The Hit Network. Is it a Hit or is it a Dud? -Part 1


I recently wrote an article on the rebranding of Brisbane’s B105, “The end of a brand and the end of an era”.  Brisbane’s B105 is now Hit105, Adelaide’s SAFM is now Hit 107, and Perth’s 92.9FM is now Hit 92.9.  In light of the recent ‘Hit’ ratings results in Adelaide, Perth and Sydney, here are a few further thoughts.

In radio it is worth remembering that “the content largely creates the brand”, so any focus on branding alone … misses the point.

What is more important than the brand name is the product, in radio’s case the content – the music, breakfast show, imaging, drive and night shows – i.e., the programming.  That said, a fresh, new brand name in certain extreme circumstances, can act as a focal point for the listener.

But what is a brand anyway?  

Put simply it’s your promise to consumers (listeners). It tells them what to expect from your product.  It differentiates you from your competitors.

There can also be powerful emotional dimensions to a brand – both positive and negative.  But it is too early for that to be the case with any of Southern Cross Austereo’s “Hit” stations – or even the Australian Radio Network’s “Kiis” stations.

For example, in Sydney, the Kiis brand is just over one year old.  In “brand years”, if we were to have a look at how the Kiis brand is going in Sydney right now, it would be like looking at your baby’s first ultra-sound.  Brand years are much longer than human years.

That said, there is no question Southern Cross Austereo would be disappointed by the Survey 1 results for its newly re-branded “Hit” stations.  In particular the results for Adelaide’s Hit 107 will be disappointing, given that the new format, breakfast and brand name have all been on air now for six months.  It would have expected it to perform reasonably well, particularly over the summer period.

Here’s some key points to consider:

#1. A new Brand name is helpful in certain circumstances, however often listeners will recall, not the brand, but the frequency.  I.e., 104.1, 92.9, 105 etc.

#2. It’s early days, new formats, products, brands take time to build. And whilst 6-months for those working in radio seems a long time, for listeners it’s not that long – partly because radio is only one thing in their busy lives, and they don’t live and breathe it (like radio people do).

#3. Execution is critical, and execution can only be as effective as the strength of the strategy. You can execute a bad strategy exceptionally well, or you can execute a robust strategy badly; both will be likely to result in failure. Excellent execution of a robust strategy is ideal.

#4. Changing breakfast is significant, always taking a year (or two, or even more) to grow audience (unless you hire the competition).  And you usually lose listeners before you gain.

#5. Product differentiation is critical.  Is the product different enough to pass the ‘average listener test’?  To my ears, and I can’t speak for the average listener, the music on Hit 107 and Nova Adelaide sounds fairly similar. As does the music on 2Day and Nova.  Strategically, with Nova being the leader (of those two stations at least), Nova wins. A flanker must always demonstrate a very clear point of difference, and crucially, must over-compensate that difference. Nuances are not enough.

The Australian Radio Network’s “The Edge” in Sydney, and Nova Entertainment’s “Smooth”, are both great examples of flanking with a clearly differentiated position.

#6. Any under 30 radio product is now competing with music platforms like Pandora, Spotify and countless others, not to mention video games, smart phones etc, so it is now even harder to cut through.

#7. Being the second CHR (Contemporary Hit Radio / Top 40 pop station) in a market is challenging and that’s the case with Hit107. And being the third CHR like 2Day/Hit is even tougher, especially when the incumbents will do everything in their power to defend and block you.

#8. For Adelaide’s “Hit 107”, and Sydney’s “2Day hit 104.1”, the Nova stations in each market are a formidable competitor, Nova is a strong brand, each Nova has a good breakfast show, a strong national drive show – and they have been playing hit music for a long time.

#9. Its as much a marketing battle as it is a product battle.

Marketing spend and share of voice is a big consideration of whether a launch will be successful. And the financial health & strength of your owners will largely determine that.

In part 2, we look at lessons learned from history that are highly relevant to the relatively new Hit and Kiis radio brands.

Brad March is a Director of Radio Today and a former Group Program Director and CEO of Austereo. He is Director of Marchmedia and Pacific Retail Management.



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