What Are the Rules for Your Station's Brand?
March 16, 2015
At a time when brands are everything in the world of marketing, we have to ask ourselves seriously, are our stations brands?Â Certainly the biggest and best radio stations are brands within their communities, but is it possible that many other stations are really just playlists?
Thanks to iTunes, consumers themselves have now had over a decade to get the word “playlist” into their vocabularies and some have even become proficient at creating them.Â Anyone who’s created and listened to an iTunes playlist knows that they become stale after a while.Â
It stands to reason that radio stations which are really just playlists become stale after a while as well.Â All of us can think of narrow, non-current-based formats that fit that description: great initial performanceâ€¦and then the subsequent decline in the ratings as the luster wears off and staleness sets in.Â Programmers often try to make the initial format deeper or wider to extend its life, but the attempt often loses the essence of what made the station (playlist) special in the first place.Â Chances are that the classic Hip Hop format grabbing ratings in a number of markets now will eventually suffer a similar fate.Â
But, brands are different from playlists.Â “A brand is the promise of the value you’ll receive,” says business management guru, Tom Peters.Â Brands focus relentlessly on what adds value, what the brand is proud of, and most importantly what the brand can shamelessly take credit for to differentiate itself in the marketplace.Â For a radio station, a brand is almost sure to revolve around the unique way it supports a desired mood or activity or the unique type of entertainment (probably a morning show) or information it offers.Â
For too long, radio’s branding efforts have been focused on promoting attributes (“More music,” “The #1 Hit Music Station,” “The At-Work Leader”) instead of benefits (“Music that makes you feel good,” “Fewer commercials so you can listen longer”).Â Being focused on attributes worked adequately when our competition for ears was (almost) exclusively other radio stations.Â But, today we need to recognize that we’re in competition with many more sources and that some are better at delivering the things we’ve been promoting for years â€“ music quantity, low commercial inventory, etc.
Brands yield an identifiable and distinguishable benefit for their customer or client.Â Playlists are defined their attributes â€“ what music they play (or don’t play).Â Brands adapt to the opportunity of the time.Â Playlists become stale and need to be updated or replaced.Â
If you can start by distilling the essence of what makes your station does that makes it different â€“ not just different than other Broadcast Radio stations, but different from other audio services consumers can find online â€“ and do it in 15 words or less, you’re on your way.Â If the effort keeps coming back to how the station’s music is differentiated from other Broadcast Radio competitors, the station may be a playlist and not a brand.Â
Brands have rules that help their stewards protect them and guide them.Â Even something as whimsical as a cartoon can have written rules for its protection, guidance and maintenance.Â If they were being created today, the Road Runner and Coyote would be thought of as a brand.Â Their creator, Chuck Jones, penned just 9 rules, but they defined for the writers and animators what had to be observed to ensure the finished cartoons kept thebrand promise expected by viewers. Â Here are a few:
Rule 1. The Road Runner cannot harm the Coyote except by going “Beep-Beep.”
Rule 4. No dialogue ever, except “Beep-Beep!”
Rule 8. Whenever possible, make gravity the Coyote’s greatest enemy.Â
If you read the complete rules (and spent too much time watching classic cartoons as a kid), you’ll see that they were violated in later iterations of the cartoons â€“ to the peril of the brand, as the violations caused these subsequent efforts to beless funny.Â If your station’s brand already has rules, you’re likely at a legendary radio station.Â If you can create rules for your station’s brand, you’ll be making a road map for the entire team â€“ programming, imaging, promotions, marketing, social, sales and beyond â€“ to follow in keeping safe the second most valuable asset that your station has (after the license, of course).Â