Printers' Ink, August 31, 1922, pages 3-4, 6, 134, 137-138, 141, 145-146, 148:
How the Radio Corporation Is Using Advertising to Stabilize a New Industry
In Co-operation with Other Manufacturers It Is Endeavoring to Establish Radio as a Permanent Influence in American Homes
By Waldemar Kaempffert
NEARLY two years ago it occurred to the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company, one of the companies affiliated with the Radio Corporation of America, that possibly some good might result if music were radiated according to a regular, published programme. The experiment was made. It succeeded beyond all expectations. Radio ceased to be merely the hobby of several hundred thousand radio amateurs and passed at once into the possession of the general public.
Thus did radio broadcast itself into popular favor.
Then came the summer of 1922, and with it a decrease in the demand for receiving instruments and a crystallization of fundamental broadcasting problems. There had been endless, unwarranted and costly duplication of effort by those who had rushed into the field. Too much had been claimed by irresponsible manufacturers, both for radio and for the devices that made it possible to tap the ether for music. The reaction came at the beginning of summer; the call of the blue sky and the open road had temporarily diverted the interest of the radio audience.
But radio is here to stay. The autumn will undoubtedly bring with it a revival of interest. Action of some kind was needed to stabilize the market, to keep alive interest in one of the most remarkable technical achievements in the history of invention, and to lay the foundation of a permanent industry.
The countless manufacturers of radio apparatus that had sprung up overnight were hardly capable of building an enduring structure. They had neither the financial means nor the vision of radio's true place in modern society; their advertising and merchandising plans, such as they were, were anything but far-reaching. To build solidly for the future, to frame advertising and merchandising policies which not only would meet the needs of dealers from Maine to California, but also to consider the part that radio is destined to play in the home life of lonely ranchers on Western prairies and of Fifth Avenue millionaires, was a task that could be performed only by an organization which believed in radio, and which had the resources to advertise nationally and to act nationally. Because it had made a thorough study of radio's advertising and merchandising needs, it fell to the lot of the Radio Corporation of America to conduct a national advertising campaign in newspapers, magazines and in trade papers. By nationally explaining its own position, by setting forth the possibilities and limitations of broadcasting receivers, not only to the general public but also to the dealer, the Radio Corporation of America intends to guide the industry into the channels that it should follow for its own good and for the good of the public. A net paid circulation of over ten million is appealed to. If we make the usual assumption that a periodical is read by at least five persons, about half the population of the United States will learn what radio can and cannot do to brighten home life.
The problems presented naturally divided themselves into two classes--giving the public what it wanted in the way of entertainment and instruction, and devising advertising and merchandising policies that would meet the extraordinary conditions that had to be faced.
THE FUTURE OF RADIO BROADCASTING
Broadcasting is the life-blood of radio. If it were to languish and die as rapidly as it sprang up, radio would shrink overnight to the stature of 1919; in other words, it would have to rely once more upon the support of a few hundred thousand amateurs. Obviously, not only must broadcasting be continued, but it must adapt itself to the public taste. At present, it costs about $10,000 a month to maintain the Westinghouse Radio Corporation of America's station in Newark, New Jersey, although musicians and lecturers are willing to give their services without charge. The maintenance expenses must be met by large sales of apparatus. Because as yet there is no practical way of preventing anyone with the proper electromagnetic ear from listening to that station, it follows that hundreds of dealers and dozens of manufacturers, who contribute not one cent to the support of broadcasting are dependent for their business existence upon the continuance of its activities.
At present, the Radio Corporation of America must act not only as a manufacturer and merchandiser of apparatus, but also as the director of the greatest public entertainment in the world. Never before has a company been compelled to act simultaneously as editor, music-hall director, concert impresario, baseball and news reporter, and general entertainer and educator--least of all, a manufacturing, commercial, or engineering company. Yet broadcasting calls for nothing less than this versatility. Because broadcasting and radio merchandising are bone of one bone and flesh of one flesh, the Radio Corporation of America has had, first of all, to consider the future of the stations that radiate entertainment. The framing of programmes more acceptable than those now offered will take care of itself; the public will unmistakably reveal its desires. Of more immediate importance is the question of maintaining the stations for the benefit of the public and the radio industry as a whole. Who is to pay for broadcasting? There is no guarantee whatever that the numerous stations installed by newspapers, department stores, universities and prosperous dealers will always be operated. That one or two manufacturers should continue to broadcast at their own expense for the benefit of their competitors, is to expect what is impracticable. The industry as a whole must support the few stations that are really necessary. Accordingly, the Radio Corporation of America became one of the leading spirits in the Radio Apparatus Section of the Associated Manufacturers of Electrical Supplies--the nucleus of an association which will eventually include every responsible radio organization in the country. At present, the Radio Apparatus Section comprises twenty of the leading manufacturers of radio sets and accessories who are sympathetically considering a plan of levying on themselves a tax proportionate to the volume of their radio sales and to apply the funds thus raised to the maintenance of as many stations as may be required to broadcast music, news, lectures and stories. The apparatus of these contributing manufacturers will bear a seal or insignia indicating their support of this plan, in other words, a notice that they have recognized their obligation to support and develop broadcasting.
