Thanks to Paul, the webmaster of the immensely popular activist site www.love6music.com for placing my article about BBC 6 Music on the front page last week. It provided quite a few hits for my humble brand-blog.
My post tried to explain what was going on through former P&G / Pepsi Marketer Tim Davie’s brand brain, explained why changing 6 Music to 2 Xtra was a bad idea, and why Radio 1.6 Music might be a good alternative. There has been lots of discussion on the Save 6 Music Facebook group advocating keeping 6 Music completely intact, name and all, because the recent listener-led campaign to save it has increased awareness and brought in new listeners. Some even go so far as to say “BBC 6 Music is an iconic brand, so you cannot change the name.”
I think this kind of argument about the name is slightly superficial, and it may do little to contribute to the effort to convince Mr. Davie, Mark Thompson, and ultimately the BBC Trust the following: what is right, wrong, and changeable about BBC 6 Music. The battles to focus on are the frame of reference and positioning of the BBC 6 Music radio station, not the name.
I’d like to write this without using too much detail, but the more clearly I explain the brand-speak, the better you, BBC Radio 6 Music fans, can translate your thoughts into this language that Mr. Davie understands. Here are a few definitions to keep our discussion on-track:
Brand: the sum total of every experience a customer has with your company and its products and services. A name is not a brand. A logo is not a brand. Names and logos serve to help remind people (consistently) of the actual product or service.
Frame of Reference / Category: The playing field that describes both what your brand and the competition’s are trying to do. This can be described broadly or narrowly. Broad: 24 hour Radio Stations in the UK. Medium: 24 hour Music Radio Stations in UK. Narrow: 24 hour Interesting / Good Music Radio Stations in UK.
BBC Radio competes in the broad category. BBC Radio 6 Music competes in the narrow one. The only two “major” stations that seem to compete in the same narrow category in the UK are XFM and Absolute Radio.
Target: Generic 37 year olds of course! Sorry about that, in all seriousness, it seems to me like a wide range of people anywhere from 25 to 49 years old who have a passion or an interest in good music, new and old.
Positioning: This describes what makes your brand’s offering different or better (long term) than the competition, in the frame of reference. It should describe a concrete or rational benefit and an emotional benefit.
Before we get into positioning the sub-brand – BBC Radio 6 Music, let’s position the master brand – BBC Radio in the broad category (24 hour UK Radio stations). The following is inspired by the BBC’s own charter, and statements made in the strategy review: BBC Radio provides distinctive, high quality radio content that commercial providers would not be able to produce; this makes British people feel informed, entertained, proud, unique, and happy to pay their annual BBC license fee.
Here’s my attempt at BBC Radio 6 Music’s positioning (understanding that a sub-brand’s positioning needs to have a clear link to the master brand’s): BBC Radio 6 Music provides the broadest and most distinctive range of both new and “older” music; this exposes British people to new and other artists that they would otherwise never have heard of, and gives everyone hope that good and interesting music can always be a part of their lives.
Reasons to Believe: This is the proof in the pudding. And thankfully, this is made easy by www.comparemyradio.com . If a Conservative (minority?) government were to challenge the BBC Trust for their decision to keep 6 Music in late 2011, the Trust would only need to refer to the statistics to say they’re doing what they set out to do, and infer just how much good is done to the British recording industry (as well as providing a great unique service to British listeners), and that commercial substitutes could never come close. Here is a link to Paul’s Comparemyradio analysis.
In this whole discussion, the name of the station is not a high priority. As long as the end result is a 24 hour radio station that keeps doing what 6 Music is doing, under the BBC Radio brand, people should be willing to sacrifice the current name. I may be a little too pragmatic, and I know many people in the UK feel passionate about Marathon vs Snickers, or Opal Fruits vs Starburst, but the fact is the newly named products at least look and taste the same as before; they’re the same except for that fleeting disappointment about that bleeding name (and nostalgia for deep childhood associations about experiences with the whole brand including the name, but them’s the breaks).
Mounting a campaign requires a united front, but more importantly, negotiating and convincing requires clear goals and priorities, consistently stated. I would recommend to all 6 Music campaigners, if you’re going to use brand arguments to state goals clearly, focus on:
1. Frame of Reference. The priority is to keep a 24 hour interesting/good music radio station. Moving a few shows to Radio 1 or Radio 2 changes the product category completely, which is pretty much pointless, and will seriously damage the BBC’s effectiveness as a force for good in music.
2. Positioning. BBC Radio 6 Music provides the broadest and most distinctive range of new and “older” music; this exposes British people to new and other artists that they would otherwise never have heard of, and gives everyone hope that good and interesting music can always be a part of their lives… The BBC Trust needs to understand that no other radio station in the BBC is as true to the BBC Radio master brand positioning as Radio 6 Music. It’s the truest BBC of any of its stations, and is the world standard in the space it competes in.
If we fight for and achieve a 24 hour radio station with that positioning, it’s a minimal sacrifice to let Mr. Davie consider a different name if it helps make the marketing communication (especially cross-promotion on other stations) easier, and the station more popular in the long term.
It saddens me that BBC professionals making £200K to £450K a year have not been able to convey any decent arguments — brand-oriented, political, or otherwise — to close this station; the only point I buy is the cross-promotion argument. By consistently and clearly pointing out to the BBC Trust that all we are really asking for is to maintain a 24 hour BBC Radio station with positioning as stated, we will hopefully make the Trust feel similar disappointment, and convince them to deny Mr. Thompson’s and Mr. Davie’s proposal.