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Grow your radio brand with digital brand extensions

JACKfm 2 goes on-air in the UK - and it sounds great

I speak a lot at radio conferences, both here in the UK and overseas. One of the things that gets the most interest when I talk is the 'brand extension'.

Like many things, this was something embraced at Golden Square. In 1999, Virgin Radio launched a set of online-only radio stations. When I started there in 2001, "Virgin Lite" had already gone to the wall (or perhaps it had never even launched), but Virgin Classic and Virgin Radio Wheels of Steel, later to become Virgin Radio PARTY!, took portions of the radio station's playlist to make an entire radio station out of it. Now, Golden Square produces a bunch of services - from Absolute 80s, the UK's most popular digital-only radio brand, to Absolute Classic Rock. Crucially, these Absolute Radio stations are sold as part of the Absolute Radio brand - over 90% of airtime on Absolute is booked across their network of stations.

The BBC have been at it, too. While BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 1Xtra weren't the classic brand extension at launch, they are increasingly sharing presenters and acting more coherently as one radio brand. The relaunch of BBC7 as "BBC Radio 4 Extra" is the classic brand extension: the shine and lustre of the main BBC Radio 4 brand produced a happy increase in audience levels.

Bauer's KISS station now has Kisstory and Kiss Fresh, two perfectly-balanced brand extensions widening the main KISS brand appeal; R&S's Smooth service has Smooth 70s and Smooth Xmas; Orion's Free Radio also has Free 80s on DAB and AM; T&C's Nation Radio has a sister station 'Nation Hits'.

And so to today - with a new brand extension that turns the whole JACKfm brand on its head. The Sparknet brand JACKfm - tagline "we play what we want" - has, for years, made a big thing about their refusal to ever accept requests. JACKfm stations in the UK (they're owned by a variety of companies) have even advertised on dustbin lorries proudly saying 'this is where your requests go'.

But JACKfm 2, which replaces Glide FM, is a female-friendly service with a simple tagline too: "we play what YOU want". Using Listener Driven Radio's interactive technology, visitors to the website can influence the station's playlist - the website being a simple and attractive list of available songs. The sarcastic male 'Jack' voice has been replaced with a softer but just as gently amusing female voice: with quick and killer lines like "It might be our launch day on JACK 2, but we're making sure that not a drop of alcohol touches our lips... we're using a straw." JACKtivities, the station's what's-on service, adds a good feel of localness; and their Radioplayer console is a simple Twitter feed - the station responding to every single tweet. It's a great listen - softer than the main JACK service, but just as full of character.

JACKfm 2 is ID'd on-air as simply "JACK 2". The station's made the correct decision to drop the 'FM'. It might be available on 107.9FM in parts of Oxford, but only through a 100W transmitter no more powerful than a lightbulb. The station's new on DAB (Glide never made it) which has a significantly better signal, and also available online. It's truly a brand extension for the digital age. Aligning JACKfm and JACKfm 2 allows advertisers to buy both stations, and there are good arguments for doing so.

And, even though JACKfm's got hundreds of stations across the world, JACKfm 2 is a world first in Oxford. No wonder their launch team, above, look quite excited.

Incidentally, the UK's largest commercial company, Global Radio, haven't yet succumbed to the brand extension. LBC News 1152 might as well not exist when you listen to LBC 97.3; the obvious 'Heart Club Classics' service has yet to materialise, too. Yet, they have the space - Global's two 'secret' DAB stations, Chill and The Arrow, exist solely to keep FM stations on-air; and might as well be attracting new listeners to the company's promoted brands. Particularly - in London, Capital FM could so easily use the halo effect by renaming the urban Choice FM brand as a brand extension of Capital just as Radio 1 and 1Xtra work - and pushing that brand around the country on digital. I wonder how long it'll take them?

