Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Search Did Not Kill the Radio Star

It helped the radio star, actually -- a lot.

Think about radio advertisements. We've all heard them. Plenty of them try to be funny, probably a conscious decision on the advertiser's to make the message in some way memorable. I'm sure just about all of us laugh at some of them, anyway. Many radio advertisements are musical, as well, and I'm sure just about all of us can sing a popular local advertiser's radio jingle. Car dealerships have some of the best (and worst -- just sayin').

But what good is all the music and humor when most of us are driving as we hear these ads? We have no safe and convenient way, really, of jotting down the number; we're trying to drive, for crying out loud! For instance, I don't even attempt to write a note to myself. That would be dangerous. Put another way, radio advertisers ought to forget about me (and other potential customers) remembering to enter the brand name into a search engine later.

What I occasionally do try, however, is to punch in and dial the 800 number as I keep one hand on the steering wheel. I always hang up before someone answers, always intending to give the number, now in my call log, another try once I'm in a place to think about possibly making the purchase or learning more -- e.g., when I'm no longer driving. And almost always, by the time I get to that point, I've forgotten what the 800 number was for -- or that I'd even planned to call it later.

The circumstances beg the question: What good is a fantastic radio advertisement if the potential customer won't even think to look for the brand name online later?

Well, the question is partially legitimate, but partially based on a false premise, as well. Potential customers probably won't remember the name of the company in the advertisement they heard as they drove to work, but if they later need what that company sells and search for the keyword phrase associated with that need, they'll see the search-optimized company's brand name toward the top of the first SERP of a non-branded natural search, and the memory of the funny ad or the catchy jingle will then go far in sealing the deal.

The artificial intelligence driving mobile technology development is addressing many of these issues, of course, but the technology itself is largely not there, and presently, consumers' adoption of it is nowhere near where it needs to be to make a measurable difference, anyway. In a few short years that may change, but in the meantime, search remains the king that did not kill the radio star.