There are so many great one line catchphrases that have come to us from cartoons. But one of my favorites is from Popeye — I yam what I yam, and that’s all that I yam. One of the things that I have learned over the years is that you have to know what you are, what your strengths are and look to enhance them, rather than look at trying to solve every weakness.
In business too, we seem this same dynamic. Too many successful companies are looking for the newest thing when they have a good thing right in their own companies.
In Chicago, WGN Radio is a powerhouse. It has a 50,000 watt transmitter that allows its signal to be heard in 37 states. It is always in the top 2 in terms of market revenue. If you asked anyone in the city what the demographic of the radio station’s listener was, they would know: it was an older, white, mixed politically, educationally advanced audience. The station was a throwback to old times. The announcers still read commercials live. It had personalities who were engaging and a devoted audience for those personalities. The station had the ability to do indepth shows on topics that others could not. In short, it held its own place as a unique place on the radio dial. But then Sam Zell bought the Tribune Company and with it, WGN Radio. In short order, their morning drive time host retired. This was not a surprise — the host had planned his retirement for over 6 months. Management named one of their afternoon hosts as the new morning host. After 6 months, they moved him into a spot that they created by firing the hosts of a unique morning show directed at women that had been on the air for 20 years and had a hugely loyal following. In the meantime, they fired the hosts of unique shows that focused on money, pets and gardening and replaced them with what the rest of the world sees in talk radio – bigoted, loudmouthed talk radio guys. I am convinced that although WGN had a good thing going with their market, the moves that they made will make them a middle of the road player. By going after the coveted demographic segment (men 25-45), they will be indistinguishable from all of the other stations out there. The latest numbers are not in, but my prediction is that they will be trending in the wrong direction.
Consumers are looking for what you can bring to the table. They like knowing who you are and what you can do for them. Bring them something different, but don’t bring something different to an audience that is not yours. Don’t be like everyone else. Know what you are and bring it – better, faster, cheaper – but bring it.