James Cridland is the Managing Director of Media UK, and a radio futurologist: a consultant, writer and public speaker who concentrates on the effect that new platforms and technology are having on the radio business.
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17 comments

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Recommendations: 0
Art Grainger posted

Global not doing brand extensions? What about Capital TV, Heart TV? Could you consider them as brand extensions?

Recommendations: 0
Martin Phillp
posted

Would London’s black community really go for a brand name that associates itself with teeny bopper bands, One Direction, The Wanted and Justin Bieber? Sounds as silly as the Real Radio XS rebrand of Rock Radio in a last ditch effort by GMG to increase Real Radio’s overall share before the Titanic hit the iceberg.

As for OXIS’s rebranding of Glide, it makes you wonder why they didn’t utilise their only playing card, which is the Jack brand instead of Glide, which only generated interest when it stunted as Glee FM.

Recommendations: 0
James Martin posted

It’s an interesting idea. I’d have personally franchised Capital FM on 107.9, and as part of the deal with Global agree to run the station from Heart Thames Valley, thus removing the need to install the technical infrastructure at Woodstock Road. I don’t regard the Jack brand as “proper” radio, but let’s see what happens. Has any other license gone through so many name changes?

Agreed on Global brand extensions – they’re definitely missing a trick with a Club Classics channel, and maybe also an 80s channel?

Recommendations: 0
Terry Purvis
posted

Global not doing brand extensions? What about Capital TV, Heart TV? Could you consider them as brand extensions?

There is Heart Bingo as well, although what the brand extension is in this case – Heart (Radio) or Heart Bingo – is debatable.

Recommendations: 0
Daniel Fox
posted

James Martin: moving an OXIS station into a GLOBAL building would certainly be a first – AFAIK no two radio companies in the UK cohabit.

Obviously local content would have to be produced on that licence, because you can’t own a radio licence and have no editorial control of what comes out of the speakers.

For me, it doesn’t work at all.

Recommendations: 0
Art Grainger posted

“There is Heart Bingo as well, although what the brand extension is in this case – Heart (Radio) or Heart Bingo – is debatable.”

Yes – and Capital FM did try to operate a Capital Cafe at one time.

How about the other type of brand extensions that has seen magazines become radio stations (Heat, Q, NME, Smash Hits – and I suppose Team Rock).

“James Martin: moving an OXIS station into a GLOBAL building would certainly be a first – AFAIK no two radio companies in the UK cohabit.”

GWR stations allowed UBC to operate local Classic Gold’s from the same premises of respective FM stations. So two different companies in the same building.

Recommendations: 0
Lee Cornell
posted

Hey James!...Brand extensions on-line, on-cell, on-demand are the huge opportunity when you’ve gathered real in-depth knowledge about your listeners and their preferences. It’s where you really get to build relationships that are unique; both around your audience and in ways that actually extend client/brand relationships too. Much of Radio is still coming to grips with a lot of this… although as you say, Clive and the folks at ABSOLUTE were very much on it, among others. And the UK has historically done some really interesting things, as noted, around evolving magazines to aural brands etc

Recommendations: 0
Ian Thomas
posted

Brand extensions make sense if the services relate to each other, so Jack 2 seems a very strange brand if it’s the opposite of the existing brands. Jill FM would have been a more obvious choice in my opinion. You could even have the two brands ‘fighting’ each other.

Recommendations: 0
James Martin posted

You could still have editorial control (to a point – under the franchise arrangement don’t you pretty much cede that?) but my argument to run a franchised Capital from Heart Thames Valley was one based on not having to install the networking/playout/infastructure at Woodstock Road when Heart will already have everything in place.

Recommendations: 0
James Martin posted

Just caught up with eRadio, who’ve done a snoop of breakfast for this week’s Listened In segment. I wasn’t aware the breakfast show was networked across both Jacks. That just seems very daft, especially given 107.9’s TSA is completely within 106’s.

I’ll concede that, on paper, the news bulletin looks very good.

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Credits: Photo JACKfm 2