Consider This When Naming a Radio Show

Consider This When Naming a Radio Show

by Tracy Johnson

Brand names are an important decision. Companies spend millions of dollars to get it right. But when naming a radio show, how do broadcasters select the best name? 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?

It’s hard. This is a long-term decision. It should not be rushed. But don’t overthink it, either.

Naming a Radio Show

There are a million possible names for a radio show.

Here are some guidelines to help you choose wisely.

Don’t Be Generic

Some broadcasters prefer a generic name like The Breakfast Bunch. This allows a show to carry on when and if a personality leaves. 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 there are a couple of problems with this approach.

If a personality leaves and is easily replaced with a new Breakfast Flake, the previous one wasn’t all that memorable. So what have you lost? If they are a difference-making personality, the loss will be felt regardless of the show’s name.

But when David Letterman left The Late Show and was replaced by Stephen Colbert, the audience turned over. The same thing happened when Trevor Noah replaced John Stewart on The Daily Show.

The show’s name remained, but it was different. That’s because generic names aren’t as memorable as a personality. Listeners don’t become fans of a name. They are fans of the people on the show.

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 Carl and Lauren.

What’s In A Name?

If choosing a show name over personality names, make sure it fits.

Great talent leverages the station’s popularity to become famous. In return, celebrity status becomes a benefit by adding value to the station.

Motley Crue fits the band.

Alternative station X96/Salt Lake City calls their morning show Radio From Hell. It fits the personality, format, and station brand.

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.

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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 allow the listener to attach an emotion. That will work!

Or, choose a name that has no meaning. Make up a new word. 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”.

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?

Use Phonemes

Brainstorm how listeners actually hear the show, rather than how it’s presented.

Humans attach complex meanings to sounds and phonemes affect a brand’s image.

So what’s a phoneme?  Here’s an 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 Showgram was a natural name for a show because a) it was the names of the personality, b) the names sound great together, and c) the term Showgram is an interesting mashup of Show and Program.

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?

Brainstorm Original Ideas

There isn’t one sure-fire way of naming a radio show, but here are a few more considerations when brainstorming.

Work on Brainwriting.

  • Have the creative team spend ten minutes writing down every name they can think of.
  • 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?
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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.
  • Is the name unique so it can be used to activate on smart speakers? What happens when you say, “Alexa, play (Name)…”

Test It.

  • Narrow the final list, then test the names with random people. This usually should not be radio folks. They are always jaded and find reasons not to like new ideas.
  • 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.

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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