How to Grow Your Brand With Radio Advertising


“Radio is the most intimate and socially personal medium in the world.”
Harry Von Zell (1906-1981) American announcer & radio actor


Ever since the first scheduled commercial radio broadcast in 1920 – results for the Presidential election between Warren G. Harding and James Cox, transmitted by Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company – the radio has captured the imaginations of millions of listeners. 

To be specific, radio advertising was, and remains, a veritable bombshell in the world of commercial marketing. It didn’t take long for advertisers to cotton-on to the profit-generating potential of the airwaves, leading to some of the most iconic advertisements of all time. 

Volkswagen’s Think Small campaign in the 50s, celebrating the compact and the quirky in car culture. 

Have It Your Way!, from Burger King in 1974. 

Apple’s 1984 ad, broadcast live during the Superbowl of that year. 

The ubiquitous I’m Loving It, immediately inseparable from the McDonald’s brand.

Even in the modern era, campaigns like Geico’s Disclaimer (2019) or Greenpeace’s Repeaters (2021) continue to illustrate the brand-building power of radio advertising.

So what do these brands all have in common? They are all multinational, multi-billion dollar enterprises – and that didn’t happen by accident. Nor did it happen overnight; part of the secret to these commercial giants’ success has been a long-term commitment to brand-building through radio advertising. 


Are you interested in the ways radio advertising can build your brand in the long term? Looking for data to support creative, commercial radio ad decisions? 

Download our new report, Listen Up!, for free now. 


Today, we’ll take a closer look at some tips, strategies, and insights around long-term brand building via radio advertising. 


Why Radio Advertising is Great For Brand-Building

In an era dominated by visual stimuli and digital marketing, the enduring power of radio advertising remains a beacon for brands seeking to build a lasting connection with their audience. 

Beyond its traditional role, radio has seamlessly adapted to our evolving lifestyles: finding its way onto our phones, smart speakers, and other devices, ensuring a constant companion for listeners on the move or at home, work, and beyond.

Commercial radio, with its cost-effectiveness and broad audience base, presents a unique opportunity for savvy brands to leverage the effectiveness of their audio creative. 

The dynamic audio landscape offers a rich tapestry for brands to weave narratives that transcend the transient nature of visual content. Through the art of storytelling, radio advertising cultivates a deeper emotional connection with the audience. As listeners engage with these auditory narratives, they become part of a shared experience, fostering a sense of familiarity and trust in the brand.

Radio’s omnipresence in daily life ensures a consistent brand presence in the lives of consumers. The auditory nature of radio allows brands to occupy a unique space in the minds of listeners, creating an indelible imprint that stands out amid the visual noise.


Focus on Long-Term Brand-Building

In the relentless pursuit of marketing success, the allure of immediate returns can be tempting – but the true strength of a brand lies in its endurance. A myopic focus on short-term metrics often overshadows the long-term potential that strategic brand-building can unlock.

With consumer behaviour data flowing in abundance, companies now possess the tools to gauge the pulse of their campaigns in real time. A wealth of behavioural data, coupled with sophisticated ad testing and brand monitoring tools allows organisations to optimise their marketing at scale. 

Quick-turnaround success is undeniably gratifying, yes; but the journey toward brand dominance requires patience and a commitment to consistency. 

The world’s most powerful brands have mastered the art of balancing short-term gains with a steadfast focus on the enduring narrative they etch in the minds of their audience.

You can read our article, Brand Health Metrics: What Are They and Why Do They Matter? for more information on brand health monitoring.


Let Go of Short-Term Sales Tunnel Vision. Brand-Building is a Long Game

Byron Sharp, in How Brands Grow, urges marketers to swerve brand-building myths and align with what empirical evidence actually shows us.

  • The key lies not in brief candles of marketing brilliance, but in the beacon of consistency. 
  • Building a brand isn’t about creating an isolated masterpiece; it’s about creating a consistent symphony that echoes through time. (In other words, brands need more than just differentiation; they need a distinct, recognisable identity.)
  • Consistency, whether in the frequency of advertising or the messaging deployed, is the keystone of enduring brand growth.
  • While a memorable name, say, or vibrant packaging can distinguish a brand, the reliability of consistent radio advertising builds a brand’s identity and allows it to truly resonate.


Broad Beam vs Narrow Beam Attention

In groundbreaking observations, made by our very own Orlando Wood in his book Look Out!, we can see human attention not as a monolithic entity but a dynamic interplay between the right and left hemispheres of our brain. 


