser operates. The advertiser who reaches into every part of the country with his sales and advertising efforts may use magazine tie-ups, or even full magazine advertisements, to describe his broadcast and obtain a larger audience. The advertiser who sells only in one or two sections of the country, naturally, must turn to other things.
We must also take into consideration the type of pro-gram the advertiser is using, or is planning to use. Merchandising methods must be in keeping with its character. Comic cut-outs are appropriate to an Amos 'n' Andy broadcast, and to others of popular or semicomic appeal, but they are quite impossible for many other broadcasts. Toy balloons for children have been used effectively by the sponsors of the Dixies Circus program, but they would hardly do for use by the sponsors of a symphony orchestra broadcast.
Clearly, then, it becomes a difficult matter to generalize on the subject of radio merchandising. Radio has been used to sell bank service and borax, liniment and linoleum, nuts and nail polish, gasoline and gloss starch, safety glass and safety razors. Perhaps if we mention briefly, however, some of the merchandising helps which have been used most successfully in the past by radio advertisers, it will be of help to the prospective radio advertiser or his agent.
Bernard A. Grimes, of the staff of Printer's Ink, has compiled a list of some twenty-five ways of merchandising a radio program. The Columbia Broadcasting System and the National Broadcasting Company each have compiled other lists, and the latter company especially has prepared an extensive amount of material on the subject. To all three I am indebted for assistance in preparing the following list.
1. Newspaper Tie-ins.—One of the most important and widely used ways of merchandising a radio campaign is to mention the broadcast in newspaper advertisements. Such a mention lends a news value to the display advertisement, it serves to associate the broadcast with the product and with the advertisement in the reader's mind, and if the advertisement appears on the day of the broad-cast, it may materially increase the audience for the program itself. There probably are few advertisers using both radio and newspapers who do not make use of some such tie-in. It is not used by all radio advertisers, however, for some of them do not use newspaper space at all.
2. Newspaper "Spotlight" Notices.-The newspaper "spotlight" advertisement, usually on the radio page, differs in that it is usually devoted exclusively to the radio broadcast. It is obvious that if a radio program is to do its work it must be heard, and it is much more likely to be heard if its potential audience is told, shortly before the broadcast, that it is to take place. Daily newspapers are logical and inexpensive ways to do this, since they go into the hands of the potential radio audience within a day of the time the program is to go on the air.
These spotlight radio page advertisements are frequently used to introduce new radio broadcasts, often being used only to call attention to the initial program. Many advertisers, however, run smaller ones regularly throughout the entire period on the air.
3. Newspaper Publicity Material.—If a program has a high name or publicity value, through stars appearing on it either regularly or as guests, newspaper publicity mention will be of considerable value. For many pro-grams, however, is will be a waste of time and money to attempt to send out publicity material, for unless it has actual news value to newspapers it will not be used. As a general rule the publicity departments of the broadcasting companies or individual stations supply papers with all information they need for routine listing of programs.
Pictures of artists, in photograph, mat or cut form (depending on the newspapers to which they are sent), will find a certain degree of acceptance, particularly in the dailies of the large cities. Short stories of human interest, brief personals of artists, news stories about the pro-grams, and other such information will be used by some newspapers if the publicity is not too blatant. It may not even be necessary to mention the sponsor's name at all. The name or photograph of Rudy Vallee will almost automatically remind the radio listener of Fleischmann, and an advance notice of the appearance of any star will naturally benefit the sponsor at the time the program is heard.
4. Magazine Tie-ins.—The uses of magazine advertisement tie-ins are similar, in several ways, to those of newspaper advertisement tie-ins, but it is necessary to study the product and the sales set-up again before deciding definitely that they should be used. In most cases they are valuable, yet in some cases where the broadcast may be sectional and the magazine coverage general they might be inadvisable. A magazine reminder of a radio program which cannot be heard in a certain territory may cause a resentment among dealers, sales-men and the public in that section.
Generally, however, magazine tie-ins are almost essential to make an advertising plan complete. They will associate the broadcast with the product and with the other advertising, and will lend a news value to such advertising.
