Global’s Newsroom and other new brands
Radio 210 schedule from 1981. Click to go large.
Remember when every local radio programme had its own name? Trust me you innocent millennials – it really was like this in the 1980s. Little market research went into the titles, more often than not presenters and producers would just make them up.
Radio 210’s “Music and Chat and Things Like That” with Mike Matthews and Ian Gilchrist (as part of the all male line-up shown above) may have been typical of its time but it was the clever descriptive titles that always stood out.
Until 2012 BBC Coventry & Warwickshire produced a weekly show for the local Polish community. It was called “Poles Apart“. Ho ho.
Titles could also be tortuous. Radio Scotland’s Mark Stephen jokingly proposed an outdoor and wildlife show called “For all in Tents and Porpoises”. The title was declined in favour of the more prosaic “Out of Doors” but not before it was considered a little too seriously by the management.
Back then, identity management was all about programmes. Programme A would have a set of values, behaviours and expectations that Programme B could never countenance. A radio station could sound like a bunch of shows that just happened to be on the same frequency.
Then, with growing choice for listeners, stations became more consistent. The US-born concept of ‘stationality’ reached UK shores and our promotional emphasis shifted quite properly from individual programmes to building the profile of stations. Station names became expressions of a brand personality. On the air “Programme with Mary Presenter on Local FM” became “Local FM with Mary Presenter”. Station first, always.
This approach matches consumer behaviour: as TV viewers we may have favourite shows but as radio listeners we largely choose between stations. It also makes business sense: if you only have limited promotional resource in the market you’ll achieve more impact if you put it all behind a single brand than spread it thinly across multiple identities.
Remnants of old thinking still seep onto the air sometimes though. Ever heard phrases like “This programme has learned that…” on Radio 4?
Moving on up
Now, with media production and consumption firmly multiplatform we’re seeing some identity management shift a further level up the brand hierarchy with an investment in brands that transcend individual stations.
The BBC is doing it with the introduction of its BBC Arts and BBC Music genre brands. They each join BBC News in providing a consistent promise to audiences and sufficient content to achieve critical mass in a cluttered market, and they’re free from the baggage of an individual service or the tyranny of a single platform.
Commercial Radio in the UK is taking a similar approach with the newly expressed concept of “Global’s Newsroom”. This new identity is mentioned in all news bulletins across Global’s and Communicorp’s stations in the UK and so is drip-fed into millions of ears hour after hour. Someone else can run the numbers on total impacts but, as we know, radio is great at building brand equity over time. It may sound like vanity publishing at first but it will gain value and could be leveraged elsewhere.
If you’re in South Africa you’ll be familiar with EWN. Eyewitness News provides news across all the radio stations in the Primedia group, including hit music station Highveld Stereo and the famous talk service 702. It invests in video and operates a busy news site.
On air, any information block including headline bulletins and travel news carries EWN branding. This complements the station brands and allows Primedia to find new value in something they’d be doing anyway. In a similar way, Primedia has a talent agency that sells external appearances of all its on-air personalities.
It’s a tough decision whether to introduce a new brand alongside your established station identity but as more radio comes from large organisations groups can find opportunities to cut the business along new lines to create value.
This reminds us that not all our brands have to operate along traditional station lines. Global’s identification of a branded news vertical through its assets is an interesting development. I expect we’ll see more of this.
Meanwhile, I’m off to the pub to come up with silly programme titles.
Update: John Ryan has been in touch to remind me of the Radio Sussex show “All About Dogs” and BBC GMR’s classic show for carers. “And at 6.30 tonight on GMR .. Who Cares?”