By Dr. John Tantillo
Branding and Marketing Group, Inc.
We need to talk.
Because many out there hate your brand (and you) and if nothing is done proactively in the short run, failure is assured in the long run.
On radio and television they call me the “The Marketing Doctor.” That brand became my brand because I help companies and people unlock their maximum potential through how others see them – their brands.
Rush, call this The Marketing Doctor’s intervention or not, but to be true to the brand that made you a household name in America, you have to respond to the recent Belk Department store debacle. Belk, a chain of department stores in the Southeast, had their commercials appear in the Rush Limbaugh program on your radio affiliates throughout the Carolinas. Belk didn’t like that because of Rush’s take – real or perceived – on the issues of the day. Rush, you need to respond because Belk is taking a slap at you and the talk radio industry that grew as a result of your success.
You know what industry insiders are saying: “Talk radio has become too polarizing, costing the industry tens of millions of dollars.” Well this perception is becoming a reality sooner rather than later and unless something is done quickly, it just may be too late to rehabilitate a venerable brand like Rush.
All great brands go through crisis and becoming aware of this is the first step to getting it right. Using what marketers have identified as a product’s life cycle— Introduction, Growth, Maturity and then Decline, can be helpful in the Go Brand Yourself journey!
From my perspective Rush, you too are going through this same Product Life Cycle process that all great brands must face. It appears that you are at the Maturity phase of this cycle with the Decline not far away and even imminent if immediate actions are not taken.
But fear not, because when one uses effective marketing methodology that have worked for brands in the past, there is solid hope that all will be well with your brand, when the all alterations are implemented and embraced.
Rush, when products reach the maturity stage, the textbook answer is to address it by stressing product benefits and differences. In your case, Rush this is rather easy. You wrote the book on talk and created an entire lucrative advertising model around it. You simply are all about talk and making a profit from it. This is something that they cannot take away from you, or as I would like to say: “It’s your brand.” And because this is your brand, you should work from there when commencing your brand over.SM That’s right—brand over, not that inane “make over” where consultants who don’t really know you, advise you to become something that you are not. No, Rush, a brand over, is for you and will take the Rush from the inside and makes the necessary alterations to the outside. All good! Your centering mission should be: “To thy own brand be true,” where any and all changes about your brand come from there.
As I mentioned when products are in maturity they need to emphasize product benefits and differences. This is where you shine. As I mentioned before, you are all about talk, and talk is good. Talk teaches, gets one to think and engages a dialogue whether people agree with you or not. Once again all good. However for whatever reason this has been lost perhaps as a result of playing it louder rather than saying it differently. Your denigrators cite you out of context quotations and your strong opinions as reasons for your brand stagnation. Perhaps they are correct, but the one thing that they can’t take away is that you get listeners to listen and just maybe there is another way of generating success if one does things a little more unique. I know you can do it. It means changing what you have done in the past with new tactics that attract the needs of the ever-changing groups of advertisers and listeners. This is your real opportunity to take your Brand to levels that you have never even considered. Many personality brands have overcome, brand maturity—Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Neil Sedaka to name a few so that it is possible to succeed if you really want to do this. In short Rush, all great brands make changes in order to grow. So make those necessary brand adjustments to become the brand that you are always meant to be. A bigger, stronger and better Rush!
And here Rush is what I would do if I were you in order to respond to the ever changing radio talk show environment.
First, ask present advertisers what they think about your brand and what they would like to see for them to be there for your brand in the long run.
Second, ask past advertisers what they think.
Third, ask future advertisers what they think.
Fourth, ask present listeners what they think.
Fifth, ask past listeners what they think.
Sixth, ask potential listeners what they think.
Seven, get back to your true brand—Talk. Yes controversy has made you who you are, but you really don’t need that anymore. You are Rush who can generate controversy by simply reading the phone book. Play off that and remember the art of conversation that has served you well.
Eight, tone it down even though they will tell you that you are selling out. This is poppycock. Remember this is your brand they are playing with and you are in control. And also consider that strong brands need to engage in bold tactics. Go re-brand yourself!
Nine, make talk provocative not loud. Come on Rush. You understand what I mean. I’m sure that even you would like to say it differently if you had to do it again.
Ten, and finally Rush simple get listeners to think by engaging in conversation that informs rather than shouts. Get them to love talk and conversation again by teaching and giving another perspective that you do so very well.
I hope this helps. It would be a shame to lose a robust brand like yours, simply because you didn’t keep marketing and branding in mind.
John Tantillo, Ph.D.
Dr. John Tantillo, talk show host and author, is president of New York City-based Branding and Marketing Group, Inc. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.