5. Magazine Advertisements of Radio Broadcasts.—Some radio advertisers have gone much farther than mere magazine advertisement tie-ins; they have devoted en-tire magazine advertisements to their radio programs. This might be expected of a magazine, such as Time, Liberty or Collier's, in advertising its own program in its own pages. Other advertisers, however, have used large magazine space to announce or to tell about radio pro-grams, leaving the actual advertising message for the broadcast itself to deliver. Among the first to do this were the makers of Enna Jettick shoes, who used full pages in the Saturday Evening Post to announce the appearances of Mme. Ernestine Schumann-Heink.
6. Trade Papers.— If the advertiser sells his product through the usual sales channels, he probably will find trade paper advertising well worth its cost. It is one of the best ways to reach dealers, the dealer's clerks and others in the dealer's organization who might not see material sent to the dealer himself. The use of trade paper advertising, too, adds prestige to the broadcast, and it is useful in arousing the interest of prospective dealers.
Trade papers are not available to all advertisers, however. There may be none to cover a specific territory efficiently, or there may be none to reach the particular field an advertiser wishes to reach. The advertiser who sells direct to the public, too, can have little use for trade paper advertising and trade papers also are useless to purely local advertisers and to certain other kinds of businesses—such as some public utility concerns.
7. House Organs.—One of the most successful ways of acquainting a sales or a dealer organization with the news of a radio campaign is through house organs or magazines. These already may have wide circulations among the persons to whom the advertiser wishes his message to go, or entirely new publications may be started especially for the merchandising of radio programs. Several advertisers have founded such publications primarily for that purpose, and radio news forms a large part, if not all, of their content. In such a publication the addition of a new station to the chain, the appearance of a guest star, a change in the time of the broadcast, etc., becomes real headline news.
8. Broadside.—For some advertisers, the broadside may be the most important single piece of merchandising material used. Broadsides vary widely in their type, their appearance, their utility and their cost, and the purpose of the broadcast, the distribution set-up and the special problems of the advertiser must be considered in their design.
If the advertised product is distributed through a large number of small retail outlets, the broadside can even take the place of a salesman in telling dealers about a radio program. Usually it is so arranged that the inside, when opened out, becomes a window display sheet to tell the public of the broadcast and to link the dealer with it.
The broadside may or may not confine itself entirely to the radio campaign. It may describe all other forms of advertising and dealer helps to be used, and include pictures of dealer displays and other material. Often, however, a radio campaign will warrant a broadside devoted exclusively to it. Particularly will this be true when there is an opportunity for a great deal of pictorial matter dealing with the broadcast.
9. Letters and Post Cards.—Letters and post cards may be used for any of several purposes. They may be sent to listeners in response to audience mail (and many large radio advertisers religiously answer every communication received), they may be sent to salesmen, they may be sent to a mailing list of the general public to call attention to a program or a new feature, they may be sent to dealers and members of dealer organizations, they may be sent to jobbers, or they may be sent to the company's own personnel or stockholders.
They may carry almost any kind of information, de-pending on the nature of the announcement to be made and on the mailing list to which they are going. A letter, particularly, can be much more intimate and personal than a printed folder or leaflet, and its extra cost is worth considering. Its pictorial possibilities, however, will be less than those of a printed folder.
10. Window Display Material.—Window display material provides a point-of-sale reminder of the radio broadcast program, for one thing, and it lends a news and display value to the dealer's window, for another. It varies widely in design, purpose and scope.
A window display may consist simply of a broadside, used as a poster, or it may be considerably more elaborate. It may be semipermanent, in the form of a sign to remain up throughout a long continued broadcast series, or it may serve simply to announce an opening program. Some advertisers, among them the makers of Clicquot Club ginger ale, have used material which required an actual container of the product to complete the display—which is an excellent means of linking the broadcast and the product closely together.
Where the product has a general appeal and is distributed through a large number of retail outlets, window display material is often of high value. As in the case of other merchandising aids, the amount and kind of material prepared will differ widely with different advertisers.
