What's Better? TOMA or BOML?

(Because Behind Every Success Is an Acronym)

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Note No. 1: I pretty much had my ass handed to me on the last post about payola. It seems my rather cavalier attitude towards it all raised the ire of a lot of people, some of whom I contacted just to say hello...and to get my "coming uppins." What's intriguing is there is far more to this than the meets the eye and ear. This issue is will probably never die and I will follow up on it in the coming weeks.

Doug Zanger Doug Zanger
During my three years at Entercom, and in my six years prior to that at Rose City Radio, I sat in on plenty of client meetings. All of them started with the best of intentions...but some careened out of control quickly and were distilled into conclusions or directions that caused any number of foibles that added to the sour morass that can be radio creative. The one theme that kept coming up...and made me turn ten shades of red as I bit my tongue was the enthusiasm about "top of mind awareness" or TOMA. It's a big deal to people. In fact, there is an advertising agency in Scottsdale, Arizona known as TOMA.

The disconnect to me begins in the casual bandying about of the term. Much like the careless spraying of the word, "branding," TOMA has become highly watered down; it feels as though we say TOMA for TOMA's sake, without really understanding the notion behind it. The biggest challenge for any advertiser is to get into the area where it deserves a place in people's immediate-action brain continuum. TOMA is difficult. TOMA can be expensive. Without a clearly defined strategy or tactical discussion, TOMA can be more than just fleeting, it can be a waste of money and it can damage an advertiser. What can be a safer -- and possibly easier approach is BOML -- or "back of mind loyalty."

The BOML theory has its roots in "Lovemarks." It's the idea that developing a "trustmark" and respect can perpetuate all kinds of opportunities. As Kevin Roberts puts it in Chapter 5 of his book: No respect, no love.

I'm not saying that all advertisers (especially radio) have what it takes to even smell Lovemarks territory, but BOML can give them a glimmer of hope.

I hear all kinds of objections when it comes to this medium. "It's not a branding medium." "It's just for promotion." "Radio advertising is dead." Really? Tell that to the Mercedes dealer I worked with in Portland who sold out of C-Classes. Tell that to Bud Light for their perennially delightful "Real Men of Genius" work. Tell that to a handful of successful advertisers in Portland who publicly acknowledge that radio was the medium that made them who and what they are today. They use the medium properly and understand that a clear, focused direction -- like all successful advertising -- makes a difference.

The thread that weaved throughout their success had nothing to do with TOMA. It had everything to do with BOML. There was no price and item; there were value propositions, lifestyle-relevant messages and good storytelling. TOMA can be fleeting. BOML builds in the back of the consumer's mind and allows TOMA to work even better -- because if loyalty is built, that short flash of TOMA goes back into the mind of consumer as BOML so that TOMA can live yet another day. (Sorry. I realized I just threw out a bunch of acronyms ... LOL ...OMG ...WTF?)

Here are some BOML tricks in radio that have seemed to work for me over the years:
  • Simplicity. No need to overcomplicate or over program the message.
  • The "Radio Big 5." The Radio Big 5 is a campaign/advertising that: tell the truth/are transparent, are entertaining, tell a good story, elicit a strong emotion in some way and have a conversation with the listener. All you need to do is listen to a vast majority of auto dealer ads...they usually abuse all 5. (I will have a post on this subject soon.)
  • "One Thing." A high level of focus on one clear message in each spot. Radio advertisers tend to act like auctioneers...cramming (here comes the hyperbole) 8 billion things into 60 seconds.
  • Patience and humility. Two ideas that are counter to the culture...but they can help a campaign stand out even more.
  • Format-relevance. One spot does not fit all. Subtle tweaks show the listener that you know what they are listening to...and programmers like it when advertising can fit neatly into their programming philosophy.
Listen closely to some of the radio advertising in your market this week. Take note on who really stands out and who is just hoping to turn a quick buck. It could be the difference between TOMA and BOML.

Per usual, you can bash me publicly by posting a comment...or you can smack me around privately by email at [email protected], or the following IMs: AIM/iChat: [email protected]; Google Talk/MSN/Jabber: [email protected]; Yahoo: zanger8.

Note No. 2: The Radio Mercury Awards has extended the deadline to March 26. $100,000 for the best in show and a bunch of $5,000 prizes are up for grabs. Go to the website to enter for your chance to take home some of the bounty and one of the coolest/strangest/most unique trophies out there.

Quick Hits
Am I completely off base? Or is loyalty just as/more important now?

Are there any local radio campaigns that you know of that are exceptional? Or all they all pretty much the same?

Are you still angry with me over my payola comments? If so, may I offer you a hug?

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