D-Day approaches as Southern Cross Austereo (SCN) rebrands regional radio as Triple M or Hit.
Next week, most of SCNs regional stations will get a new name and identity to align with the company’s city stations. This is largely a corporate brand architecture approach to clean up the brand portfolio and make it easier to sell the network of two stations to advertisers, rather than 70+ individual stations.
Since the announcement in September, many locals and the media industry have criticised the decision and referred to it as killing local radio.
This is more evident with the stations that will become Triple M. Most of the stations that will become Hit are newer, several have already had name changes. Apart from a couple, they already share either the Star or Hot FM brand.
The main concern is that the change to Triple M will result is the loss of many heritage brands such as 2WG, 3SR, 3BO. Some of the station names date back to the 1930s.
While many of the names are simply callsigns and many of the brandmarks are not very well considered, they stand as one of the last bastions of what it means to be local. They’ve represented Wagga Wagga, Shepparton, Bendigo and many other local communities for generations.
From the 15th December, they will be no more.
It seems that SCN has underestimated the impact of losing these local radio brands. In particular, it’s the message it sends to local communities across Australia. Some feel it is yet another symbolic gesture of how the city is dismissing the importance of local identity.
Worse still, it seems SCN hasn’t considered how appropriate the Triple M brand is for these local stations.
Triple M is known in Melbourne and Sydney is a known as a very blokey rock station for guys under 40. The brand will now be applied to classic hits stations females and males 35+. Unless they change their format, Triple M doesn’t really make sense for these stations.
It will also be interesting to see the impact of the regional stations on Triple M’s image. How will Melbourne and Sydney Triple M listeners feel about listening to Triple M on AM (as some of the stations are) or hearing Celine Dion, Abba or Michael Bublé on what they thought was their rock station? It’s not great for brand consistency and image. What will Triple M stand for now?
Perhaps if SCN owned the Pure Gold brand, it might’ve made more sense.
SCNs Head of Regional Radio, Rick Lenarcic has been busy trying to justify this move. He said the re-branding would make the company’s network of stations easier to deal with for advertisers. “For the first time, our audiences and advertisers will identify and engage with brands that are both local to their region and national.”
SCN’s brand architecture decision highlights the challenge of making brand architecture reforms. You need to consider all your audiences and the impact the changes will have on them. There will always be winners and losers. In this case, SCN have focused on advertisers and their agency team, not what is in the best interests of its listeners – particularly for the stations that will become Triple M. I suspect the fact that many of these markets have little or no competition (except for the ABC or narrowcasters) also played into SCN’s decision.
Like most radio networks both here and overseas, SCN has been slowly moving away from true local radio since the 1990s. The programming is controlled from the cities or a network hub and most of shows are networked across the country or state. Renaming the stations is perhaps one of the last symbolic nails in the coffin for true local radio.
With this brand decision, SCN has a fair bit of work ahead to re-build community trust in some of these regions.
Note: Mix 94.5 Perth, Mix 106.3 Canberra, 4TO Townsville, 2GO Gosford, Gold FM Gold Coast & KOFM Newcastle will keep their name for now. However, these stations will adopt some if not all of the Triple M brand including the logo and colour palette.
Michael is Managing Partner and Strategy Director at Truly Deeply, a brand agency with 25 years’ experience working with brands to position them for growth. His deep expertise is in unlocking the strategic power of your brand to create a differentiated, compelling and authentic brand proposition that will engage all your audiences. Michael has extensive experience working across Australia and the Middle East working with leading Australian and International organisations across just about every sector.