Howard Stern's brave new world

Howard Stern leaves the public airwaves today, a departure that says something about the power of marketing
Written by John Carroll, Contributor

Howard Stern does his last radio show over the public airwaves today. In fact, as I'm writing this, I'm listening to his final show on the radio.

Howard Stern is one of those consistencies in the average American commuter's life. I've moved a lot in the past 15 years, and whether I was in Dallas, TX, Boulder, CO, or Los Angeles, CA, Howard Stern was guaranteed to be on the radio (no, he wasn't on in Europe, but I didn't have a car in Europe). Hey, he was funny, and though I didn't consider him as eddifying as National Public Radio, he at least helped to pass the time and prevented me from pulling a Jack Nicholson and attacking neighboring cars with golf clubs (which would be very hard, as I don't golf).

Sorry, had to pause to laugh, as someone on the radio is talking about "celebrating the greatest show in the history of entertainment." One thing Howard Stern never will be is modest.

The point of this post, though, is not to gush about the departure of Howard Stern from the public airwaves. As everyone knows, he is moving on to the Sirius satellite network, a place where he will be free of FCC restrictions much as HBO is free to broadcast naughty words and nudity because people have to subscribe to access it.

The move is causing me to consider buying a Sirius radio receiver, and I already have an XM radio receiver integrated into my car stereo (came with my new Honda Element). But that's the point. Sirius was the little guy in the satellite radio battle. Grabbing Howard Stern, which was certainly expensive, was a marketing coup. You can't look straight ahead, sideways, or straight behind you without seeing an ad for Sirius, or an article talking about Sirius, all because Howard Stern is going to the network.

Marketing is like alchemy, and figuring out the right combination is difficult. Some companies get it, others don't. Apple gets it. I've always been astounded how effective Apple marketing is. There is an eight story "dancing silhouette" iPod advertisement right outside the Chateau Marmont on Sunset.  Those ads are everywhere, and are distinctively identified with the Apple brand. You wouldn't need to have the Apple logo on the ad to know what it was about.

Apple is also really good about product placement.  In movie-land, you'd think everyone uses a Mac.  Why? Because Apple makes sure they get product placement.

So what does all this mean? If you are the litle guy, yes, it's harder to get your message out. However, marketing is one heck of a powerful tool, and if used correctly, can turn the little guy into Godzilla. It takes imagination and message innovation. It is VERY doable, though.

Just ask Apple and Sirius.

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