Monday, 22 September 2008


Rebranding and re-launching radio stations seems to be all the rage at the moment.

I spend a good deal of time working in Denmark with the fine people at Radio 100FM. The rival national commercial station that was formerly known as TV2 Radio (originally named after the parent company, TV2!) has been recently bought by SBS, and just re-launched as ‘Nova FM’. Not sure in a fast moving digital world I would have stuck the letters ‘FM’ in the title of the station, but there you go.

“Virgin Radio soon to be known as Absolute Radio” has set a date when it will fully become Absolute Radio… September 29th for all you date junkies.

And, as widely predicted, Global Radio in the UK recently announced that around 30 of their newly acquired stations will be re-branded as Heart, and have lots of networked programming. This will, it is claimed, provide a much clearer brand for potential advertisers to buy into. It probably will.

So, it will be interesting to see how heritage names such as Fox, Invicta, GWR, 2-Ten FM and Chiltern handle the transformation process on air. Having “a conversation” with your listeners is the very modern and transparent way that Absolute Radio has done it. Asked by listeners why they had to change the name, they answer…

“The old one wasn't ours, it was lent to us. That means we could not do all the other things we wanted to do, in spinning off the radio station into other areas which we feel you wanted. Our new name, which we own, means we are freer to do what we want, and it also says that we're re-inventing ourselves.”

Fair enough. I buy all that, particularly the last bit… (plus the fact that it would have cost an arm and a leg to continue ‘renting’ the name from Branson, but I genuinely don’t think that was the main reason they ditched it.)

So, how will Global approach the similar dilemma of ‘name change’, particularly when many of the stations are familiar local brands and have been on the air since the early 80’s. Of course, nothing has the divine right stay the same forever, but how do you convince local listeners that it’s in their interests that you need to deliver a consistent brand to national advertisers, therefore you must remove most of the local programming apart from Breakfast and Drivetime, and rename their familiar local brand, with a quasi-national brand named after a vital organ.

There is of course the argument that much of commercial radio in the UK needs reinvention, and this is one of the only realistic ways to do it. Centralised control with some local management, product consistency and a uniform approach to marketing and promotions; A kind of ‘McRadio’ if you like. Hmmm…

Will listeners like this homogenised approach to local radio? Is there an unavoidable inevitability about it? And will the DJ’s have to wear brown uniforms and get stars on their badges for doing good local links? We shall see… but the most fascinating part of this is still to play out. How will the changes be communicated on-air. Or maybe they haven’t thought that far ahead yet?! Any ideas welcome!!


Steve Martin said...

Betya a bottle of bubbly they start with "Ocean FM... the heart of the South" etc.

Actually, wasn't that Radio Mercury's positioning line when they launched in 1984?!

Rob Lawrence said...

I'm looking forward to Chiltern FM: the Heart of Herts, Beds and Bucks. Mmmmm ... catchy.

Steve Martin said...

Oh look, your wait is over Rob!... how awfully predictable...