AN ADVERTISING POLICY DESIGNED TO STABILIZE RADIO
Attention was next focussed on advertising and merchandising. It became clear that in their own interests dealers must be impressed with the necessity of identifying themselves only with responsible organizations--responsible in the sense that they are not only financially sound, but whole-heartedly striving to develop the immense possibilities of broadcasting. Hence two campaigns were planned. In the one, the general public was to be reached; in the other, the dealer. Both were to tell the plain truth about radio--about its possibilities and its limitations; but were to be conducted simultaneously.
The advertisements which were finally composed and which are now appearing in the general magazines, in many of the principal newspapers of the country, in many of the leading radio magazines, and in the more important trade papers that have built up a dealer interest in radio, are primarily educational in character. Good-will is to be created, and that end can be attained only by honesty of statement.
Education is necessary for many another reason besides that of explaining the cultural and entertainment value of broadcasting. Radio literally swept us off our feet and left us breathless. A situation was created which enabled ill-equipped and not over-scrupulous companies to make hay while the sun shone, utterly regardless of the character of apparatus that they offered for sale. The radio dealer was helpless--even the electrical dealer who is supposed to combine the knowledge of an Edison and the practical skill of a house-wirer, but who is usually no better grounded in radio than the customer whom he talks across the counter. Hence some of the advertisements do little more than classify the different types of radiolas and explain very simply what may be expected of each. It has been felt necessary, therefore, not only to instruct the dealer to deal frankly with prospective purchasers, but to set an example of frankness. Accordingly, in many of the Radio Corporation of America's advertisements the reader is told exactly what he may expect of each type of radiola. "Ask your dealer questions. Let him tell you about the radiola in which you are interested," are phrases that occur over and over again in these advertisements. The man who cherishes the illusion that he can flood his home in the suburbs of New York with music received from Chicago with a simple crystal detector is forewarned. He is taught that range is determined by the character of the equipment bought, and that each type of receiver has its definite limitations. In the first advertisements of automobiles the public had to be convinced that "horseless carriages" would run at all. Radio is not quite in the same position in these days of its infancy, but it needs now an amount of elementary exposition that will seem curious twenty years hence.
Other advertisements are devoted almost entirely to an explanation of the Radio Corporation's relation to the public, to the dealer and to radio itself--a pure expression of policy. Intended as they are to build good-will for the corporation itself and to re-establish confidence in radio, they recall the announcements of the more enlightened public utility companies. They last spring, at a it was impossible to meet the demand for radio apparatus and particularly for vacuum-tubes. All manufacturers were hard put to it to speed up production. It was rumored that they were conspiring for deep, inscrutable reasons of their own to prevent the multitude from enjoying the broadcasted concerts. The Radio Corporation of America promptly published the truth in every important newspaper in the country, and all but took the public into its factories and showed men and women working day and night in the effort to meet the demand for apparatus and accessories. Production figures were given. Definite pledges were made that the output would be increased by named months, and when the months came advertisements again informed the public of the fact that the pledges had been fulfilled. The effect was salutary. Out of this frank procedure grew the idea, now carried out, of revealing the internal operation of the Radio Corporation of America, of explaining the part that it felt destined to play in the development of radio, of taking the public into its confidence.
The newspapers used almost selected themselves. It was obvious that only in those cities where broadcasting stations were to be found would it be possible to arouse interest in radio and to create good-will. Hence the newspapers selected appear in broadcasting centres.
To protect the dealer trademarks and trade names were adopted. Advertising experience has shown that if the public can be induced to use a coined name in ordering a product, the manufacturer can do much to safeguard his own reputation and that of his dealers. Hence, the name "radiola" was given to all receiving sets, and the name "radiotron" to vacuum-tubes. It is one function of the Radio Corporation of America's advertising to engender respect for these designations. They bid fair to become as well known as "Kodak," "Nujol" and a hundred similar names now part of the vernacular. In addition, a trade-mark was adopted--the letters RCA distinctively drawn and enclosed in a circle. Dealers display it either in the form of decalcomania window signs or in the form of wall cards. It is to be found in every advertisement, whether it is addressed to the public in magazines and newspapers or to the dealer in trade papers. It is to be found, of course, on every piece of apparatus supplied by the Radio Corporation of America.
