If You Rest, You Rust

Café Luna is a lovely Italian restaurant at the corner of Blount and Hargett Streets in downtown Raleigh, where I live.  I went there so much I was a P1.  Until that day I realized I hadn’t been in years.  Let me explain why and what that means to you.

When it opened, it was one of the few eateries in downtown Raleigh as they worked on growing that area of town.  Its food was terrific.  Parker, the host, always found you a table if you were a walk-in, and the basket of bread was to die for.  Until…

I haven’t been to Café Luna in years because they got repositioned.  A Laotian restaurant opened over here.  An upscale Mexican restaurant over there.  Just down the street there’s a place that majored in tapas.  All that delicious choice made me stray.  My A.D.D. and desire to be hip and cool made me sample other restaurants and, years later, I haven’t been back to Café Luna.  When I head downtown, I always look at the menu in their window.  It hasn’t changed in years.  That was the problem.  Over time, Luna’s dependability and predictable menu was leveraged against it by new competition.  Maybe they thought that their experience didn’t need to evolve because they were so popular.

Now let’s talk about your menu.

There have been times over the years where I have been asked to help launch a show against an entrenched brand.  Reis and Trout’s 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing says that a product’s greatest strength becomes its greatest weakness.  To start, I study the established show and try to flip all their strengths on them.  If they have been around forever, I try to turn that into them being predictable and boring.  If they are nothing more than mostly chatter or keep doing the same things over and over again, our strategy is to do different things with relevant content that positions us as fresh.  If they haven’t had any talent changes in years, I make them sound old.  You get the deal.

I hear too many shows that want to get on and do not much more than talk.  We must be strategic in choosing our content but focus more on the treatment of that content to create an experience for fans that will make them want to come back again.  That takes prep and work.  Had Luna only changed its menu to offer new things that fit, right?

So many shows are fearful of change.  They think they can’t (or shouldn’t) innovate.  Which is dead wrong.  If you’re a tenured show, the audience will trust you and be less inclined to bail if something doesn’t work.

Remember, what got you here, won’t necessarily get you there.

The great Joni Mitchell once told Rolling Stone magazine: “You have two options.  You can stay the same and protect the formula that gave you your initial success.  If you do, they’re going to crucify you for staying the same.  If you change, they’re going to crucify you for changing.  But staying the same is boring.  And change is interesting.  So, of the two options, I’d rather be crucified for changing.”

Leaders make art and artists lead.

I’m not suggesting you overhaul your show if you’ve been around a while.  I am suggesting that you don’t operate in a vacuum.  If you keep doing the same old stuff, some show will come in and reposition you like Café Luna and, in the face of competition, listeners will spend less time with you.  If you’re still hanging your hat on old ideas like Two Lies and a Truth and Try It Tuesday, you face potential boredom from your fans and a vulnerability that a smarter, more innovative show up or down the dial or somewhere online could take advantage of.

Life is change.  Growth is optional.  If you rest, you rust.

Everything truly evolves.  Staying still isn’t an option.  For any of us.