Forecasts reveal that digital is driving the advertising rebound in 2021 and, according to Tony Hereau, VP of cross platform insights at Nielsen, "Radio is the soundtrack of America's recovery."
Radio, across all of its digital platforms, has and continues to experience exponential growth, earning significant share of media consumption throughout 2020 and the post-pandemic. While over the air AM/FM radio accounts for 76 percent of the daily audio time spent with any ad-supported platform, understanding consumer behavior as they move across platforms and what motivates listeners is critically important for marketers who are poised to succeed in the rebound.
Radio is seamlessly experienced throughout a consumer's day, regardless of platform, with motivations for listening ranging from companionship to escapism to mood elevation. Listeners rely on the medium to connect them to the content they desire when they want it, how they want it, and where they want it.
A day in the life of radio listeners varies by motivations, demographics, and psychographics, but there are certainties that remain true. Between August and October 2020, Audacy conducted a groundbreaking study, "Audio Amplification: Defining Engaged Impressions," in partnership with Alter Agents, and the results showed how audio across platforms draws audiences, moves them emotionally and leads to action. The study found that over-the-air (OTA) radio listening and streaming across all formats tend to be anytime occasions, with significant peaks in listening when people wake up in the morning, and while they are out and about or commuting to work and school. Podcast listening is reserved more for time alone. The Katz Radio Group identifies radio as "the soundtrack to listeners' daily journey." Listeners lean into the audio that suits their moods and interests. In turn, audio has the power to improve a listener's mindset, moments, and receptivity.
Listeners are trusting and loyal to their radio stations, regardless of when or where they are listening. In order for brands to earn and maintain trust and loyalty among their target audiences, they need to not only look inward and toward their consumers, but to look at the environments for which their advertising is running.
Nielsen's Total Audience Report, released end of March 2021, revealed that broadcast radio remains the No. 1 reach medium, and consumers trust the ads they hear on the radio more so than they do ads on any other media, with 60 percent of adults 35–49 and 54 percent of adults 18–34 considering radio spots very or somewhat trustworthy.
2020 also brought a renewed focus on the importance of local marketing. Nielsen's Total Audience Report states that the vast majority of respondents agree that it is important to shop local and support local business, with 74 percent of urban dwellers feeling it was very or somewhat important to shop in person at local businesses, compared to 67 percent of suburban and 70 percent of rural residents.
It is a simple fact that the 15,000-plus local broadcast radio stations are rooted in the communities where listeners live, work, go to school or go about their day. According to the 2021 Jacobs Media Techsurvey, 49 percent of consumers strongly agree that one of radio's primary advantages is its local feel, and nearly half say they tune in to radio to keep them company.
Localizing messaging and local advertising is more important now than it has ever been. Consumers recall advertising for locally owned businesses at a greater pace than national or online retailers. Radio is the solution for marketers to engage hometown consumers, providing the trusted environment that will build loyalty, influence decisions, and the local insight to create relevant connections. Read more.
Radio's ability to influence and create relevant connections for brand partners brings another added benefit to them, which is generating significant word-of-mouth activity. According to Idil Cakim, SVP of research and insights at Audacy, and author of the book Implementing Word of Mouth Marketing, audio is uniquely positioned to propel word of mouth for brands. Cakim said "As our Engaged Impressions study shows, audio — including OTA, streaming OTA, and podcasts — is the most trusted medium, when it comes to product recommendations and advertising. Trust is what makes consumers pass along information with confidence."
Jacobs Media has been measuring Net Promoter Scores (NPS) for the past 17 years as part of its annual Techsurvey. NPS is derived by asking consumers, on a scale of zero to 10, how likely they are to recommend a radio station to a friend, family member, or co-worker. In 2020, commercial broadcast radio earned the highest NPS it has ever achieved, and it has been strong in the past. In a year that was anything but usual, Fred Jacobs, president and founder of Jacobs Media, attributes these breakthrough scores to the fact that "consumers gravitated to personalities and programming they were familiar with and they could count on. Stations that did an exemplary job of reflecting the local vibe — supporting local businesses and essential workers — may have helped power these all-important Net Promoter Scores."
A few of the most successful drivers of word of mouth included trusted influencers, organic content, and online reviews. Each of these are uniquely part of radio's DNA. Radio influencers' proven track record to drive trust, build brands, and drive word of mouth is undeniable. They are live and local personalities delivering native content to their loyal listeners via their broadcast, social media, and digital audio megaphones. Audio endorsements by radio personalities increase receptivity and consideration with 80 percent of listeners trusting and valuing their favorite personalities opinion and 77 percent indicated they are influenced by a radio personalities brand and product recommendations.
The combination of understanding behavior, as consumers move across radio platforms and what motivates them to act, leads to an omnichannel conclusion. Digital growth, which stems from the incredible surge in search and e-commerce behavior, is important, and understanding the power that radio brings to that digital activity is perhaps even more important. Tony Wright, CEO of WrightIMC, a full-service digital marketing agency, spoke about this in a recent post for Search Engine Journal. "The agency's clients that effectively use radio have significantly higher click-through rates than their counterparts who are not using radio. We've seen the data for clients who are Fortune 10 businesses, as well as start-ups, and know it to be the case."
Wright added, "when consumers are searching for something and they see a name they have heard of, they are more likely to click on that listing." Combine Wright's insights with the trusted, locally relevant, influential, and organic content delivered by radio, and it is a winning combination for any brand.
Throughout 2020 and continuing through 2021, there has been a strong call to arms for brands to step up as a force for growth and a force for good. The marketers who have implemented strategies and further defined their values and purpose to support consumers are making a difference, earning trust among consumers, and contributing to a more "equal, just, and better world" in the places consumers' call home. Radio, across all of its live, local, experiential, digital, and broadcast platforms, is the most trusted environment for those brand messages to connect and motivate listeners to act.