Case Study:  Ottawa LiVE 88.5

Increased audience by 29% in 1 year

Alternative rock station Ottawa LiVE 88.5 saw steady growth from its launch in 2005 until 2008, when they started on a two-year gradual downhill slump. Scott Broderick, general manager at Newcap Radio needed a solution.

Radio is a high-competition industry. Ottawa’s radio dial is crammed with over 35 stations and with new stations cropping up every year, they had stiff competition. That’s a lot of audial lovin’!

While LiVE 88.5 was actually doing okay—ranked #7 in relation to their competition—this downward slump was worrying. “Surely we couldn’t have plateaued already after just 3 years?!” LiVE 88.5 needed a way to gain bigger audience share and a way to boost ranking.

Scott and his team looked for ways to shake things up. They found that shakeup in Austin, Texas at the Pendulum in Action course taught by the Wizard of Ads, Roy H. Williams and publishing expert Michael R. Drew for advice.

Returning to Ottawa armed with new knowledge and a new framework, Scott and his team revisited at their entire marketing strategy through the lens of Pendulum. They realized their current marketing strategy didn’t match the needs of the “We cycle” generation.

Check out LiVE 88.5’s ineffective pre-Pendulum ad campaign, from Fall 2010:

The ads are technically fine—but they’re nothing special. The marketing message portrayed here simply aligns the station with great alternative rock legends. And Pendulum shows how this type of approach (aligning with an expert or famous person) is one that works predominantly in a “Me cycle.” But this strategy doesn’t work in a “We cycle,” which we are in. People are tired of name-dropping and self-absorbed sentiments.

Here’s one of the key Pendulum principles they applied:With the understanding they’d gained about a “We cycle” (which started in 2003 and will run for a total of 40 years) Scott and the team redeveloped their marketing strategy, applying the lessons they learned in Austin to completely overhaul their entire messaging.

“The Zenith of a ‘We Cycle offers’ some very specific marketing opportunities. Self-definition—branding if you will—is no longer determined by who you include and what you stand for; instead, it becomes a function of exclusion: who you exclude and what you stand against.”

In a nutshell: be against what your target audience is against (instead of for what they are for).

So Scott and the team shifted their approach, away from showing what they were for to showing what they were against.

These two TV ads are the product of this new approach:

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As you can see, it’s based upon the principle of exclusion—a sentiment that appeals more to an audience during a “We” cycle.

The results? Astounding!

This change in marketing direction immediately picked Ottawa LiVE 88.5 out of their plateau—boosting their audience by 29% and increasing revenues by 22% within 1 year.

As Scott summed up in his email when he wrote to let us know his results:

“This shit actually works! Who knew?”