A ‘Sound’ story

Staff Writer

The New Zealand market is arguably the most saturated radio market in the world, with a huge number of full-strength commercial signals across the country. Given that, launching a new brand requires a very clear and precise strategic entry point, and strong execution.

'The Sound' launched four months ago in New Zealand, and debuted in the most recent New Zealand surveys impressively. Vaughan Hobbs, Programme Director of 'The Sound' gave us this explanation of how the build process, and launch worked.

Here is what he had to say:


"The essence of strategy is choosing to perform activities differently from your rivals" – Vaughan Hobbs


After a number of years of declining ratings and revenue on Solid Gold, we decided it was time to take a look at our options to reverse the trend.

The first thing we did was commission a strategic market study – was there still an opportunity for Solid Gold, or was there a position in the market available for us to fill. In a market of over 20 radio stations it was hard to imagine there was an opening.

However after several months of research a picture began to emerge.

We went in to this with no preconceived ideas of the results, but as we built the sample things became very clear and consistent. The research was comprehensive. We covered everything from music and formats to programming elements, listening habits to personalities.

From this we identified the opportunity. 

A very clear music position was evident. Three' life-groups' emerged that were not only high in appeal, but also very compatible.  This was a position available in the market. Additionally, a large proportion of those music fans were also currently listening to a number of our competitors. And these stations on the whole had moved away from their traditional positions.

Here was our opportunity.

A new radio station, that would target men 40+ who like oldies based rock music, but weren't being served.

Next we completed a number of focus groups with the target audience. We tested marketing, potential names, presentation style and messages, and programming elements. It was clear what they wanted, and it was not currently being delivered.

‘The Sound’ – a new radio station focused on the music playing ‘Timeless Rock’ in a clutter free, no hype environment was about to be born. We then spent the next 5 months putting the plan into action.

‘The Sound’ launched on January 1.

The feedback was overwhelming to say the least. The reaction from the market exceeded our expectations. The listeners were passionate about what we were doing and how we were doing it. They clearly liked and understood our proposition. We were different and it connected with them.

Besides billboards and newspaper advertising, the listeners did most of the marketing for us – the word of mouth was significant.

We went into Survey One 6 weeks after launch in the 3 major markets – Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

The results: 

  • # 1 share in Auckland Men 40-59
  • # 2 in Christchurch Men 40-59.
  • # 1 TSL in all 3 markets with Men 40-59
  • A 54% increase in Auckland cume
  • A top 5 10+ share in Christchurch.


Vaughan Hobbs

Network Programme Director – The Sound

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