11. Counter Displays.—Counter displays, also, can vary widely in their scope, their size and their purpose. A suitable counter display may be merely a small card or stand calling attention to the program, the hour, a local station which carries it, or the star or orchestra used. It may be in the form of a small rack or container, to hold literature for distribution to the public. It may be an actual display case to hold the product itself—with, of course, a radio tie-up as an integral part of it.
One advertiser recently decided to offer a free display case to dealers who would order sufficient merchandise to fill it. The display case itself called attention to a radio series which was shortly to begin, besides holding a varied assortment of the product—which was a relatively high-priced one. Before the radio broadcast went on the air the sponsor had sold enough of his products to dealers, in display case lots, not only to pay for the display cases, but also for the entire ,radio series! Naturally this is an exceptional case, but it may contain the germ of an idea for others to modify to suit them-selves.
The importance of counter displays as point-of-sale reminders should not be overlooked by the maker of commodities in highly competitive fields, where the competitor's article is likely to be sold at the same stores. A buyer of a certain brand of soap may be swayed to another brand at the moment of purchase by an attractive counter display which reminds her of a program she may have liked the night before.
A certain chain grocery store uses an effective display card holding a menu, changed daily. A daily broadcast deals with the menu which is in these display cards on the day of the broadcast—which fact, of course, is brought out on the card.
12. Car Cards and Outdoor Displays.—Car cards and outdoor displays, which are very similar in general purpose and character, are other useful ways of tying up the product and the radio broadcast program. They also serve as reminders, by carrying a mention of the broadcast or the entertainers, and a brief phrase is sufficient to link up a local station with national advertising of a chain affiliation. Car cards and bill boards thus may be a most effective way of announcing to the public the local outlet for a program which has been advertised nationally.
These poster displays, too, have another valuable function—to follow up a broadcast with a reminder of the product associated with it. A listener may see such a reminder the morning following a broadcast, when he is in a much better position to purchase the product advertised. In that way posters and car cards fill a function midway between the broadcast itself and the point-of-sale counter or window displays in the dealer's store.
13. Booklets and Leaflets.—The variety of booklets and leaflets which may be issued about a program is with-out limit. There may be a very simple folder, usually with illustrations and in color, used more as a reminder of the program than as an elaborate mailing piece. Such a piece may be used as a letter stuffer or dropped in packages by dealers; naturally means of distribution will differ in different lines. Often dealers may wish to mail supplies of such leaflets out to their own customers, and supplies of them may be prepared for that purpose. They may or may not bear the dealer's imprint. These are particularly useful to the dealer when they carry actual programs in advance, or other actual news of a broadcast.
Many advertisers, of course, have found that more elaborate booklets have met their needs better. One of the best known of these booklets has been the Cities Service personal budget book, sent to the listeners by the sponsors of the Cities Service hour. The character of a booklet should reflect the character of the broadcast and the product behind the broadcast, and an elaborate book-let would be quite out of keeping with many merchandising plans and campaigns. The maker of a ten-cent article could hardly be expected to profit by the preparation of an expensive booklet.
14. Reprints.—Reprints of a broadcast might be classed as booklets or leaflets, but since they usually serve a distinct purpose they may be considered separately from the viewpoint of the radio merchandiser. Some broadcasts are suitable for use in reprint form, particularly where they are historical or educational in character or where they are associated with a particular group or class of prospects. Among such broadcasts are speeches directed to members of certain professions or industries.
15. Bulletins.—Bulletins may be used as window display material, but inasmuch as they frequently are for the information of the dealer rather than the public, they may serve their purpose whether they reach the dealer's window or not. A popular form of bulletin is an enlarged or "blown up" radiogram or telegram, telling of the broad-cast program; used as a window display it will almost always attract attention. Such a bulletin may carry news of the program, announce a change of time or station, or be used for many other purposes.
