Life Lesson For Maine Small Business Owners From The Obituaries

42040480_sPortland Radio Maine Small Business Owners Who would think that the obituary pages could provide an advertising lesson for Maine Small Business owners?

One million Americans die each week. Very few of the departed, however, earn an obituary in the New York Times. To qualify to be immortalized on the pages of the nation’s second largest newspaper, a remarkable life is required.

Last week, the Times featured  remembrances of two voices that are were fixtures on Portland radio. Carl Kasell and Art Bell.

Mr. Kasell was described by the Times as, “An NPR newscaster who, late in his career, cast off his anchorman gravitas once a week and for years became an absurdist comedian on the popular satirical quiz show “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!” His voice was a staple of Maine Public Radio.

The Times described Mr. Bell as, “An apostle of the paranormal whose disembodied voice drew millions to his late-night radio soapbox beamed from the Mojave Desert.” Mr. Bell had a force of loyal fans on Portland radio station WGAN.

Neither man was a huge radio star. A remarkable slice of the 700,000 radio listeners in southern Maine, however, hung on every word these two men broadcast. Many considered Mr. Kasell or Mr. Bell to be their favorite personality on the Portland radio dial.

It was the loyalty of these listeners that prompted the editors of the Times  to celebrate the lives of Mr. Kasell and Mr. Bell. Their obituaries were along side Nobel Prize winners, Olympic athletes, world leaders, and movie stars.

According to a study conducted at the University of California Annenberg School of Communications and Journalism, 82% of consumers have a parasocial feelings for their favorite radio personalities, like Mr. Kasell or Mr. Bell.

According to the study’s author, Paula Woodely, a parasocial interaction “describes one-sided interpersonal relationships in which one party knows (or feels as though they know) a great deal about the other.  The most common form of such relationships is between celebrities and their fans. There is an ‘illusion of intimacy’ between media personalities and audience in parasocial interactions.” 

Key Findings of The Study

  • Hopelessly Devoted: 30% of respondents spend 51-75% of their time with radio listening to their favorite personality.  34% of respondents spend 26-50%  of their time listening to their favorite personality
  • Insatiable Appetite: 81% of respondents said they listen to their favorite personality “whenever I can”
  • Can’t Leave Home Without Them: 55% of respondents listen to their favorite personality on a computer or mobile device when they are away from their radio
  • Seeks Long Term Commitment: 63% of respondents have listened to their favorite personality for 4+ years

What Maine Small Business Can Learn From This

As discussed in the Small Business Guide To Effective Radio Advertising, to ensure the success of an advertising campaign, stations should be chosen based on QUALITY not QUANTITY.  One factor, then, that should be considered should is the parasocial interaction listeners have with the station’s on-air personalities because:

  • 75% of respondents turn on the radio because they know their favorite personality is on the air
  • 79% of respondents listen to that radio station because their favorite personality is on the air
  • 85% of respondents change the station less frequently when their favorite personality is on the air
  • 72% or respondents talk to their friends about their favorite personality or what they heard on the program

Most importantly for Maine Business owners, more than 50% of listeners have considered or purchased a product/service advertised during their favorite radio personality’s show.

Maine Business Owners Practice Parasocial Media

To leverage the relationships DJs have with their listeners, many Maine small business owners engage Portland radio personalities to endorse their companys’ products and services during commercials.  This has included local companies such as European Wax Center; Portland Mattress Makers; The Cathy Manchester Team at Keller-Williams; and Ocean Communities Federal Credit Union. 

Here are examples of how these DJ endorsements sound:

Ocean Communities Federal Credit Union featuring Blake Hayes of Coast 93.1 in Portland, Maine.

Portland Mattress Makers featuring Eva Mattteson of Coast 93.1

Cathy Manchester Team at Keller-Williams featuring Jon Shannon of WPOR

Steve Huss, the owner of Batteries Plus Bulbs in Portland, purchased an advertising schedule on a Portland radio station. As part of his commercial schedule, he utilized WGAN’s morning hosts Ken & Matt to deliver live endorsements for his store.According to Mr. Huss, “We have at least 3-5 people a day come in the store commenting on the ads and mentioning WGAN. Ken and Matt have done a great job…I always try to find if customers are Ken fans or Matt fans…always brings on a good discussion!”

“Since beginning our ads,” says Mr. Huss, “our daily ticket count is up about 67%…pretty good investment!”

Jim Darroch, Director of Marketing for Madison based Backyard Farms, has successfully utilized the endorsements of Portland WCLZ radio personality Jenn Gondek to expand his company’s business. “Our most powerful marketing tool is a happy customer telling his/her friends about our tomatoes, said Mr. Darroch.  “When popular radio personalities share their honest thoughts and opinions about Backyard Farms with their audiences, we’re able to reach thousands of people with the power of a friend’s recommendation.”

Cathy Manchester, a real estate agent based in Gray, Maine, credits radio endorsements by Portland radio hosts, including WPOR’s Jon Shannon, with accelerating the growth of her business.

“When we began advertising on the radio several years ago,” says Ms. Manchester,  “our business doubled! We went from selling 100 homes a year to approximately 200 homes each year! Radio advertising continues to provide a steady stream of well qualified customers for us!”

Other indicators of the power of radio-personality endowments come from the personalities themselves.

First Hand Feedback

Blake Hayes of the Coast 93.1 morning show, does endorsements from several Maine small businesses. According to Mr. Hayes, “After doing a live commercial about Ocean Communities Federal Credit Union, we got a call during our Friday ‘Tell Us Something Good’ segment.  The woman literally called from the parking lot of the credit union after transferring her auto loan there and getting a lower rate.  She wanted to thank me for telling her about OCFCU.”


“Here’s another example,” continues Mr. Hayes, “I recently did some endorsements for the gym I go to, Dynamics Fitness.  I do small group training and boot camp classes there.  One listener heard my commercial and started going.  I met her during the boot camp class one night, and we ended up partnering together and had a blast!  At the end, we high-fived and she thanked me, again, for telling her about Dynamics. It was already her second class.”

“That’s the funny thing, says Mr. Hayes, ” so many listeners don’t say ‘I heard the commercial”, they say ‘Blake told me about it.’ They perceive many of our endorsement commercials as word-of-mouth recommendations.  I think it’s really effective.”

Mr. Hayes’s morning show partner Eva Matteson also does endorsements for advertisers. She has experienced similar feedback.

“I was thrilled when a listener, unsolicited, posted in Facebook about how great her experience was at European Wax Center. She was a first time waxer, had wanted to do it, but was always scared of pain, redness, etc. After hearing my live commercials about my personal (sometimes too, personal) waxing experience there, she gave it a try and loved it. They are now a customer for life.”

Ms. Matteson also received a phone call one morning from a listener who recently purchased a Buick Encore from Bill Dodge GMC Buick. “He said he bought it from because of a week-long series of first-person commercials I did describing the car’s merits, features, safety, and the fun I had in driving it. He even bought the same exact model and color! that I had test driven.”

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