Positioning your Morning Show

By Peter Don

Broadcast Programming & Research

… being a consumer is a funny thing – we have definite ideas on what we like about the things we want and the things that we ultimately buy, while most of the time we know virtually nothing about them … we buy a brand – cars, TV sets, because of some indefinable belief that this is the ‘right’ one for me …  it satisfies a few predetermined needs or expectations, while at the same time we might even (grudgingly) admit that it may not be technically the best option…

Often our view on politics is a bit like that, we take what we think is (more or less) going to be the best of a bad lot – in an environment of relatively narrow choice, the passion generated in this process is low, and often the choice is whoever remains after all of the undesirable aspects of the rest are eliminated.

So, how does all this have any relevance to breakfast radio? after all isn’t making a successful breakfast show simply a matter of finding talented people and allowing them to do what they do?

If this is the case, someone forgot to tell the listeners  – like politics, radio listeners often remain with breakfast shows long after the magic has faded – why? … usually because they don’t see that there’s a better or a more satisfying alternative available to them, or they stay with the original station because there are still things that continue to fulfil their listening needs.

A few years ago someone put forward the view that successful brands have three clearly identifiable characteristics:

– they are ‘expansive’ rather than divisive.
– they generate a sense of ‘belonging’
– they bestow ‘status’ on their customers

Successful breakfast shows can be measured on the same criteria, but there’s also another consideration raising the question that has to be answered first. What is the position of this breakfast show?

In marketing, positioning has come to mean the process by which marketers try to create an image or identity in the minds of their target market for its product, brand, or organization. It is the ‘relative competitive comparison’ their product occupies in a given market as perceived by the target market.  

Successful breakfast shows almost always have a clear identity ….

New breakfast show ‘challengers’ need to build and establish their unique position..  so what does that mean exactly??
– understanding what your listeners want?
– a funny – entertaining show?
– an information based show – lots of news, information, weather, traffic?
– a warm and friendly show…
– something that they can talk to their friends about afterwards?
– a relatable show that understand and reflects their lifestyle?

then …

– what’s already available in the market?
– can we be demonstrably better …  or
– do we have to be clearly different?
put this another way …..

– ‘ …  what makes this show special ..’
– ‘ …  why should a listener care …’

These simple questions create a challenge that needs an answer every day – shows that are successful have often forgotten what it was that made them successful in the first place, the biggest difference between these shows and the new challengers is that they have built a store of goodwill that takes a long time to dissipate 

What’s clear is that successful shows have the attributes of successful brands – they attract, more than they divide, and that can often mean that the audience for a successful breakfast is usually greater than the appeal of the music on the station during the remainder of the day – this composition has worked well for decades with successful top 40 station playing music for a young (contemporary) hit audience with a breakfast show that appeals to an audience aged between 15 and 50.

These breakfast shows also generate a sense of belonging – listeners become ambassadors for ‘their’ station and are more than willing to tell others about it – generating passion requires emotion – usually emotions shared among people who understand what’s important to each other – friends who talk about the things that interest them. Like the show that throws out the pre-prepared material to talk to people (experts and others) about the baby whale separated from its mother near the coast. 

Successful shows also ‘bestow status’ …  listeners who are happy to belong to the club. fans wear the colours of their favourite spots team, the cap with their (aspirational) logo on it – like the Ferrari colours and logo worn by someone who will never own a Ferrari. Members of Terry Wogan’s listener club on the BBC’s Radio 2 call themselves ‘TOG’s’ – ‘Terry’s old geezers’

…  ultimately it’s just not enough for a breakfast show to just ‘be there’ even if the content of the show is good, successful breakfast shows must ultimately stand out from their competitors – and how they do this is a question that needs to be asked – every day!