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Admittedly, one of the hardest things for radio people to do is to listen to their radio station the way a listener listens, but it remains a crucial skill that broadcaster’s need to develop before they can properly brand their radio station.

For far too long radio programmers have thought they heard listeners say they wanted “Less Talk, More Rock”, yet that was an over simplification of what listeners were asking for from their radio station.

With radio’s ever increasing competition from radio media tour and internet radio websites (like Live365.com and Shoutcast.com), not to mention a flotilla of other entertainment options like digital TV, home theater and video games, we have to better understand what listeners come to our stations for and echo that proposition in our imaging statement.

It doesn’t matter how hard you want to be “The Rock Station That REALLY Rocks”, if the audience doesn’t see you as being that then you will only be “The Rock Station That THINKS It Really Rocks”. Branding begins in the consumers mind so the first step to better branding is to understand how we are perceived.

What’s For Dinner
As an entertainment option, let’s try to understand why people turn to radio. Imagine this: You and your significant other go out to a restaurant for dinner with a couple of friends. What are you actually going out for, the food? Not necessarily. While the food is the object of the get together, it isn’t the reason for getting together, you want to talk, catch up and share stories. In the same way, your listeners are coming to you for the music (or information if you are a News/Talk station) but what’s making them stay and what compels them to come back time and time again? As I’ve said in other articles, songs (or information) are the bricks of this ‘radio house’ if you will, but what holds it all together is the mortar…what’s holding your ‘radio house’ together?

Better Radio Imaging Through Better Understanding
So how does all of this relate to imaging your radio station? As soon as you realize that the reason your listeners are listening to your radio station isn’t just for the music you’ll see that “Less Talk, More Rock” isn’t a very good way to brand yourself in fact it’s quite limiting. Saying that you play “10 Songs In A Row” or “100 Songs In A Row” for that matter, doesn’t cut it either. If that’s what they really want they’ll just plug into their iPod and get 1,000 songs in a row! It’s necessary to understand what makes your listener listen and then give them that wrapped up neatly in your imaging. If your audience’s understanding of what your station is doesn’t match yours then ask yourself why? Then decide if you should change your station or adjust your imaging to match your listeners expectations.

Time to Rethink
Branding is an art that honestly, most radio people haven’t mastered yet. You need to capture your listener’s imagination while reflecting their perceptions. To help make my point I use this example often: if a radio person were in charge of coming up with the imaging statement for Coca-Cola it would be something like, “Your Favourite Blend of Sugar, Water and Artificial Coca Flavouring”. Uh, yeah, that’s what it is, but how is it perceived in the mind of the consumer? It’s seen as being the number one Cola on the market, they defined what all Cola’s are, Coca Cola was the first cola drink most of us ever experienced, which is why it is better branded as: “The Real Thing”.

    • The Hudson’s Bay Company isn’t branded as “Cloths, Perfume, Kitchen Appliances and Furniture”, it’s branding statement is “More Than You Came For”
    • Hewlett Packard is not “Printers” it’s imaging statement is “Invent”
    • Bell Mobility isn’t “Cell Phones and Accessories” it’s “We Are All Connected”
    • Microsoft isn’t “Computers”, it’s “Where Do You Want To Go Today”

Do you see how brand savvy companies have captured the spirit of how the consumer sees their product? So why would you brand your radio station as being the station that “Plays Your Favourites Of The 70’s 80’s, 90’s and Now”. It’s time to rethink the way you brand your radio station. Ask yourself, what is the unique proposition that you can offer a listener. Or better yet ask your listener what they think of your radio station.

Conclusion
While a perceptual study is a good idea I would never rely entirely on its outcome, the way they are done can be misleading. Remember it was a focus group that gave us “Less Talk, More Rock”… That being said listen to what your jocks are saying about the calls they get, at public events strike up a conversation with a listener or even hang around in the lobby and listen to what contest winners are saying about the station to your receptionist. You may be surprised at what you actually hear your listeners say about your station…because it won’t be about the food!

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