There had been much misrepresentation by get-rich-quick Wallingfords, and misrepresentation was easy because neither the public nor the dealer had even a rudimentary knowledge of radio science. Radio needed explaining. The first step in merchandising was the preparation of a book which listed radiolas, radiotrons and prices, but which was more than a catalogue because it explained the magic of radio in English so plain that after having read it, the technically uninformed reader knew something of the waves that so mysteriously carried music into the home; knew how the artificial sense organs that are called crystal-detectors and radiotrons respond to the waves; knew why it was necessary to tune; knew, in a word, at least the fundamentals of radio. He was then ready for the balance of the book--a carefully prepared description of every piece of apparatus supplied by the Radio Corporation of America, accompanied by what are probably the most valuable wiring diagrams ever published. Because this was more than a catalogue, more than a colorless listing of radio apparatus for sale, it was called the 'Book That Brings Radio into the Home," and as such it was referred to in nationally published advertisements. The book was intended for the dealer, as well as the prospective purchaser of a radiola. "Study radio yourself and get your salesmen to study it," is the advice constantly given to the dealer, and in order that the advice can be followed this "Book That Brings Radio into the Home" is designed to instruct dealers, as well as purchasers of apparatus.
Contact with dealers brought with it new merchandising tasks and the creation of new policies. The retail dealer knows only that radio broadcasting gives pleasure to millions and that there are money-making possibilities in the handling of radiolas. But of the relative merits of crystal detectors and radiotrons, of fundamental radio principles, he knows no more than his customers.
The radio dealer's principal needs were known, but it was decided to make a special study of them in order to frame a correct advertising policy. A questionnaire was sent out, the responses to which for the first time reveal the true character of the assistance that the retailer of radio products at present requires. "How can advertising be helpful in your locality?" "What form of dealer-help advertising is most needed at the present time?" "Is radio rendering a real service to the public aside from its entertainment value, which should be pressed in your locality?" "Are folders on various radio products helpful?" "Are you planning any local advertising of your own?" These are a few of the questions put to every important radio distributor and dealer in the United States.
The replies received indicated that for the present at least, radio advertising must be essentially educational in character. The farmer must be taught to appreciate the usefulness of radio to him, and the general public must be made to realize that in radio we have an entirely new artistic and educational influence, one that can play an important part both in home social functions, as well as in entertaining the whole family. No one dreamed twenty years ago that what was then called "wireless telegraphy" would develop into a means of bringing directly into the home the voice of great orators, the art of great musicians. Home has become the essence of radio, and the home note is persistently struck in the advertising of the Radio Corporation of America and in its dealer helps.
How shall dealer helps--circulars, folders, catalogues--be circulated? By the manufacturer to the distributor or by the manufacturer directly to the dealer? These questions have always puzzled merchandisers. Because the manufacturer loses all control when he entrusts this task to subsidiary organizations, he usually prefers to mail his dealer helps himself. The questionnaire revealed a desire on the part of some wholesale representatives to deal independently with their retailers. It has always been the policy of the Radio Corporation of America to regard its distributors and dealers as an integral part of its organization. Therefore helps were sent directly to the dealers.
The dealers felt the need of conducting local advertising campaigns, but were at a loss to offer suggestions of practical value. This is exactly what may be expected when we consider their unfamiliarity with radio apparatus. It became necessary to set up and electrotype newspaper advertisements for local use, and these are sent for the asking to any dealer, in the United States. They bear such headlines as, "You Can See the Whole RCA Line Here," "There's a Radiola for Every Purse," "Why Should Anyone Be without a Radiola?" "Have You a Radiola in Your Home?" These advertisements appear on the same page with the larger announcement of the Radio Corporation of America, so that we have heavy and light advertising artillery firing projectiles at the same time. The general story is told in the main Radio Corporation of America advertisement; the smaller dealer advertisement informs the reader where he can inspect and buy a radiola.
Six folders for counter and mail distribution by the dealer were prepared. Their general tenor is indicated by their titles: "Radio of Today and Tomorrow," "Aeriola Grand for the Family," "There's No Place Like Home with a Radiola," "An Aeriola Home," "Listening in with the Radio Receiver, Model ER 753." The folders set forth the possibilities of a radiola costing as little as twenty dollars and as much as four hundred dollars. "There's a Radiola for Every Purse" is not an empty phrase.
