The social media campaign against Alan Jones and Kyle Sandilands will, ultimately, fail and the influence of these two broadcasters remain undiminished.
That’s despite what a producer at 3AW in Melbourne says about the chattering voices in “that big town” of Sydney. Jones has “never been so naked and huddled in the cold wind of public hate” says Justin Smith in today’s Fairfax papers.
“For decades, his tongue has been like a razor gliding across the face of Sydney – sometimes it left a clean, smooth surface; sometimes it left the victim spotted with blood and specks of tissue paper,” writes Smith.
Nice turn of phrase. I’ve worked with Justin and I hold him in high regard, professionally and personally.
However, this is not the reality of how consumers engage with brands. Successful brands understand that they are not in the 100% game. They will survive the baptism and fire of media – be it social or mainstream.
Jones and Sandilands don’t require everyone to be passionate about them. More importantly, it’s critical that they don’t even try to be universally loved.
Successful brands know that it is vital that people feel something about them. That people disliking your brand is to be welcomed – as long as you have a core of people who are passionate supporters. This means you stand for something. That you have an ‘est’. (In marketing terms it means a “uniqueness”.)
It is invisibility, and ambivalence, that brands must avoid.
Alan Jones and Kyle Sandilands are examples of brands who understand that they are not in the 100% game. It is not a negative that hundreds of thousands of people “hate” them. All that matters is that a decent proportion of the (roughly) 500,000 listeners to their respective shows each week are passionate about “Brand Sandilands” and “Brand Jones”.
To generate this passionate “love” and “hate” requires pushing the boundaries. Occasionally that means they cross the line.
Sandilands has made some appalling comments – the verbal attack on the journalist, the Magda Szubanski slur. Jones has done the same on numerous occasions, and the controversy over the (off-air) Gillard comments has been inflamed by his completely disingenuous apology.
I am not defending the comments. They were offensive, and both broadcasters deserved to be held to account for them.
However, the paradox of orchestrated social media campaigns – driven by people who are generally not listeners to either show – is that when they attack Jones or Sandilands, they are reinforcing the passion that the core fans feel for the show and for the personality.
Criticise Kyle for being edgy or inappropriate?
You reinforce to his core listeners why they choose to listen to him.
Criticise Jones for speaking his mind and attacking anyone who disagrees with him?
You reinforce why his core listeners choose to listen to him.
In the sporting world, whenever someone criticises Manly for being a team of silvertails, or Collingwood for being a team supported by bogans, it strengthens the “us against the world” bond that their fans have with those clubs.
Collingwood have been smart about how they have leveraged this. A few years ago they distributed a bumper sticker saying We Hate You Too alongside the Pies logo in their colours. Their membership campaign in 2012 was it’s us against them. Clever.
Manly fans have used the Everybody Hates Us, We Don’t Care mantra, borrowed from the UK’s loathed Millwall football club who wear it as a badge of honour.
“No one likes us, No one likes us,
No one likes us, We don’t care.
We are Millwall,
We are Millwall from The Den.”
It’s not about achieving 100%. And it works.
Almost every caller that Jones put to air following the Gillard story was gently rebuking but strongly supportive; “I think you said the wrong thing Alan, but you’ve apologised and I still love your show”.
Clearly the producers call-screened very well, however there is no doubt that the core fans were defending their under-siege patriarch.
In the most recent Nielsen survey, Jones and Sandilands Breakfast shares were well ahead of their competitors in “time spent listening” (TSL).
(Although, given “share” is not an indicator of “share of listeners”, but rather “share of listening”, the Jones figures are inflated by the impact of TSL given 2GB’s older profile. Forgive the radio jargon.)
Jones’ ratings are spectacular – as are Sandilands’ (with Jackie. O) – and neither has been, or will be, impacted adversely by the social media campaigns against them.
To be fair, these campaigns do have a short-term impact on revenue, and a corresponding positive impact on their competitors revenue. However, the revenue always returns.
Every criticism reinforces why the core fans choose to engage with “Brand Jones”, “Brand Sandilands”, Collingwood or Manly. Every attack reinforces the core fans membership of the “club”.
The orchestrated social media campaigns would do well to consider that it is not a 100% game.
There is only one way the stated goal of the social media campaigners to have Jones and Sandilands sacked can occur. That is if their ratings become uncompetitive.
Ultimately, this will happen through the changes in the landscape ( a better newcomer appears), or the natural life-cycle of shows ( Jones and Sandilands lose their edge) however, at this point there are no signs of listeners moving away from either of them.
Ironically, the existence of these social media campaigns is strengthening the core listeners passion for the respective brands, and thus ensuring their survival.
*Dan Bradley is a director of Radio Today, Kaizen Media and Collective Music, and is Chief Brand Director for The Retail Zoo. You call follow Radio Today on Twitter @_radiotoday
The original version of this article appeared here.