Monday, August 07, 2006

Focus and Bob FM

The apparent success of Austin's KBPA radio station raises some interesting questions about the principle of focus.

KBPA is one of many Bob FM stations around the US and Canada. They all play a wide variety of music from the past four decades. In fact, the Austin station proclaims, "We play anything." Most radio stations focus on a particular genre of music, such as country, hip hop, or classic rock. Along comes Bob and differentiates itself by playing anything.

Is Bob's product focused?

In one sense, it's clearly not focused. It spans the standard musical categories. Until recently, conventional wisdom said that they would be doomed because they had "no format".

But branding and focus are not just about established categories in an industry. Branding and focus are about creating new categories in the mind. If the mind can conceive it and differentiate it from other categories, then it can be a category. There is no reason to stick to established categories. In fact, you're best off creating a new one.

A caveat to keep in mind: focusing on a category shouldn't be your only concern. Focusing on a well-defined psychographic segment of the market is also important.

4 comments :

Cranky Product Manager said...

The Cranky Product Manager has to disagree with you here. "Everything" is not a market segment, never will be.

Roger L. Cauvin said...

You're conflating "category" with "segment". I wrote:

"A caveat to keep in mind: focusing on a category shouldn't be your only concern. Focusing on a well-defined psychographic segment of the market is also important."

The "we play anything" message appeals only to a particular segment of the market. A category is not a segment.

Cranky Product Manager said...

Fair enough. But truly, is there really an actual well-defined psychographic segment that likes to listen to "anything"?? Intuitively, the Cranky Product Manager doesn't buy it (but market research could convince her otherwise).

And furthermore, how actionable is any kind of psychographic segment that consists of people that are truly indiscriminate about the products and the brands; where nothing that distinguishes two market offerings matters at all to them. How do you target these people, and would you even want to since they view your offering as a commodity no matter what you do?

Roger L. Cauvin said...

Cranky, let me try to distill and rephrase your questions:

Q. Is there a psychographic segment that likes to listen to literally anything (i.e. is indiscriminate)?

A. In all likelihood, no. There does appear to be, however, a segment that enjoys listening to a subset of "anything" that nonetheless spans several of the standard musical categories.

Bob FM doesn't really play "anything". That's a code word for something like "popular hits of the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 00s".

Q. If there were a segment that was "indiscriminate", would it be worth targeting?

A. Probably not. Lack of any discrimination whatsoever implies apathy; a lack of an urgent problem or need.

Good questions!