Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Can Radio Still Power Product Sales? When You’re Rush Limbaugh, Absolutely.

There’s some cognitive dissonance seeing Rush Limbaugh dressed up as Paul Revere – even in a cartoon. Yet that’s him on the back of that horse on the front page of his new Two If By Tea website.

If you like, you can forget what I said about radio in the previous post about Pandora:

isn’t radio, no matter how enjoyable or cleverly wrought, ancient history, biz-wise?

Conservative talk radio, of which Limbaugh is the exemplar, is a broad exception to this thought. Love him or hate him, El Rushbo is one of broadcast radio’s driving forces. Introducing his own line of ready-to-drink (RTD) iced teas is therefore not just a retail play, it’s news. Two If By Tea:

…represents traditional American values of capitalism and the pursuit of excellence. Each bottle is designed to rise above the sameness and mediocrity that threatens our great nation. Just grab a 12-pack and join the fight to preserve the America we know and love. It’s worth it!

The product launch hit the trades big…and polarized yet another market segment. For example, Jeffrey Klineman, editor of Beverage Spectrum, put an announcement up first thing on the BevNet newsletter. Unfortunately, Klineman editorialized about Limbaugh’s “invective;” a number of industry readers came down on his post like a ton of teabags.

That’s the way the past week has gone – lots of hype and a lot more heat about the talk radio host’s political stances. But what about Limbaugh’s business model? Canned or bottled RTD tea’s a hot-and-cold category with a huge variety of packagers, flavors and sizes. Skimming stats from Mintel and Beverage World, new RTD tea product launches in the US doubled in 2009 alone; volume increased nearly 5% in that same one-year period. There are so many options for retailers, in fact, that the marketplace is overstocked; much product is value-priced, which means low margins.

And so what? Limbaugh has got, beside the right to be his own entrepreneur, his own broadcast vehicles. He’s has spent hours (I’m not kidding!) talking about and promoting these buy-online teas. Whether or not he’s paying rate card for the time – and he says he is – his unrelenting, day-after-day brand promotion has got to be moving cartons of iced tea.

Even if ratings research is right about Limbaugh’s audience slip, he still has an large number of loyal listeners (are they still called Dittoheads?) on 600 radio stations nationwide. Not to mention that live camera online.

Few advertisers can afford three hours of radio promotion every day – never mind Saturday and Sunday. Limbaugh is also executing a rather good marketing plan in support of his product launch, with the right stuff on the website, plenty of flanking action not to mention free shipping.

Watch the talking head e-market. He’ll keep generating controversy, maintain Dittohead loyalty and convert many of them to buyers of Two If By Team products. That’s power radio.

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