It's all in the brand
Posted on Thursday, August 4th, 2011 at 12:23 am. #
Another three months have gone by, and another set of radio audience figures have been released. RAJAR reports another new record: more people than ever before (by percentage of the population) are listening to the radio, something that confounds and perplexes technology journalists everywhere.
The real story in these RAJAR figures, however, is a story about the power of the brand. Because, right at the beginning of the survey period for these RAJAR figures, the BBC launched a brand new radio station: BBC Radio 4 Extra.
Out with the old BBC7 – a radio station that was broadcasting crusty old things like Round the Horne, The Navy Lark, and Miss Marple. And, in with the new BBC Radio 4 Extra – which, by the end of its first week had treated us to the thrilling new sounds of Round the Horne, The Navy Lark, and Miss Marple. And Ambridge Extra.
In short, while Radio 4 Extra had a handful of interesting new programmes and a slightly changed schedule, it was, to all intents and purposes, the same as the BBC7 radio station it had replaced. The only thing that had really changed was the name – as the BBC readily admits on its website.
So, what’s in a name?
BBC Radio 4 Extra is now the UK’s most popular digital-only radio network. It boasts 1.6 million listeners – 70% up on BBC7′s figures a year ago, but with an almost identical product. The launch of BBC Radio 4 Extra hasn’t detracted from BBC Radio 4 either: that station has also posted its best-ever audience figures (since Jan 1999).
Absolute Radio has had additional brand extension stations for some time now, including Absolute 80s and Absolute Radio 90s. And they, too, are now posting significant increases. The Absolute Radio Network, sold as one package to advertisers, has achived a nine-year high in total audience figures.
Additional ‘Extra’ stations are a now established way for radio stations to extend their brands and attract more audiences. It’s far easier to communicate the relationship between Radio 4 and Radio 4 Extra to a listener than a new brand such as BBC7.
Yet, ‘Extra’ stations can trap the unwary. No longer are we talking about total audiences to a radio station: we need to think about total audiences to a brand. The age of the single radio station is increasingly over; and the age of the radio brand is upon us.
So, it’s impressive that the BBC is researching Radio 4 Extra correctly: because, hidden in the reams of data that a new RAJAR survey always gives you, there’s a new line for “Total BBC Radio 4 (including Radio 4 Extra)”, just as there is an entry for the Absolute Radio Network, and one for BBC Radio 5 Live including 5 Live Sports Extra. The latter, incidentally, is also up.
Local radio is also doing similar, with two West Yorkshire stations (The Pulse and Pulse 2) reporting total brand figures, not to mention Heart, Capital, Real and Smooth combining their individual stations into a larger brand report.
As more broadcasters launch brand extensions, commentators need to focus less on the individual stations within them, and focus more on the power of the brand. Whether it’s Radio 4, Absolute, Pulse, or Capital, the power now is in the brand, not in the individual stations that make them up.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I notice that The Navy Lark is on tomorrow on Radio 4 Extra, and I need to write myself a note so I don’t forget it. (It’s the one where Seaman Taffy gets promoted. You know the one…)