Left Hemisphere

(Narrow-Beam Attention)

Right Hemisphere

(Broad-Beam Attention)

  • Narrow-focus attention
  • Focused on abstraction, control, and utility 
  • Assumes a pre-existing interest in the brand
  • Activated by broad-beam attention / the right hemisphere
  • Nudges the audience towards action
  • Broad and vigilant attention 
  • Comprehends and understands context
  • Tuned to the living and receptive to novelty
  • Assumes a viewer’s limited inherent interest in the product
  • The origin-point of interest, memory, and emotional response


Orlando Wood’s insights, articulated in Look Out!, shed light on the intricate dance of attention – a dance that influences how radio advertising creates genuinely impactful, long-term brand growth effects. 


Focus on Distinctive, Consistent Audio Branding

The heart of radio-based brand-building beats through distinctive and consistent audio branding. 

Crafting a brand identity that stands the test of time requires a strategic focus on right-brain audio features: the secret ingredients that capture broad-beam attention and foster a lasting emotional connection. Aim to consistently deliver things like:

  • Character dynamics
  • Dialogue
  • Accents
  • Sotto voice
  • Melody-led music
  • Narratives
  • A sense of place
  • Brand storytelling

Whilst they can still be useful in some cases, you should be wary of left-brain audio features like: 

  • Testimonials
  • CTA
  • Data-driven narratives
  • Product-centric focus
  • Rhythm-led music 

You can test the effectiveness of your brand linkage with Test Your Ad


Measure the Right Metrics to Ensure Radio Ad Success

A truly successful radio advertising strategy hinges on quantifying creative, commercial decisions. And to do that, it’s crucial to focus on the metrics that really matter. Enter: Fame, Feeling, and Fluency, and Star Rating / Spike Rating.

  • Fame: If a brand effortlessly springs to mind, it’s poised for success. Also known as the availability heuristic.
  • Feeling: The emotional resonance of a brand or ad is a game-changer. Also known as the affect heuristic.
  • Fluency: Ensure your brand is unmistakably and intuitively recognisable. Also known as the processing fluency heuristic.
  • Star Rating: Predicts long-term brand growth based on the creative impact of your ad.
  • Spike Rating: Forecasts short-term sales effects, through the strength of branding and the intensity of emotional response


Hone Your Radio Ad Testing Process

With the above in mind, don’t forget: success isn’t just about creating an ad and sending it into the airwaves. It’s a dynamic journey of continuous refinement and improvement. To truly harness the potential of your campaigns, honing your radio ad testing process is paramount.

  1. Iterate with Data: Data is your compass in the vast landscape of audience preferences. Gather insights, learn from what’s resonating, and iteratively refine your approach.
  2. Test Regularly: The key to sustained success lies in regular testing. What proved to be a triumph at one juncture might require adjustments in the future landscape. Keep your finger on the pulse with consistent testing.
  3. Improve and Evolve: Long-term branding is a journey of constant improvement. As the market shifts and consumer sentiments evolve, so should your approach. Take the guesswork out of marketing success by continually enhancing your strategies.
  4. Data-Driven Insights: Embrace the power of data-driven insights to inform your decisions. The more informed your choices, the more effectively you can steer your brand toward lasting success.
  5. Constant Honing: Long-term branding isn’t a one-and-done thing; it requires constant honing of your testing process. Stay agile, stay responsive, and stay committed to refining your radio ad strategies.


Grow Your Brand in the Long and Short-Term With Radio Advertising

So, in the grand symphony that is advertising strategy, radio emerges as a dynamic conductor capable of orchestrating both short and long-term impacts on your brand. 

Advertise with consistency, not in short bursts, and use radio’s unique characteristics to capture broad-beam attention, setting the stage for long-term brand building. Your brand’s voice, melody, and narrative should be distinctive and resonate with the right hemisphere of the brain. 

Moreover, the 3 Fs – Fame, Feeling, and Fluency – stand as the compass for navigating the landscape of radio ad success, with Star and Spike Ratings providing the coordinates, predicting both long and short-term impacts.

To dive deeper into the nuances of radio advertising, unlock the secrets with our Listen Up! research. Download it for free now and embark on a journey to grow your brand with both short and long-term impact. 



At System1, we help the world’s largest advertisers make confident creative decisions that lead to transformational business results. Our powerful ad testing platform (Test Your Ad) and our idea testing platform (Test Your Idea) help brands predict the commercial potential of ads and ideas. Complementing TYA and TYI is Test Your Brand, our brand testing tool which measures the impact of ads and ideas on brand health, ensuring long-term brand growth through predictive success.


Get in touch or book a demo with one of our experts to learn more.


Want More Radio Advertising Insights?

Are you interested in the ways radio advertising can build your brand in the long term? Looking for data to support creative, commercial radio ad decisions? Download our new report, Listen Up!, for free now.