When I first heard these words I was stunned.

As an old radio dog who has been a part of launching several new formats I wondered how could this really smart guy say something so implausible?

The speaker elaborated on his point for those of us trying to catch up.

“Successful formats are based upon consensus. Consensus is created through familiarity.

No familiarity? No consensus. No format.”

Several of us began to squirm awkwardly in our chairs. Either our expert is off his rocker, or we’re feeling like freshman students in a graduate class.

“Think of the last new format that has come along,” the group was challenged. After an awkward pause someone guessed, “The Jack format?”


“Nope, just repackaged Classic Hits or Oldies.”

“The Movin’ format?”


“Again, a repackaging of familiar upbeat rhythmic AC and Top Forty songs.”

“What about our format; the Contemporary Christian format?” guessed the shrewd program director, moving uncomfortably close to home. “It is certainly considered a success with dozens of stations ranking in the top five in their markets,” he spouted. “Isn’t CCM music largely new and unfamiliar to the masses?”


“I thought you said, ‘No familiarity, no consensus, no format?'”

“Oh, but you’re forgetting something important.

The CCM format has something that no other ‘new’ format has. It has a VALUES position. And Values are more important to any brand than are product attributes. (Tease, in an upcoming Frost Advisory I’ll share the remarkable story of Wawa.)

“The most basic way to make people care is to form an association between something they don’t yet care about and something they do care about.”

Chip and Dan Heath, “Made to Stick”

“Values are about things people value,” our moderator added. “The most important values are those your listeners would value even if you weren’t on the air.”

This is true for all stations with a solid values position. Listeners don’t tune to us for what we are, they tune to us for who they are.

*This repartee is a retelling of a conversations in a research meeting with the remarkable Mark Ramsey. All original thoughts are his. I’m simply retelling in hopes that you’ll think I’m really tall and well groomed.