I’ve been involved in radio stations naming before and it’s always a very difficult choice to make, especially as there’s no ‘right’ answers. For example, when you really think closely about the name ‘Galaxy’, it’s bloody awful. It’s cheesy, doesn’t say dance and it’s already the name of a chocolate bar. However, you don’t think about that, you think instead about the values that they’ve managed to apply to it and instead you feel it’s young, fun and vibrant.
Before I joined GWR they’d created two radio stations that launched in 1998 – Core and Planet Rock. Over the years both were really good radio stations, they were innovative, different and found an audience. One though, did much better than the other, by about five times – if you haven’t got it – it’s the one that’s still going with over half a million listeners – Planet Rock.
Both stations had cost similar amounts of money to make and they also has the same zero marketing budget. Now Core was a teen pop station, so it was always going to face more competition than one with a format that was first in the market – a pure Classic Rock station. Because of this my belief is that in a low marketing budget world, it’s the station name that has to sell it – and be quickly identifiable to a listener. With our Core example, if a listener was after some teen pop music and was scrolling through a digital radio dial and they saw ‘Core’, ‘The Hits’ and ‘Smash Hits’ which order would they choose to tune in?
This informed some of our thinking when we launching further radio stations, I remember the discussions over what was to become Chill. The two names that we got down to were Chill and Chiller (and I think my vote was actually for the losing Chiller – as I thought it would have been good to co-brand with a show on Classic FM and could fit some potential brand extensions). We were also clearly aware that the new station would have no advertising or marketing budget so it would have to survive on its own. The downsides of plumping for ‘Chill’ was that we knew we’d have trademark problems and domain name problems, but we also knew that having a Ronseal (does exactly what it says on the tin) name like would be the ultimate descriptor for people who come across it on a channel list or EPG. It’s also an emotive name, and oddly one that hasn’t really been claimed, even in positioning, for any other brands
I think the Virgin Radio issue is slightly different to the impoverished Chill as TIML have earmaked £15m to spend to teach people about the new brand. As a serious amount of money they can do a great job teaching people the values of ‘Whatever’.
Indeed, with the commoditisation of much of music radio, I think it’s easy to argue that Virgin won’t need a Ronseal name, as the multi-platform-music-and-entertainment-brand nature of the new station will make it be bigger than merely being a MusicFormat FM.
However, in a multi-channel world, with everyone screaming for attention, I still think it’ll be a brave decision to go for a totally non-descriptive and purely creative name, no matter how much money you’ve got.