In the trade-paper advertising which is aimed at the dealer the selling assistance that the Radio Corporation of America is willing to render is stressed as much as the character of its apparatus. In addition, the policies set forth in the popular magazines and newspapers are outlined for his benefit. Dealer helps, now widely used by all good merchandisers, are even more necessary in successfully selling radio products than shaving soaps and automobiles because radio is still a mystery to the man behind the counter. The salesmanship displayed by many dealers in radio supplies has rarely been brilliant. Last winter the retailer had little to do but take orders. Next winter he must be prepared to talk interestingly and convincingly about the radiolas and the radiotrons which he must not only display in his window and on his shelves, but also advertise in his local newspaper. He must be prepared to meet his customer again and again after a sale has been made, because that customer is sure to return for an interpretation of instructions that he cannot understand, despite all the care that has been taken to make them simple and clear. Hence the Radio Corporation's dealer helps constitute a special course in radio merchandising, which supplement its educational advertising in national mediums and newspapers.
RESEARCH AS AN ADVERTISING ASSET
That the Radio Corporation of America is intensely and keenly interested in the advance of radio, that it firmly believes in the vast, undeveloped possibilities of broadcasting, is evidenced by its large investment in research. Invention is usually haphazard.
In the past the world has had to wait for a Marconi or an Edison to appear, and when he passes from the scene it drifts along with the inventions bequeathed to it until another genius appears. That the invention of radio devices and the discovery of new radio principles may proceed systematically and incessantly, the Radio Corporation of America depends upon the research laboratories of its associates, the General Electric Company and the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company, which laboratories are as much an integral part of its organization as its factories. In these laboratories men who have achieved distinction in radio engineering are constantly at work, solving the technical problems presented by the factories, and engaging in original studies that lead to inventions of startling possibilities. The result has been a noticeably rapid improvement in the type of apparatus offered for sale. In both national and dealer advertising campaigns the research facilities of the Radio Corporation of America are dwelt upon. Thus an atmosphere is created for radiolas and radiotrons; the fact is stated that because a receiving set embodies the ideas of the foremost engineers in the country, it is more than a hasty assemblage of parts marketed to make the most of a popular demand. Moreover, the fact that research laboratories are maintained proves that the Radio Corporation of America has faith in the future of radio and that it means to develop it into something still more efficient than it is at present. Faith engenders faith, and the revival of faith in radio is one purpose that is to be attained.
ADAPTING THE PRODUCT TO THE MARKET
Not the least important task that confronts the radio manufacturer is the proper designing of the home receiver. There is an inevitable adherence to type in the human mind; it is hard to break away from the familiar. The first railway cars were merely stage coaches mounted on rails; some of the early electric motors were slavish imitations of steam-engines, with walking beams and with magnets that rose and fell in coils after the manner of pistons in cylinders; the first steamers had sails as well as engines; the first automobile richly deserved the name "horseless carriage." Before broadcasting stimulated wide interest in ethereal music and speech there was but little occasion for considering what may be termed the radio package. The amateur bought box-like sets or made his own set. New questions now present themselves. How will the radiola harmonize with the furniture of the. home? How shall batteries and wires be disposed so that they will not obtrude themselves and give the living-room the aspect of an electrical shop? In two brief years great advances have been made. The radiola of today is of a compactness and appearance that augur well for the future. As might be expected, the more pretentious models outwardly resemble talking machines. While this is another example of adherence to type it has its merchandising advantages. The talking machine is a familiar object in the home; it has been brought into harmony with its surroundings. Probably an elaborate radio concert receiver less patently modeled after the talking machine cabinet would be accepted by the millions who are eager to "listen in" to operatic arias, but assuredly less sales resistance is encountered in displaying and demonstrating an apparatus encased in a cabinet of a type that has long been popular. No one can predict the form of the radiola of tomorrow. No doubt, the talking machine cabinet will give place to a casing which will more clearly proclaim the true nature of its radio contents, all the more so since the technical development of the art will bring with it problems of suitably arranging new parts in the least volume.
Simplicity of manipulation has already been attained, but how far it is advisable to proceed in this direction experience alone can determine. Manufacturers of player-pianos have found that the fixed interpretation of a Chopin nocturne by Hofmann or Paderewski is not as acceptable as the same interpretation subject to variation by the home musician. In other words, the player-pianist wants to feel that if he moves a lever or two he is in some way playing an important part in the rendition of a composition. The tinkering instinct is unquenchable. With its innumerable dash-instruments and its pedals and levers, the automobile of today is certainly a far more complicated mechanism than any radio receiver; and yet it may be doubted if any selling advantage would be gained by reducing the task of operating a car to a push-button basis. Whether or not a receiving set outwardly resembles a talking machine, radio stands on its own feet. The music, the bedtime stories for children, the sermons, the lectures are alive. The romance of broadcasting, the idea of listening and dancing to music that ripples out into the ether from a station fifty miles away fired the public imagination and was responsible for the boom in radio. Whether or not the romance, the wonder will wear off, there will always remain an abiding sense of human contact with the living artist at the transmitter. Doubtless, radio advertising of the future will make the most of this. At present, it is vitally concerned with establishing itself as a permanent influence in our homes.