Most companies focus on grabbing market share but the opportunity to grab market size could present the largest opportunity (and is sometimes the path of least resistance). Thus, it’s important for companies that use persona development to drive marketing strategy to consider what we call “the Jan Brady Persona” – the under-served persona.
Going with the Jan Brady theme, a great case study (the Jan Brady case study?) demonstrating the underserved segment is of YFM – today South Africa’s biggest regional commercial radio station that used street brand strategy to capture an underserved segment.
With its slogan, Yona Ke Yona (“this is it”), YFM was formed to fill the gap left in local radio after the fall of apartheid in 1994. At the time, most radio stations in South Africa were controlled at least in part by the South African Broadcasting Corporation and aired music that one would be just as likely to hear in any part of the world on MTV or VH1. DJs spoke English or Afrikaans. Local music and local languages were largely ignored in favor of international content.
YFM decided to narrow in at the street level and reach a black listenership whose music and culture were largely ignored by the local radio stations of the day.
In 1997, the newly launched station embarked on a massive campaign to reach black listeners using a miniscule budget. The strategy was to take over the streets, literally, by slapping eye-catching stickers emblazoned with the letter “Y” on murals, traffic lights and street lamps across Johannesburg. The company also drove a trailer around the city carrying a YFM banner and playing original tunes by local artists.
YFM’s music ranges from hip hop to house and from R&B to kwaito. Fifty percent of the play list comprises South African bands. In its first week, YFM boasted an audience of 611,000, a record-breaking number for a regional station in South Africa, and a number that has since tripled to nearly two million. It is now the favorite radio station among 16 to 24 year olds living in Gauteng (the industrial and commercial heart of South Africa), with 54 percent more listeners in this market than its nearest competitor.
YFM brand manager Lindy Zokufa reports that YFM’s listenership has “grown for the sixth consecutive time in as many years – by 14 percent between 2002 and 2003 alone.”
“We take the research that we do, use it creatively and be consistent with the messaging that we send out there,” she explains. “[YFM sponsored] events, which feature the various music genres for tiered incomes and age groups, have been vital to our constant interaction with listeners and keeping the brand real.”
YFM has gone so far as to literally write the book on its market by self-publishing the Scamto Dictionary, which as Zokufa explains, “is a dictionary that takes ownership of the urban street lingo.” It’s an internal document that media planners can use to better understand the environment and culture of the consumer.
A key part of YFM’s success is in defining itself not as a radio station but as a cultural movement. In addition to radio, the station now offers Y-Mag, YWorld, and Y-Shoppe, a clothing warehouse.
By finding a market that wasn’t being served YFM managed to carve a niche in South Africa’s airwaves. By understanding that market, YFM manages to grow to other aspects of its market’s lifestyle.
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