Akachi Ngwu, Founder/CEO, Consumer Scores International Limited

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Enhancing radio broadcasting for content delivery 21 Sep 2017

The marketing communication mix is designed to create awareness, build loyalty and generate patronage and sales for a company's product or service. The communication mix variables could entail above the line (ATL) or below the line (BTL) communication strategy, or a combination of both. With the ATL strategy, the objective is to reach out to the mass audience and it is often for the purpose of brand awareness. It involves using television, radio, print, out-of-home advertising, among others. The focus of this article is radio broadcasting.
Radio plays a strategic role in mass marketing as a result of its high frequency, reach, and penetration across various consumer market segments. But as discussed in my article in the August 2017 edition of Financial Nigeria, media fragmentation has become more pervasive across radio, television, and the print media. This has created competition between old and new media as well as opportunities for brands to reach tech-savvy consumers. In fact, the radio media platform has been more fragmented in recent times than other media channels in the ATL category. But media fragmentation in radio broadcasting has, for one, engendered more competitive programming, service delivery, and cost.

With the advent of social media in marketing communication, it was believed that the end had come for the traditional media channels. However, time has proved that hypothesis wrong. Industry evidence suggests that social networks and traditional media are complementing each other in a hybrid communications value chain.

We have seen where radio is used to achieve message or content amplification for social media campaigns and vice versa. Among the traditional media, the radio enjoys a cost advantage in both production and spot booking. Therefore, it is preferred by advertisers with low campaign budgets and those seeking higher message frequency across its target audience.

Mobile phones, including smart phones, wireless headphones, and other mobile devices have helped to deepen the penetration of radio listenership – the audience for a radio programme. Audiences across demographics now listen to their preferred radio stations and on-air personalities while jogging and exercising. Opportunity also exists for mobile phone manufacturers to collaborate with radio stations to drive the use of mobile phones as devices to increase listenership. This can be done by including apps for partner radio stations during the manufacturing of the devices.

Increased listenership is a strong bargaining chip for radio stations in negotiations with advertisers. Advertising spending over a ten-year period on radio grew from N5.7 billion in 2006 to N15.1 billion in 2015, according to 2015 MediaFacts, published by MediaReach OMD, a specialist media company. The telecommunications giants Airtel, MTN and Etisalat (now 9 Mobile) were the top three advertisers on radio in 2015.  

Niche broadcasting is gaining momentum in radio broadcasting. This has informed the evolving strategic drive by radio stations to focus their programming on defined target markets. Niches do not exist. They are created by identifying needs, wants, and requirements that are poorly addressed or neglected by existing firms in the industry and developing services and goods to satisfy those needs.

Recent development in radio broadcasting has brought to the fore the need for nichemanship – a term used to describe the art of skillfully selecting market segments and strategically positioning products and services in that segment. The plethora of radio stations has necessitated the need for nichemanship by radio stations to target underserved consumer segments.

Lagos State commands the highest number of radio broadcast stations in Nigeria with an estimated number of thirty stations as at the time of writing this article. As reported by the 2015 MediaFacts report, Lagos accounted for 37% of the total ad spend on radio in 2015, while the northeastern region of the country got zero spend. This could be attributable to the ongoing insurgency in the region.

Hitherto, radio stations adopted a generalist approach to programming. But we are now seeing a different approach of identifying market segments and providing specific programmes suited for consumers in those segments. Of note are sports radio stations, women radio stations and children-inspired programmes.

Because radio broadcasting is audience- and listenership-driven, the strategy to position as a niche broadcaster will enhance and optimize resource mobilization for great content delivery. And with niche broadcasting or narrowcasting, advertisers are sure to reach a defined target audience sharing the same demographic attributes, and preferences. Another form of niche broadcasting is podcasting, internet-based radios that are targeted at specialist audiences.

Societal values are sometimes influenced by the media. Through content planning and delivery, radio stations are in a prime position to help shape the values of their audiences. Part of the ways radio broadcast stations can drive societal change is by partnering with governments, development institutions and civil society. The 'Change Begins with Me' campaign of President Muhammadu Buhari's administration is an opportunity for the government to partner with radio stations to address the moral decadence in our society. But as a regular radio listener, the communication strategy of the campaign has been very poor.

I would also suggest that radio stations should take up such public campaign messages as their corporate social responsibility to educate the public. The essence of that campaign will be defeated if the penetration and frequency of the communication are weak.

The communications value chain is a mixture of media vehicles designed to inform, educate, promote, sensitize, and elicit call-to-action for a defined objective. The objective could be for public or corporate interest. Properly harnessing the potential of radio broadcasting can help achieve call-to-action. Despite the disruptions caused by emerging communication technologies, the effectiveness of the radio in terms of frequency, penetration, cost, and coverage will not diminish.

Akachi Ngwu is the Founder/CEO of Consumer Scores International Limited, a Lagos-based in–store advertising solutions provider. He is an alumnus of the Business Leadership Programme of Leap Africa. Email: akachi.ngwu@csinichead-ng.com. Article was first published in the July 2017 edition of Financial Nigeria magazine.