Mickey MantleI collected baseball cards as a kid.  I mean I really, really collected baseball cards as a kid.  When most of my friends were buying a just pack or two at a time, I would ride my bike down to Klotzbach’s Little Store and buy the entire carton.  The gum in those packs was hard enough to pick a lock but it gave the card an unforgettable smell.

Even at that early stage of life there was something about being associated with a winner.

I felt one way if my card pack had a Pumpsie Green, a Vic Roznofsky or a Ted Uhlaender.  I felt a totally different way if I got a Mickey Mantle.  “I got The Mick!”  For just that brief moment I was a winner!

So whatever happened to all the baseball cards I had as a kid?  It is a story oft told from little boys in those Wonder Years as moms swept through Johnny’s room after he moved away to college.  Yep, Mom threw them away. “You mean all those shoe boxes?,” my mom said to me with innocent eyes.  Of course, it wasn’t just about the cardboard.  Those cards represented my youth, my buddies, the bicycle rides up and down Nettie Street with baseball cards in our spokes, and a later grown-up perspective about the-money-I-coulda—shoulda-made with my seven Nolan Ryan rookie cards!

It’s not about the cardboard.

If someone on your station has ever talked on the air about a family 4-Pack of tickets, you’ve focused on the cardboard.   If you’ve ever given away a coupon, a CD, a two-for-one offer, a gift certificate, or even airplane ticket to see an artist, you’ve focused on the cardboard.

I hate to break it to you but your listener doesn’t care about what your station is doing, at least not if it’s just about you.  Too many radio stations are full of announcements about how wonderful the station is and the stuff they do and the stuff they want YOU to do.  I hate to break this to you but your listener already had a busy life going on before she turned on the radio and she’s certainly going to have one after she turns it off!  She is already thinking about things that are more important than your cardboard.  She’s not going to stop thinking about her stuff to listen to your stuff just because you are loud, use lots of zaps and zips, and talk over a percussion bed.

Roy Williams says, “The most irresistible word in the English language has only three letters.  The most powerful of all words is ‘you’.  ‘You’ engages the imagination of the listener.  Skillful use of the word ‘you’ makes the listener a participant in your message.”

“You” is the beginning of what can help convey what is beyond the cardboard—the dream fulfilled, the impact of a gift, the story of a changed life, or the kindness of a friend.  You must point the camera to that place in her mind that you want the listener to go.

Topps baseball cards has a new advertising campaign that makes me think they knew about my mom.  “Discover the ones you’ve loved and lost.”

Even the people that actually make the cardboard know it’s not about the cardboard.