The magic elixir of “Playing What We Want”

From Billboard Radio Monitor on the legal brouhaha over the JACK-owned term “Playing what we want”:

…At issue is Bonneville’s use of variations of the “playing what we want” slogan on WTMX (the Mix) Chicago, KKLT (the Peak) Phoenix, WARH (the Arch) St. Louis, and KMAX (the Max) San Francisco. The Mix Web site displays the slogan “Today’s new music… and whatever we want.” The Peak and the Arch use “70’s, 80’s… whatever we want.” In San Francisco, it’s “70s, 80s, whatever we feel like!”…

This is so preposterous.

If you are foolish enough to think that the magic of the JACK format is a direct result of the phrase “playing what we want” then you should spend less money on your lawyers and more on your psychiatrist.

Most of the stations who steal or adapt this phrase don’t understand what it means or why or how it fits into the fabric of the brand. If they did they would never ever craft something as clumsy as “70’s, 80’s, whatever we feel like.” (Memo to Radio: If it’s “whatever we feel like,” then how can it be limited to “70’s and 80’s”?).

This is oh so common.

I saw the same thing years ago with “World Class Rock,” a phrase which was just one layer of many for Denver’s legendary KBCO, and all layers combined to bring back the station from near-dead. Before you know it, the phrase pops up as a throw-away on numerous stations nationwide. Stations that don’t use it the way KBCO did and don’t do the rest of what KBCO did the way they did it. The result: No result. Audio wallpaper of the worst sort.

The words you use are only part of what and how you’re trying to communicate with the audience. The mistake most clones make is to assume that the JACK words are like some magic elixir – with one sip the audience will be transformed into obedient ratings slaves.

Branding never has been and never will be that easy.

Fight over the term if you want. But the folks who run JACK stations – and run them well – are laughing at you.

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