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Kids think your station isn’t a brand

There’s an interesting piece in Ad Age from college prof Doug Zanger, whose Integrated Media (what a perfect title) program at a school in Oregon is using Kevin Roberts’ book Lovemarks as a textbook on marketing and branding.

The topic: Is a radio station a brand?

And the answer was “it depends.”

One of the questions posed to the students was whether they thought, here in Portland, they could identify radio stations that were true “brands.” A few stood out (KINK, 94.7, KGON and Jammin’ 95.5 for music, and KOPB and KXL for news and talk), but most, they felt, were just “stations” that didn’t exactly connect with them. There were myriad reasons why this was the case. For the most part, they felt as though most music stations were “delivery systems” with some people telling them what the song was. Part of their reasoning was that there lacked, in most cases, a tangible emotional connection. Most of the people in our class are under the age of 25, pretty brand loyal and savvy and, despite the fact they are in what amounts to a radio creative class, struggled to find, with some exceptions, a reason that a radio “station” could be considered a radio “brand.”

So the key threads are highlighted.

Brands are, by definition, things that evoke emotional connections. Their value is a function of the fact that you care about them, and you only care about the stuff you maintain an emotional connection to or, in the ideal case of Kevin Roberts, the stuff you “love.”

Zanger says his students viewed most radio stations as “delivery systems” rather than brands. And in a crowded mediasphere with sound-alike competitors “delivery systems” are commodities. Easily and readily substituted whenever and however the mood strikes.

I think we really need to ask ourselves as broadcasters what, exactly, creates value in our brands.

What turns a “delivery system,” a soul-less music channel, into an emotion-filled “brand”?

And here’s another question that Zanger’s students haven’t stopped to answer:

In the short run – before the competition sets in – does Arbitron in general and PPM in particular reward “brands” for being “brands”?

Or does it reward them for being “delivery systems”?

The answer to that question might scare the heck out of you.

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