Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to teach an introductory marketing class at Cleary – a local business university. Preparing for the class was a great refresher for me on many of the marketing concepts I’ve been employing for decades. But what also struck me is how much of contemporary marketing is no more than “old wine in new bottles” – that is, the repackaging of basic principles.

Still, as marketers, we know packaging matters! And when it comes to concepts, it can bring valuable focus and clarity.

A newer “packaging” – for me…something I didn’t learn in grad school – is SWOT Analysis. SWOT is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It’s a strategic planning technique…a “big picture” situation analysis designed to identify the most important factors affecting a brand or business. SWOT helps focus a business’s objectives and develop strategies for achieving them.

As in many other techniques, SWOT in itself doesn’t achieve your goals! It’s the process of analysis that gets you thinking more clearly about where your business stands now and where it should be headed.

A SWOT Analysis is divided into four sections:

Note that the left column represents positives, the right negatives. The top row represents internal factors (both positive and negative); the bottom, external factors.

So, for example, let’s look at what a SWOT Analysis of Chick-Fil-A might look like:

Based on your own experience with and knowledge of Chick-Fil-A, you might come up with other strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. But, going with my version of Chick-Fil-A’s SWOT, what steps would it lead you to? (After all, that’s whole point of doing a situation analysis, right?)

Well, for one thing, we might look at one weakness – fewer locations – and one opportunity – room for expansion – as two sides of the same issue. Chick-Fil-A is expanding, but perhaps could be more aggressive in doing so. (For example, they put one in the Lansing, Michigan market not long ago, but we’re still waiting for one here in Ann Arbor.)

Focusing on threats, Chick-Fil-A might take on concerns about factory farm chicken (and chicken-borne disease) more aggressively as well. On its website, Chick-Fil-A only promises to have antibiotic-free chicken and cage-free eggs in the future. Slow-walking on these issues could undermine what I see as one of the chain’s strengths – quality food.

Of course, this is just an example of a SWOT analysis! I’m no fast-food expert, so let’s move on to radio

For example, several years ago, we conducted research for a classic-based rock station we’ll call K??? We didn’t employ SWOT then, but here are key findings of that research put in the context of a SWOT analysis:

Note that the entries in this SWOT are based on listeners’ preferences and perceptions – not my opinion nor that of K???’s management. Looking at the key findings from a SWOT perspective puts the station’s two biggest challenges/opportunities into sharp focus.

The most immediately actionable finding relates to the station’s music

“Mapping” listeners’ perceptions of key stations (aka Multi-Dimensional Scaling… learn more about that here and here) reveals that K??? has music that comes closest in the market to the typical Classic Rock station. However, when we asked listeners: What’s the first thing that comes to mind about K??? – its top-of-mind image – many more said “rock” than “classic rock.”

We considered this a weakness but also an opportunity, because classic rock music genres tested highest among the market’s 18-54 listeners. Since no station “owned” the Classic Rock image in the market – K???’s #1 format competitor played some as well – the solution is obvious – move K??? from being a classic-based rock station to become a Classic Rock station!

This addresses the top threat we noted – that K???’s #1 Rock competitor plays some classic rock — because some classic rock isn’t much threat to 100% classic rock!

The second key finding of this SWOT analysis doesn’t lend itself to as quick a fix. K??? has a weak morning image, especially in contrast to its #1 Rock competitor. That station not only has the #1 morning team among men, but also a strong afternoon drive personality. This “one-two punch” gives K???’s competitor a #1 overall personality image…a big edge, even with K???’s revamped music positioning.

At least we understand the magnitude of this problem! What to do about it? Perhaps K??? could hire away its competitor’s morning team. If not, perhaps it could get them hired outside the market. Or maybe, K??? could hire away its competitor’s afternoon drive personality, either for mornings or another daypart.

And if none of those possibilities pans out, K??? might promote its existing morning team by linking it to one of its strengths – contesting – doing morning-focused contests. Or K??? might decide to fight the morning battle as a music-intensive alternative, attacking another of its weaknesses – the perception it doesn’t play much music.

There’s more here, but the point is: doing a SWOT analysis is very helpful for putting a brand’s situation in perspective, leading to action. SWOT analysis provides a better way of presenting research data, but also – more importantly – thinking about a station’s situation that I find particularly helpful.

The K??? example here is based on real research which delivered intelligence into K???’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, strategies, etc. Hopefully, you have that kind of research for your station!

But even if you don’t, doing a SWOT analysis based on what you do know (or think you know) is a worthwhile exercise for you and your team. And yes, you could not only do it on the individual station level, but also at the cluster or corporate level…even at an industry level.

So, what’s your SWOT analysis for radio in 2018?