Radio station clutter makes branding tricky


MUMBAI: From the days of government owned All India Radio (AIR) to the many private FM radio stations that today beam in the country, the medium has come a long way in the last few years. The growth of private radio channels was seen in the 1990s. What’s more, there have been considerable shifts in the trends from AM to FM and now internet radio.


With the satellite being flooded with FM channels of late, it’s certainly a treat for the listeners with varied options; though it may not be favourable for a channel’s brand value.


A few years ago, DRS (Development and Research Survey) proved that listeners cannot identify a show on a particular channel, as everything sounds more or less similar. The listeners often found it difficult to associate a show with its appropriate channel. So, after years, has the situation become better or worsened with the sudden boom in radio?


What kind of strategies are being considered to strengthen a brand and distinguish it from the others? Says Radio One assistant producer programming Annie Arrakal, “Yes, at the end of the day all radio stations sound the same with similar kind of shows running on air and RJs yakking away to glory. But we have a format and we strictly follow that to make our station sound unique.”


Radio One has adopted a 20 minutes packaging format, which means their shows last only for that duration which is gripping. Arrakal explains, “Our RJs don’t sound the same, because they host different type of shows, which distinguishes us from the others. Hence, listeners can distinguish between Prachi and Malini. We are constantly coming up with promotional strategies and our college radio is a huge hit. Our aim is to pick on diverse angles of an issue. The Sanjay Dutt case was unavoidable; every channel had to cover it. However we came up with another angle.”< Page Break >


However, she admits that strengthening the brand is not an easy task and will easily take a few years for any channel to establish its brand name. “Red FM took four years to make a name for itself in the market,” she says.


Known for its non-stop music, Fever 104 refutes following the block programming done by most of the channels these days. They don’t run any shows on their channel in order to mark out a brand name. Explains Fever 104 Mumbai station head Sajjad Chunawala, “Our target audience is the youth and young adults, so we don’t cater to the other sorts. And the youth love music, so our aim is to give them that 24×7. And that’s the future of radio.”


Chunawala believes that they have been successful as a brand because the listeners easily identify their station as they play music round the clock. He adds, “We did the biggest promotion lately, wherein we gave out Rs 60 lakh cash. That certainly adds to our brand value.”


It’s not only the old channels with a revamped version on air today; the big players in the broadcast arena are slowly and steadily also routing into radio. Recently BAG Films launched their radio station called Dhamaal in Hissar and Karnal, towns of Haryana.


South’s No 1 network Sun TV has launched seven radio stations in Chennai, Coimbatore, Vishakapatnam, Tirunelveli, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Jaipur and latest in Bhubneshwar. And the Star Group re-entered the market by picking up a 20 per cent stake Music Broadcast Pvt. Ltd. (MBPL), under the Radio City brand after selling it for Rs 300 million.< Page Break >


This clearly means that more and more players are getting into radio because the medium is flourishing. Hence the clutter is obvious. Despite the unique promotional strategies, a radio station will take years to establish its brand name since it takes time for a radio channel to register in the listener’s mind.


The new channel on the block, Big FM lately announced their new strategies and their new morning RJ Raju Shrivastav. “A channel is identified because of its music and RJs. Our focus lies in playing latest hits and that’s the reason listeners tune into our station,” says Big FM national programming head Manav Dhanda.


Though BIG has a fixed format of programming, modifications are constantly made. So does that affect their branding. “No, it doesn’t,” says Dhanda. He adds, “Introducing new concepts grabs the listener’s attention. We came up with the monsoon show and now we have a lot of offers. This will certainly register in their mind and that’s how it will beef up our brand. Our policy is to be active, right positioning and having relevant shows on air which will affect people’s life.” 

With the advent of internet radio the competition may look stiff, but our radio heads feel otherwise. Says Dhanda, “They don’t exist for us. Our core competitors are the other channels on air, but not internet radio.”

Chunawala echoes the same sentiment, “We don’t stand any competition from internet radio.”