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 naming a radio show. And It’s hard. This is a long-term decision, so don’t rush it. But don’t overthink it, either.
The name of a radio show, the name of the station, the name of each feature and even the name personalities use on the air are all brand names. Each deserves careful thought.
There are a million possible names for a radio show. Here are some guidelines on choosing wisely to find the best for your situation.
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. Listeners won’t become fans of the show’s name. They become attached to the people on the show.
Still, many programmers fear losing a key talent and worry about listener fallout if a personality leaves. My response: If a personality leaves a show and it’s easy to plug in a replacement, the departing personality didn’t make an impact. If they are a difference-making personality, listeners will miss them regardless of the name of the show. When Letterman left The Late Show and was replaced by Stephen Colbert, the audience turned over. The show’s name remained the same, but it was different.
So branding a show with a generic name just to smooth talent turnover isn’t a great reason.
Still, if choosing a generic name like The Wake Up Crew, at least 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).
Try to align the show name with the station position if possible. Great talent leverages the station’s popularity to become famous. In return, celebrity status becomes a benefit by adding 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 a 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. It means interesting and engaging, with the ability to provoke a response. Names that connect with core values and allow the listener to attach an emotion will work!
That’s how Google became Google! Originally, the company was going to be called Back Rub! Seriously. Could you imagine telling a friend, “I don’t know the answer, I think I’ll Back Rub it”. 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, rather than how it’s presented.
Humans attach complex meanings to sounds. Study how phonemes affect a brand’s image. 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 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. 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 represents.
There probably isn’t one simple way naming a radio show, but here are some considerations when brainstorming.
Work on Brainwriting. Have the creative team spend ten minutes writing down every name they can think of. Then share the list with the person next to them. Discuss pros and cons. This will inspire new ideas. Now 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?
Digital Applications. Does it work as a URL? Is it easy to remember and spell? Even if promoting a morning show website isn’t in the strategic plan, it’s still a good idea to buy the domain and redirect it to their page on the station site. Also, consider how unique the name is for smart speakers. More and more, listeners will be seeking audio content by show name, not station name. What happens when you say, “Alexa, play (Name)…”
Test It. When narrowing the final list, test the possible names with random people. This usually should not be radio folks. They are always jaded and find reasons not to like new ideas. Just kidding. Kind of. But they are too close to it to offer valid feedback. Try to find out if respondents understand the name, are likely to remember it, and if in a Diary market, write it down. Important question: Ask what they think a radio show with that name would sound like.
A show name apart from 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 a show and the personalities on the show. It doesn’t have to be 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.
Bottom line: Put some thought into it. When naming a radio show, spend time to make it meaningful, unique and important.
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