A few FM radio stations leverage popular songs for brand recall

A few FM radio stations leverage popular songs for brand recall

Mumbai: The next time you tune into a radio station such as Big 92.7 FM or Radio Mirchi 98.3 FM—listen closely.

There’s a good chance you will hear the station’s name and signature tune while listening to Bollywood chartbusters.

The benefit of such a strategy, some radio stations are saying, is the seamless integration of their brand into engaging content that prevents listeners from tuning out their brand message.

Unlike other mass media such as television, where each channel is easily identified by its prefixed logo, radio comes with its own set of limitations.

“There is so much clutter in the market that it is easy for a listener to forget which station he’s listening to," says Anand Chakravarthy, senior vice-president, marketing, for Big 92.7 FM, the radio station from the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group.

“Radio… What you have is the same commodity except during an ad-break where you can actually identify your station," says Navin Shah, chief operating officer of marketing firm P9 Integrated Pvt. Ltd.

Unlike more mature markets, such as the UK, where radio stations are clearly identifiable by format or music genre, the content on Indian radio stations tends to be similar. This is because a large portion of the content is pop or Hindi film music.

So, the only opportunity to create awareness about the radio station and the brand is during commercials or through radio jockeys who identify the station every few minutes. But with ad-avoidance at a high during commercials, in-music branding is gaining ground.

Big FM 92.7, for example, has successfully integrated the brand name—Big—and its signature tune into some popular Bollywood songs belted out on the station. “It’s a part of the tune, so it is not intrusive and allows the brand to be omnipresent, without being overtly in your face," says Chakravarthy.

Such branding could also leverage the popularity of the song, say experts.

“When you insert your brand name or tune into a song, not only does it have higher salience as it comes under programming time, but you can also leverage the fantastic and fabulous recall of the song," says Naveen Chandra, ad strategy and new initiatives at Times Global Broadcasting Co. Ltd, who was previously with Radio Mirchi 98.3 FM.

During the Cricket World Cup, the station tied up with Pepsi Foods Pvt. Ltd for its “Ooh Ah India" campaign. The audio tag was merged with the Radio Mirchi tune and used as a lead-in to a song. For such brand incorporations, radio station typically charge a hefty premium over regular ad rates.

According to radio industry estimates, Indian consumers will have access to 245 new FM radio channels by the end of the year. Pegged at about Rs500 crore in revenue for 2006, the Indian radio industry is expected to more than triple in five years. A 2007 report on the Indian entertainment and media industry from management consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers puts it at Rs1,700 crore by 2011.

The amount spent by advertisers on radio more than doubled in two years—from Rs220 crore in 2004 to Rs505.3 crore in 2006. Ad revenues for the radio industry in 2006 were up 58% against Rs316.8 crore the year before, according to AdEx India, a division of TAM Media Research Pvt. Ltd.

“Eventually, the frontrunners will be determined by the number of ad spots available, number of distribution channels, differentiators like distinct content, and of course, listener stickiness," says Timmy S. Kandhari, executive director and leader, entertainment and media practice, Pricewaterhouse.

But are we likely to see other brand incorporations in music?

Not likely, because a forced placement could work against the brand. “After a while, it could be a bit of an overkill," says Ram Sampath of The Mint, a Mumbai-based music production house that is not connected with this newspaper.

Also music is protected by strong intellectual property rights, making it difficult for marketers to have brand placement in music. Unless of course, the deal is struck during the creation of an original music soundtrack.

Stations such as Red FM 93.5 and Fever 104 FM have steered clear of in-music branding for now. “We’ve always promised our listeners an uninterrupted, unadulterated listening experience," says Gowri Satyamoorthy Kapre, national marketing and promotions head for Fever 104 FM. “So we’re not likely to have any brand insertions—seamless, disruptive or otherwise." Fever 104 FM is owned by HT Media Ltd, which also publishes Mint.