Sunday, January 17, 2010

Before You "Assume The Position..."

First, it was just "Country," "Continuous Country" followed, as did "Today's Country Favorites."

Then, NBC-TV had a mid-season replacement show back in the 90’s called "Hot Country" and "Today's Hot New Country" and "Today's Country" was born. Followed by "Young Country" as more competitors entered the fray.

"New Country" still proliferates. But also, as a means of differentiating current-intensive country stations from more mainstream approaches, we positioned some of them as "Hit Country." Along the way, we have also recommended - in various competitive situations - "Real Country," "Pure Country," "Hotter Country," "Better Country." Fresh Country. Today’s Country. 12/15/20/30-in-a-row country.

Maybe it's time we call a halt to all this ludicrous name-calling and remember one thing: all of our listeners seem to call it country. Some older ones even still term it country-western. Many say they came to country because they were turned off by rock and rap/rhythmic CHR. But, to most folks, it's all simply country music.

Given that reality, why would you call your country station "rock?" I don't think you would IF you knew about that reality. Most of the other words probably don’t “hurt,” but it’s important to keep in mind that position statements were innovative three decades ago. The book whose cover is shown above was first published in 1981.

Do today’s listeners believe any of them?

Which gives me cause to say: before you name your radio station anything, I'd recommend you ask your listeners what they call the stuff they like most. Listen to the terms they use and simply call it one of those things. It will make your marketing efforts much easier.

There is no doubt you can coin a phrase and give it meaning by doing tons of TV and direct marketing. For example, since I was in on the development of the first “Young Country” station, KDDK in Little Rock, thank you Hank Williams Jr., I feel that "Young Country" worked in many places because it isn't so much a style of music as it is an attitude, a playful approach, given meaning in the minds of passionate fans by excellent marketing. Another of the original "Young Country" stations is WYCD/Detroit, which now positions at Detroit's Country.

You can market to older people by being young, but you certainly can't sell many young folks by being old.

But, I just don't think you market to them by being "Rockin'" or "Wild."

Yes, over the years there have even been some “Wild Country” stations, which goes counter to everything I believe about country listener values.

Country listeners enjoy fun, compelling, content-driven relationship interactive radio. The kind of people who are drawn to country music are foreground listeners, family oriented, patriotic, care about the environment but definitely do NOT seem themselves as rebellious.

Over the last three decades, I have been a part of naming country stations WOW-FM, Bob, Kat Country, Froggy, the Rebel, the Mountain, KOLT, and many other mnemonic devices. So, I am always looking for clever, fresh ideas for names and positioning niches.

But, just because it's new doesn't make it good. I ask you: why would folks who fit the country psychographic profile be tempted to listen to you? Why would you want to do a country approach that wouldn't appeal to the heaviest users of the format?

Something tells me that in time "Rockin' Country" and "Wild Country" will join other non-descriptive phrases that have been piled on the radio positioning junk heap over the years: Classics of yesterday and today, Full service radio and Easy rock.


Bob McNeill said...

Right on the mark, as usual, Jaye. Add to that the music quantity positions, "50 minutes of music every hour", "The Most Country Music", etc. People who listen don't even hear that. And if they do they're so tired of hearing the claims they don't believe them.

facebook Thread said...

Karen Ehringer George: JJ and I were just talking about this yesterday when I listened to a station for about 15 minutes the other day before I heard the call letters. With PPM it doesn't matter. Make it a more comfortable conversation between the jock and the listener.

Anthony Acampora: Jaye - great question. I think - especially when you have a format like Country and you are in a PPM market, the listener probably knows they're listening to Country music.

Anthony Acampora said...

We have a client with a hip-hop station. I asked him how often he says hip-hop and he said "8 times an hour." I told him I think the 11 hip-hop songs an hour gets the message across :)

Rick Eberhart said...

A few years ago when everything was "The New This" and "The New That" and the programming was still the old "This" or "That" the listeners kinda got hip to it. They still listened, but realized there was nothing new.

Now with PPM, positioning may matter even less.