Your Station can be a Cult Brand like Harley or Apple

A No-Nonsense Marketing Smart Tip

December 1, 2004


B.J. Bueno is co-author of the book The Power of Cult Branding. We toss around the term "brand" in our industry to apply to every station, but as B.J. points out, there’s a big difference between a "blah" brand and a truly great "cult" one. Here’s B.J.’s twist on Cult Branding for Radio.


Your book highlights seven rules of Cult Branding. Which are most important for Radio?


"First, consumers want to be part of a group that’s different. Or best said for radio, listeners want to hear a station that is different. It is unfortunate how many quick followers live in radio, and today formats are copied so quickly that the original ideas are not allowed to take form and find their audience. The world of radio is full of sameness and in today’s competitive environment radio can’t afford to build a station where the listener feels that his or her station has no substitute, no equal, no match. We humans love to belong, but belonging is not enough – we want to be in with the group that is different than the rest. This is a great opportunity for radio."


"Second, cult brand inventors show daring and determination. Yes they do. And here is where we are back to square one in radio. If radio wants to win heart share with their customers (both advertisers and listeners) they will have to take risks. All great cult brands have taken enormous risks without looking back at ‘what if’s.’ Radio has become risk averse, but today the biggest risk is not taking a risk at all. Radio must find inventors that are daring and determined."


What do you think Radio Stations really need to do to achieve the status of cult brands?


"Radio must follow its bliss. When was the last time something new and innovative was done in radio? Where are the people who are challenging the status quo of Radio?"


"All cult brands acted as families for its members. Giving them a place they can call home. All cult brands loved their customers and did everything to empower their group. World Wrestling Entertainment creates real time dramas that are played out and result in the victory of the one the crowd wants more. Sometimes they create long stories and struggles that play themselves out over time. Where is the drama in radio? Where are the loyal fans that are involved in the family? I, to my disappointment, have even heard some people complain about P1’s because the are always calling and want things. Wow! I am not sure that is a problem. When the listeners wins everyone wins."


What do you think Radio’s biggest mistakes are as we try to build Cult Brands?


"Easy: Please take a risk. Start to reward failure and punish people who are cash dispensers. In times of change you can’t afford people who don’t want to take ownership of problems and think creatively."

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