Not A Face for Radio – Part One

Here is a classic story I have probably told a hundred times. It’s a case of the quality of one’s advertising, whether radio, TV or print, speaking louder than the words or pictures contained therein. And not in a good way. This is what I call ‘Brand Busting,’ where brand perception and brand reality are diametrically opposed.

The names, by the way, have been changed to protect the guilty.

A number of years ago I was referred to a client by a local radio rep. This individual was a big advertiser on both radio and in print. He spent a boatload of money, however the quality of his advertising was extremely low end. Naturally, I assumed the merchandise he sold was of the same quality.

The problem stemmed from the fact that he wrote, produced and served as the announcer on his radio spots. The only apparent positive was the fact that he had a memorable positioning statement that he stuck with year after year. I had never met the man, but I knew exactly what he looked like ...

Height: 5’4”
Weight: 240
Hair: minimal
Sartorial attributes: Leisure suit (lime green), white shoes, white belt, open-collared shirt — probably orange in color — revealing a gold chain or two, black transparent hosiery.
Distinguishing characteristics: mole just above left eye; wears soda-bottle-thick glasses with black frames; cheeks sporting a perpetual red hue; sideburns to die for.

Well, at least that’s what he sounded like on the radio.

The station rep told me that this store’s problem wasn’t traffic — people were coming in the door. The problem was they just weren’t buying. Customers would walk in, look around, and then head to Valu-Mart. Sales were abysmal. The sense of panic amongst the staff, palpable.

The radio rep pleaded, “Could you talk to him and see if there was anything you could do?” As much out of curiosity as for the quest for new business, I agreed to place the call.

Five days later I walked in the store’s door, ready to finally meet the embodied Voice of Mahoning Valley Retail. After a few minutes of roaming through some pretty nice looking, definitely-not-cheap merchandise, the receptionist showed me into the legend’s office. He stood up from his beautiful mahogany desk.

Gulp! Who the hell was this guy?

In his early 50s, his salt-and-pepper hair was, well — perfect. And not only was he an obvious graduate of the George Hamilton School of Tanning, he sported the whitest teeth east of the Mississippi. His right hand extended, walking toward me was an obviously fit man sartorially resplendent in a navy blue blazer, light blue dress shirt, red and navy striped tie, khaki slacks, and burgundy penny loafers (beyond that, I was guessing boxers).

“Hi. I’m Clyde Summerfield,” he beamed.

I froze in my tracks. “Ahh, no your not,” I responded, my voice dripping with equal amounts of disappointment and shock.

“I beg your pardon.”

“Well, the Clyde Summerfield I know is short, fat, bald, thick glasses, wears a leisure suit, white shoes, white belt…”

What ...?

I felt myself sinking deeper and deeper into the office’s rich, shag carpeting. “Sorry, Clyde,” I apologized, “but that’s how you sound on the radio."

Dazed, he shuffled back behind his desk. He gestured toward the wing back chair across from him. I settled in and the ensuing conversation took on a rather serious tone.

Drop in next week for Part 2. Does Clyde see the light or is it business as usual?

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