Other forms of bulletins may carry detailed programs to dealers regularly—usually weekly. These serve as reminders of the program and keep the dealer aware of the advertiser's sponsorship of it.
i6. Letterheads or Stickers.—Many advertisers mention radio programs on letterheads, listing the stations used, in some cases, or using simply a line at the top or bottom to direct attention to the day of the week or the chain used. Others, whose radio schedules do not warrant such treatment of letterheads, use small stickers, placed on letters that are sent out in the weeks before or during the time a radio series is on the air, or sent out only to territories served by radio.
17. Inserts and Stickers.—Inserts may be distributed in a variety of ways—used as stuffers in letters, placed in packages, sent out to stockholders with reports or dividend checks, sent to salesmen with official correspondence, or included with shipments of other merchandising material. Several advertisers have used stickers on pack-ages of the advertised goods, calling attention to the radio program or to some artist or feature of it.
18. Sampling.—Sampling already has been mentioned as a possibility in radio merchandising. It has been employed successfully in the introduction of new articles by radio (such as Pepsodent antiseptic, a bottle of which was sent to radio listeners who sent in two cartons from Pepsodent toothpaste), or in winning new users for established products. Samples of Tastyeast have been distributed through radio announcements, for example, as have sample Fuller brushes.
The offer of a free sample is an excellent way to combine the function of sample distribution and that of obtaining letters from radio listeners, where a check on radio coverage may be desired.
19. Contests.—The offer of a prize is usually a sure fire way to bring in audience mail if audience mail is wanted. A number of advertisers have learned, however, that audience mail is not always a reliable guide to the success of a program. One, in particular, recently decided to attempt to increase his mail, since sales had shown a close relationship to it in the past. An offer of prizes brought an immediate jump in fan mail, as was expected—but sales failed to join in the jump.
If the advertiser has any reason for wishing to increase his audience mail, however, a contest is an excellent way to do it. Perhaps, as was done successfully in at least one case, he may combine sampling with a contest, by offering samples of his product as prizes.
The general experience of radio advertisers with con-tests, however, seems to have indicated that few of them have produced results worthy of the cost. Frequently they center attention more on the prizes than on the product, and by arousing ill-feeling among those who fail to win a prize they may do as much damage as good. There is no denying the fact, however, that contests do have excellent attention value, that they do bring in audience mail and that they may be employed with signal success under certain conditions. Again, the individual advertiser must decide.
20. Novelties.—Novelties, in wide variety, have long been used in the merchandising of radio programs. Al-ready the toy balloons used so successfully by the sponsors of the Dixies Circus program have been mentioned. The Quaker Oats Company, also appealing largely to children, has offered dolls, to be sent on receipt of pack-age tops.
But all novelties, of course, are not designed for children. Advertisers have offered phonograph records of signature music, calendars, pictures, and a wide variety of other things of more or less value and utility. One, selling largely to rural districts, offered fans.
Novelties may be distributed through dealers, to call the attention of the public to the radio program. They may be offered in newspaper advertisements, to carry a message about the radio programs straight into the hands of whoever asks for one. They may be used as hooks for audience mail, through radio announcements; or they may be offered over the air and distributed only through dealers, to get listeners to visit the stores of dealers. They may be used as prizes in contests. Naturally their use depends to a large extent on the character of the program, the character of the novelty itself, the character of the advertised product and the general merchandising and selling plan.
21. Miscellaneous Merchandising Helps.—The number of merchandising aids available for the radio advertiser is almost without limit. He may evolve entirely new ones of his own, adapt well-known ones to his needs, or by a new combination of old methods, produce entirely new results.
Other merchandising aids which might be mentioned include blotters, imprinted with the advertiser's or dealer's name and with some mention of the broadcast pro-grams; phonograph transcriptions of actual programs, useful in sales conventions or meetings; novelty "theater tickets" to radio programs, entitling the holder to listen in at his home to the broadcast (or, in some cases, actually to attend the broadcast in its originating studio) ; sheet music, usually the signature song of a sponsor, imprinted with pictures of his orchestra or artists and perhaps with an advertising message; photographs of artists, distributed direct to listeners by mail or through dealers; cut-outs; and many others that perhaps the reader may be able to supply for himself.
