Consider This When Naming a Radio Show
by Tracy Johnson
Brand names are an important decision. When naming a radio show, what goes into making the final selection? Will it be Zippy and Peppy in the Morning? The Dawn Patrol? The Breakfast Flakes? How about The Morning Zoo? Or simply The (Your Name Here) Show?
A lot goes into choosing a good brand name. It’s something that should never be rushed. This is a long-term decision that you’ll be living with.
The name of a radio show, the name of the station, the name of each feature and even the name used on the air are all brand names, and worth some serious thought.
Naming a Radio Show Tips
There are a million possible names for a radio show. Here are some guidelines on choosing wisely to find the best for your situation.
Don’t Be Generic
The argument to build a generically named show like “The Breakfast Bunch” allows a show to carry on when and if a personality leaves the show. It’s easy to plug in a new character and, as long as it’s positioned well, the audience doesn’t miss a beat. That makes it easy for programmers.
But these names aren’t memorable and they don’t add personality to the brand. In fact, those generic names are forgettable and sound dated.
If you do choose a generic name like “The Wake Up Crew”, attach personality names to it. If there’s a lead personality, maybe call it “Carl and the Wake Up Crew”. Or, brand it as “The Wake up Crew with (names)”.
Make Sure It Fits
Try to align the show name with the station position if possible. Great talent leverages the station’s popularity to become famous. In return, that celebrity status becomes a benefit by returning value to the station.
The name must fit the show. Alternative station X96/Salt Lake City calls their morning show Radio From Hell. It fits the personality, the format and the station brand.
The name Motley Crue fits the band. On the other hand, a generic name like “Rise and Shine” says nothing about the show. Therefore, it has little to no positioning value. And it’s easy to forget or ignore.
Provocative names are almost always more memorable than a “regular” name. Provocative doesn’t mean dirty or edgy, but interesting and engaging. Names that connect with core values and allow the listener to attach their own impression to a show will work!
That’s how Google became Google! Originally, the company was going to be called BackRub! Seriously. Could you imagine telling a friend, “I don’t know the answer, I think I’ll BackRub it”. And electronics retailer Best Buy was going to be called “The Sound of Music”. That’s kind of like calling a radio show “The (station) Morning Show”. Kind of boring, huh?
Brainstorm the way listeners hear the show. Not the way you present the show.
Humans attach complex meanings to sounds. Study how phonemes affect a brand’s image. Phonemes, right. You’re wondering, “What’s a phoneme?”. Here’s a explanation.
The words “Cat” and “Kite” begin with the same sound. Ignore the fact that C and K are different letters. The phoneme is a sound, not a letter.
There are 26 letters in the English alphabet, but there are more sounds, or phonemes. For example, the sound represented by the letters “ch” in chirp, cherry and cheerful is another phoneme.
In all, there are only 40 phonemes in the English language. Using phonemes can help the show be more memorable. The Jeff & Jer show was a natural name for a show because a) it was the names of the personalities and b) the names sounded great together.
But don’t settle on a name just because it starts with the same sound, though. A name like Morning Madness may check the phonemes box, but do you really want to say that on the air over and over?
Pay attention to how the show’s name actually sounds, and the mood that sound might represent.
Finding Original Ideas
There probably isn’t just one simple answer to methods used to find a great show name, but here are some considerations when brainstorming a show name.
Work on Brainwriting. Have the creative team spend ten minutes writing down every names they can think of. Then share the list with the person next to them. Discuss the pros and cons. Then write for ten more minutes and repeat.
How Does It Sound? Think of as many uses for the name as possible. Imagine a TV reporter saying the name on the air. How will it look in print? Does it work on a logo? When used in a recorded promo, how will it sound? What will it sound like when listeners talk about the show to friends? All of these are considerations.
Digital Applications. Does it work as a URL? Is it easy to remember and spell? And is the name available online? Also, consider how unique the name is for smart speakers. What happens when you say, “Alexa, play NAME…” The name of the smart speaker skill should be the brand name.
Test It. When you narrow the final list, test the finalists with random people. This usually should not be radio folks, who are always jaded and find reasons not to like new ideas. In fact, that’s how a lot of great ideas end up as generic. Try to find out if respondents can understand the name, remember it, or write it. And ask them what they think a radio show with that name would sound like.
A show name apart from the personalities is not a requirement. It’s fine to be known by the names of the talent. Roger & Marilyn in the morning (CHUM-FM/Toronto) is the name of the show and the personalities on the show. You don’t have to call it anything beyond that. But it may take longer for the show to establish, and you may be missing an opportunity to make a statement about the show through the name.
If you do create a show name, spend some time and make it meaningful, unique and important.
Tracy Johnson specializes in radio talent coaching, radio consulting for programming and promotions and developing digital strategies for brands.