COLONYHQ – managing innovation: Go big or stay home


#TT1002016 Winner of the Henra Mayer Award for Excellence in the Management of Innovation

Category for small enterprises

Go big or stay home

First South Africa, then the world. Armed with an innovation that’s already disrupting the way local radio stations interact with their listeners, COLONYHQ is intent on broadcasting its presence globally.

“Global domination,” is how Claira Mallett, head of Client Partnerships at COLONY, puts it – and while there may be a touch of humour there, she’s not entirely joking. So unique is the company’s latest innovation that – for the time being at least – it has little or no competition.

Called COLONYLive, it was launched in 2016 as an integrated messaging tool that lets listeners engage with radio stations in whatever way they wish – social, mobile or instant messaging – instead of limiting them to calling or texting. Apart from encouraging better interaction on air, the tool also uses data analytics to help broadcasters get closer to their listeners and gives advertisers direct connection points to potential buyers.

Until now, that has been a challenge for radio. “Radio in its current mindset only offers advertisers a reach and frequency opportunity. But in the era in which we live, where targeted advertising and measurement are the buzzwords, radio just cannot compete,” says CEO Marco Broccardo.

“So, the fact remains, direct and indirect competition will place further pressure on stations to up their game and start batting faster. For radio to remain relevant and profitable, it needs to stop thinking about selling spots based only on reach and frequency. Instead, they need to think about understanding the audiences they own in order to monetise them on platforms they don’t own.”   

First radio, then TV…

Algoa FM, which has been among the first of the radio stations to use COLONYLive, has given a ringing endorsement of it: “COLONYLive has within 24 hours of being launched on-air completely transformed the mood of the station,” says the station’s Chris Wright in a written testimonial. “We have become instantly very accessible to our listeners and their ability to provide quality on-air and online content has never been easier.”

Says COLONY’s Mallett: “We’ve built something that is really, honestly disruptive to the radio market, and we did it by finding the itches – the pain points – in the radio space. We then took on key radio stations and literally built the platform around their needs. We work in partnership with our clients, seeing ourselves not as a provider but as an invisible extension to their team.”

While its heartbeat is in the radio space, COLONYLive has been designed to be just as applicable to all media types looking to engage and monetise their audiences, with TV being the next natural extension.

Mallett says COLONYLive is a logical – yet radical – step on the company’s continuum as a behind-the-scenes technology enabler of client campaigns and competitions.

“Diversifying our core campaigns platform with a version specialised for the broadcast industry has allowed us to work side by side with our customers to build a product so world-class that we have already initiated launching into the United States.”

Making innovation work

COLONY instinctively runs according to the TIPS principles, she says, inherently weaving innovation into the technology it creates and the people and systems required to commercialise.

It is constantly scanning its markets for itches that need to be scratched and does not shy away from making the necessary investments. “Innovation comes at a price.  When you are developing something from scratch, from doing the research to building, testing and taking it to market, investment is key.”

So is a questioning, inquisitive nature. “We have inquiring minds and we are always working to make to make our products better. No product will ever be finished.”