| 22 Jul 2024
FM Radio - The Differentiation Game

Clutter. With the FM sector being opened up, and a slew of radio channels hitting the FM airwaves with almost similar or me-too content, listeners have been hardpressed to differentiate between the various stations. And with a lot advertising rupees riding the FM gravy train, it is becoming imperative that radio managements turn up the volume on positioning and differentiating their stations as appropriate media vehicles for appropriate audiences.

Is enough happening on this front? Are managements focusing on the core brand DNA of their stations in order to create that sharp positioning?

According to management consultant Harish Bijoor, the idea of branding as applied to radio is misunderstood. "Radio being a medium where visuals hardly work, building a brand would mean playing with the audio. This is a science in itself termed oral branding. It doesn't mean either the RJs or the programming. It is purely the tone and tenor of a radio station. The oral identity has to be strong enough for a station to stand out."

Radio City CEO Apurva Purohit believes that the newer lot of FM stations that have come up in the last few months will find branding very difficult unless the station content is specific and niche in approach. "If radio stations accept that they have to segment their offering, then their branding can be far more powerful. The current carpet bombing approach, where they try to be everything for everybody, will not really work," she explains. Branding however, is not an overnight game. Purohit avers that most stations in the country are currently too young to have established a brand identity for themselves. In Bijoor's view, only All India Radio and Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) have been successful in establishing a strong brand identity.

"Among the mainstream channels, probably Radio Mirchi was getting there with the spice element.

However, there too one didn't see too much of oral branding," opines Bijoor. He compares the radio scenario in India to the US market which boasts stations with strong brand identity. "The problem in India is that the marketing and advertising efforts are more visual," he adds.

But efforts are being made. Take Big FM, which began with a bang last year with TV stars and celebrities serving as radio hosts. This apart, this year it even started a radio reality show with viewers being called for a dare to cling to a car in a mall in Mumbai for a few days, with the car going to a listener who clung to it the longest. The idea attracted both live audiences to the mall, and listeners to the reality show on air.

Then Meow FM from the India Today group launched last year as a woman's radio station, Meow's prime time programming's, tone and tenor caters to women. It has chat shows from a women's perspective, interspersed with music, with a lot of attention being paid to viewer call-ins. Whether women will tune in large numbers is to be seen, but an effort has been made to segment audiences and build a unique brand position for the station.

Then take Red FM, which has taken an irreverent approach - taking a fun, mocking view at most situations - a la MTV and built it into its brand proposition - 'Bajate raho'. The content on the station is designed so it connects with its positioning.'

COO Abraham Thomas avers that it was the initial brand idea which built a connect with the listeners. "What we have tried to do is to ingrain the Bajaate Raho attitude among the listeners so as to build a long term competitive brand advantage. We have been constantly revisiting how the listeners perceive the brand and developing strategies at different points of time to further evolve 'Bajaate Raho' to the next level. For example, the recently concluded Bajaate Raho Awards was executed at a time when the Brand Red FM and its positioning of Bajaate Raho was already embedded in our listeners. The Awards helped present yet another facet of our brand by extending on the same attitude."

Away from the metros, Orissa's Radio Choklate, which airs in Bhubaneshwar, Cuttack and Rourkela, is doing some hard and fast branding activities, shares CEO Monica Nayyar Patnaik. "Our tagline is 'Dhoom meetha' which connects with our audience. Everyone in Orissa recognises our brand since right from the age of seven to 70, all have a link with meetha," she says.

Clearly for FM Radio managers it has been different strokes for different folks in the branding game.