22. Salesmen's Meetings or Conventions.—When all other methods of merchandising a radio campaign have been determined, and proper printed material has been prepared, some means must be found to acquaint the advertiser's sales force thoroughly with the plans and methods to be used. This should be done not only to enable the salesmen to present these plans in turn to dealers, but also to aid in making the sales staff enthusiastic over the sales helps that are to be employed.
If this can be done at a sales convention, when the stage is already set for an enthusiastic reception of new sales plans, ideas and methods, its effect is Iikely to last far longer than if some less dramatic way of presentation is employed. Whether such a presentation can be made at a sales convention or not, however, it should be made in as thorough and as personal a manner as possible. District sales meetings may afford the best opportunity.
Radio broadcasting is still news in almost any industry. That is partly due to the fact that it is largely a matter of personalities—singers, entertainers, musicians—and partly to the fact that it is of entertainment value not only to the public, but also to the salesmen and dealers themselves. A radio campaign therefore should be merchandised to salesmen not only as a selling force which will increase their profits, but also as a medium of entertainment for them to enjoy. The better this angle is brought out in sales meetings, the better the sales-man will spread the message, himself, among the dealers he contacts.
23. Salesmen's Portfolios.-But it is not enough to present broadcast plans to salesmen effectively, and leave it up to them to carry enthusiasm out into the front lines of the trade. They must be armed with material which will help them spread that enthusiasm, and it must be in a form that is convenient to carry, complete, and convincing. The most practicable way of doing this generally is through salesmen's portfolios.
The portfolio may devote itself entirely to the radio campaign, or it may simply show the radio campaign in its relation to the general advertising plan as a whole. Whichever form is used, the portfolio should be complete in its description of the radio plan. There should be lists of stations, the time of the broadcast for each station, photographs of artists or entertainers, a description of the program itself, information as to coverage of the stations used, samples of tie-up and spot advertising, photographs of display material, proofs of advertisements available for dealer use, and a description of merchandising aids and helps, as completely as it can be done. In the long run the salesman's portfolio must carry a large part of the responsibility of arousing the interest of dealers, and in acquainting them with the advertiser's radio campaign.
This chapter has not attempted to exhaust the list of merchandising aids that are available to radio advertisers. Rather, it has sought to suggest a few which have proved of greatest benefit to a representative number of advertisers, and to indicate some of the possibilities which are open to the advertiser who is faced with the problem of merchandising his radio broadcast series.
It is reasonably safe to say that comparatively few radio campaigns have been merchandised with anything like the effectiveness which might have been attained. Primarily, perhaps, this has been due to the comparative newness of radio as an advertising medium, and to the fact that advertisers have used it frequently not only with-out the benefit of past experience, but intentionally as an experiment, to stand or fall on its own merits without other aid.
But that is not the way to derive the greatest benefit from a radio investment. Nor is it the way to hold dealers or customers, for if radio fails to live up to its promise to them it may make later progress more difficult.
To reach its greatest effectiveness, radio merchandising must be continuous. Frequently a campaign is given good merchandising support at the start, but after that initial impetus has spent itself it has been left to do its work without further aid. More careful attention should be paid, generally, to the part radio must play in an advertising campaign as a whole, and a wider use of a continuous tying-in of radio with other advertising employed. Such a tie-in will serve to keep the link between the broadcast and the product alive in the minds of both dealer and customer.
Radio can't be left to depend upon its entertainment value alone to sell goods. It must be entertainment, yes —but it also must be advertising, if it is to justify its cost. To do its best work in selling a product, every possible assistance should be called into play—in short, it must be merchandised.
Merchandising will be doing its job, in radio or any-thing else, if it accomplishes its purposes of assisting the advertised goods to move quickly, smoothly and economically from the producer to the consumer, and of keeping the consumer satisfied. It is up to the advertiser, and to his agency, to determine the methods, and to see to it that they work.