Radio Has an “Enduring Role” in Marketing Effectiveness, Study Finds

Written By

Bob Leonard

Published On

Friday, Feb 09
Woman in car adjusting radio.
Radio has an “enduring role” in marketing effectiveness, concludes a new study by Peter Field, marketing expert who, along with Les Binet, has been dubbed one of the “godfathers of marketing effectiveness.”


Binet and Field have written some of the most well-known books on marketing effectiveness, including: Marketing in the Era of Accountability, The Long and the Short of It, Media in Focus, and Effectiveness In Context.

In his recent study, Field mined a data set of thousands of case studies from the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) and found hard evidence for how AM/FM radio drives significant lifts in market share, pricing power, sales, profits, and ROI.  


This study was the first time an in-depth analysis had ever been conducted on the IPA marketing case histories for radio,” said Pierre Bouvard, Chief Insights Officer of the Cumulus Media | Westwood One Audio Active Group. Field analyzed thousands of case studies and compared marketers that included radio in their media plan and those that did not. Here are his key findings:

  • Marketers using radio generated 13% greater mental availability, the propensity of a brand to be noticed and thought of in buying situations.
  • Marketers using radio had 28% larger market share.
  • Marketers using radio saw a 42% lift in the number of companies reporting large profits.
  • Marketers using radio saw a 23% increased return on marketing investment. 


According to SMI Copywriter Payne Ratner, “‘Mental availability’ is just a new term for what has been called ‘top-of-mind-awareness’ for years. And top-of-mind-awareness comes from everything we’ve talked about in advertising. A spot that’s effective and memorable. Pinpoint media placement. Message frequency. And most importantly, a product that lives up to its promises. Without those there’s not much ‘mental availability.’”


I interviewed SMI’s Media Buying Team to obtain a better understanding of how the work we do helps our clients achieve mental availability. Here are some highlights from our conversation:

In their book 66 Ways To Screw It Up: How Not to Plan, Les Binet and Sarah Carter write, “The single most important factor driving brand preference is ‘mental availability’: how well known a brand is, and how easily it comes to mind. Brands with low mental availability tend to struggle, rejected in favor of more familiar rivals, or not considered in the first place. Brands with high mental availability don’t have to push so hard to sell, so tend to have higher market shares and better margins.” 


What does SMI do to increase mental availability?

“The key contributor to increasing a brand’s mental availability is to incorporate national and local broadcast placements (AM/FM Radio) into a brand’s overall audio strategy,” said Network Buyer Jared Kulaga. “Local broadcast greatly effects brand awareness through frequency, with national placements assisting with overall market reach. The combination of reach and frequency achieved on AM/FM Radio cannot be easily duplicated with other audio channels.”


Is there a link between scaling (and how do we define that term) and increasing mental availability. 

Yes, there is a link between scaling and increasing mental availability,” said Senior Media Buyer Josh Knock. “As a campaign increases budgets, they are increasing their reach and frequency within the marketplace. Consequently, the brand’s market share will increase leading to higher brand awareness, increasing overall mental availability.”


How do we recommend our clients achieve scale/mental availability?

“We recommend leaning into audio mediums that allow for high reach and frequency,” said Senior Media Buyer Pam Wolfgram. “The combination of national (high reach) and local broadcast (high frequency) placements as part of an overall audio strategy is a perfect combination to achieve campaign scale as well as increase the brand’s share of voice and mental availability.”


Are you ready to improve your brand’s mental availability through the proven medium of radio? Contact SMI today

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