That’s because within the industry, rebranding, changing the look, sound, and feel of the station, is too often taken as a sign of failure. Only failed stations rebrand. Successful stations don’t.
Unfortunately, that’s wrong and dangerous. Every radio station should periodically rebrand itself. And the irony is that rebranding should be done when a station is on top, not when it has hit the skids.
Over time radio stations fall into predictable routines, develop bad habits, and stop innovating.
If these bad habits continue for very long, a successful station can lose momentum and find itself on a downwards slide–even while continuing to do what made it successful in the first place.
Compounding the problem is the fact that successful stations generally ignore warning signs too long. A soft book or one where your competitor has an usually strong book are too often dismissed as flukes.
Stations delude themselves into thinking that their misfortunes are only temporary, patiently waiting month after month, book after book.
It’s what we call The Next Book syndrome, over-confidence in the belief that “steady as she goes” is the formula for success.
Too many stations resist change until things have deteriorated so badly that they have no choice but to change. But by this time listeners have already lost confidence in the station and begun drifting away.
In the midst of a free-fall, rebranding too often has an air of desperation. Trying too hard drives listeners away from the station even faster.
So the answer is to periodically rebrand the station even when everything seems to be going OK.
Even if you think the station is perfect, that nothing can be done better than it is currently being done, the station should change from time to time. Think of it as Spring cleaning.
The good news is that while GMs and PDs hate rebranding, listeners see it as a sign of strength.
Making changes shows listeners the station is confident and willing to change. It shows boldness. Listeners like boldness.
It can helps raise a fading station’s top of mind awareness. It creates new curiosity about it.
Don’t Go Half-Way.
Getting over the reluctance to make changes to a healthy station is the first huddle in successfully rebranding a station. The second huddle is going far enough for people to notice.
The temptation is to rebrand by making modest incremental changes in the hope that it will minimize any risks. This is the wrong attitude in rebranding.
Moving too cautiously creates more problems than it solves. If the changes are more talk than action, listeners will perceive the moves as a sign of weakness.
Like jumping half-way over a ditch, a cautious effort can leave you in a deeper hole.
Timid rebranding just confirms what listeners were beginning to sense–that the station is struggling. Bold moves are a sign of strength and confidence.
If it is bold enough to make you nervous, you are probably on the right track, but boldness alone isn’t the solution. You have to make sure the moves create a positive impact.
Rebranding should be bold, and yet still evolutionary. It should be a natural “next step” so that listeners feel that the moves are not to catch up, but rather keep up with the listener’s evolving expectations.
That means the rebranding strategy has to be based on a well-grounded understanding of the station, your audience, and changes in the marketplace (today not just terrestrial radio, but alternatives to radio too).
Research is critical to a successful rebranding effort because off-target rebranding can accelerate an already deteriorating situation.
It’s another reason to think of rebranding as a continuous process instead of something distasteful only done out of desperation.
In future posts we’ll look at the steps in rebranding a station. The key to a successful effort is to make changes across a broad range of elements. We’ll discuss what those should be.