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In marketing, the world is our "laboratory"...we can learn just by observing others' successes and failures. For example, recent events have emphasized the crucial importance of staying focused in your positioning and on your target market...

McDonald's Arch McFlop

For years, children have been McDonald's most loyal customers, estimated to influence nearly half of all visits. McDonald's hooks them with Happy Meals, playgrounds and, of course, Ronald. And once that emotional connection is made, it lasts...McDonald's has become a national institution right up with Mom and apple pie.

But McDonald's can read demographic trends as well as anyone. We all know the population is aging, and McDonald's wants a bigger share of the expanding older market.

Enter Arch Deluxe. McDonald's positioned Arch Deluxe as a "hamburger for adults" -- with a sophisticated, grown up taste.

Arch Deluxe ads showed kids making "yucky faces," turning up their noses at the new adult burger. They even showed Ronald engaged in "adult" activities like golf and pool.

Essentially, then, Arch Deluxe advertising tore down its own icon, and snubbed the very kids that represent its core market! Crazy, huh?

(Interestingly, the agency that created the ads -- Fallon McElligott -- is no longer with McDonald's. They're the folks who also gave us "Bob Johnson" -- the transsexual from Holiday Inn's Super Bowl commercial.)

And the result of spending over $100 million on the Arch Deluxe campaign? As one Wall Street analyst put it: "They teed off one of the most expensive campaigns in history, and still we estimate that comparable store sales were down for the quarter." A major management shake-up followed shortly thereafter.

McDonald's may have gotten the seems to be getting back to the kids now with promotions like its Teeny Beanies -- said to be its most successful ever.

Pat Boone: Metalhead

Pat Boone is known as a devout Christian and wholesome family man. He originally became famous by recording "white bread" cover versions of R&B hits by performers like Little Richard and "Fats" Domino -- minus their soul, sex appeal and rebellion. Face it, Pat Boone is about as "square" as it gets. That's his positioning!

But despite the fact that Boone has been hugely successful -- with sales of over 45 million records -- that was a long time ago. Outside of the religious community, he has been irrelevant in the mainstream music business since the mid '60s.

His solution was a new group of performers to cover and a radical "image change." So Pat Boone released a "heavy metal" album earlier this year...

Called In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy, the album contained versions of such songs as Paradise City, Smoke On The Water, Stairway To Heaven and, of course, the title track.

Then, to promote the album, Boone appeared in black leather, a studded dog collar, dark shades and fake tattoos at The American Music Awards and The Tonight Show!

Of course, the whole thing was kind of a spoof...essentially, Pat Boone making fun of his own "goodie two shoes" image.

Unfortunately, he forgot that some of his (former) "target audience" has little sense of humor. He received a lot of hate mail. And the Trinity Broadcasting Network actually canceled his weekly music show, Gospel America. TBN said the decision was based on "recent changes in the focus and content of Pat's music."

As for Pat's reaction, he said: "I'm going to wind up losing a lot of fans, but I'll gain new ones who realize I'm not as square as they thought."


CBS: 1995 Fall Season

Ever since The Beverly Hillbillies and Green Acres, CBS viewers have skewed older and more rural than the viewers of NBC, ABC and, more recently, Fox. This is a problem...TV's prime demo is 18 to 49, and CBS' 18-49 numbers had declined dramatically by the mid-'90s, to the point where it was behind the upstart Fox network among those viewers.

The president of CBS Entertainment at the time -- Peter Tortorici -- opted for the seemingly "obvious" solution -- put on shows that appeal to 18-49's, bury shows that don't...

For example, CBS moved Angela Lansbury's ancient Murder She Wrote from Sunday (where it was quite successful) to Thursday, up against NBC's "Must See" comedies. That move was as effective as a visit to Dr. Kevorkian.

Then, CBS chased after the younger demo with shows that emulated the approach of NBC's Friends and Seinfeld...shows that would appeal to (and shows about) young, hip urbanites. Remember Can't Hurry Love, Central Park West, New York News, Almost Perfect and Dweebs???

Me neither.

The results were disastrous. CBS failed to attract the younger viewers it targeted, and alienated its older core audience. CBS fell to a precedent-setting low 9.5 overall rating for a dismal third place showing. Its new, youth-oriented shows were down 25% from its new shows a year before.

But, as we know in broadcasting, when things aren't working, changes aren't far behind...

CBS: Welcome Home

New CBS Entertainment prez Leslie Moonves quickly reversed the trend. He made the decision to embrace, rather than trying to shed, the network's identity, and adopted a more realistic 25-54 target...

"We are not going to target 18-34 or 18-49," Moonves said. "We'll skew older."

His strategy paid off immediately. CBS rose to second place for the February and May sweeps last year. And CBS held onto second place for the '96-'97 season. While CBS obviously isn't as successful as it wants to be, it is in better shape than when it was a "wanna be."

What Does This Mean for My Radio Station?

These three scenarios are really all the same...

A brand (whether a company or individual) wants to be something "different" from what consumers think it is. It wants to appeal to a different market than the one it has. It tries to change consumers' minds about what it is. And it fails, ending up in worse shape than when it started.

We can learn from this! The message is clear: Know your positioning; know your target market. Be ambitious but realistic in developing your strategy...remember that "wishing won't make it so." Focus on targeting consumers you can actually get, and super-serve them!