Will Smooth work?

DMG launch Smoothfm this coming Monday at 7am.

There has not been a genuine ‘Soft-AC’ station in Sydney or Melbourne for many years, so the launch will be observed with strong interest by the industry.

There is one important factor that will ultimately have a major influence on the success or failure of Smooth, and it is a factor which is out of DMG’s control.

We’ll get to that. First, let’s consider what is within their control.

Strategy

The launch of a new radio brand requires the identification and execution of a sharp, focused entry position to the market. Branding the station as ‘smooth’ sends a clear message about what it will (and won’t) deliver, and that’s a strong start. With a format such as this,  how it is 'positioned' is as important as what it 'plays': perhaps moreso. The positioning is critical to communicate the brand promise, so expect 'Sydney/Melbourne's new place to relax' to be blanketed across the stations. Tick.

Don’t believe the hype about ‘playing everything from the 60s to currents’. That can only happen when, and if, the station is mature and owns a clear position. It isn’t a launch position, and DMG are too smart to go broad at launch. Expect a focused, clearly defined brand - probably less gold-based than most expect - with a narrow programming target at launch. Tick.

Marketing

Marketing, or lack of, won’t be a factor. Group Marketing Director Tony Thomas (left) has said “we will be investing in the millions, we will make noise in the market around this station”. The 'Smooth' marketing details were released yesterday (here).

By contrast, the Classic Rock format was not marketed at launch, and was given one modest marketing campaign 6 months in. This provided Triple M and WS/Gold with time to block, and subsequently blunt, the flanking strategy of Classic Rock.

DMG won’t make this mistake again, and appear to be investing in significant, and consistent, marketing on the Smooth brand. Tick.

Execution

The execution of Smooth will be excellent. DMG have experienced and passionate people putting the stations together on the ground at 95.3 and 91.5, and they will execute the Smooth brand very well. Expect the two programmers charged with execution of the strategy - Rohan Brown and Mark Robinson to be all over these stations like a rash. Tick.

Corporate Support

The commitment from the group executive will be absolute, because it can’t fail. Cathy O’Connor (below), and the rest of the DMG group executive, will be strongly supportive of the brand in every possible way, and it will be given the resources it requires to succeed. Tick.

 

Whilst the lack of a Breakfast show will limit the ratings upside of the brands, it is highly likely the planning and budgeting of the 'Smooths' evolution involves bringing in a Breakfast Show in each market for 2013.

Each of the elements discussed is within DMG’s control, and expect them to be very well executed.

However, there is one factor that will contribute to the success or failure of Smooth in a material way, and it lies outside DMG's sphere of influence:

The Space Between the Ears

A new brand is fighting for the ‘space between the ears’. It is fighting to own a position in the mind of the listener. This is the greatest challenge the Smooth brand will face.

ARN's Mix stations, irrespective of what they currently do, dominate the ‘easy/smooth/soft’ image in the listeners mind, so it is not a stretch to adjust the execution of their music position slightly to blunt the Smooth flanking attack. 

However the more fundamental question is whether ARN will adjust how Mix positions itself to further blunt the flanking move from Smooth. We will see.

There is no doubt that ARN will use Mix (particularly), but also Gold and WS, to block the Smooth position. They don’t need to mirror what Smooth does, and nor should they: they just need to blur it enough so that the new entrant is squeezed.

This is good defense.

And this illustrates why the strategic entry point for Smooth is critical. They need to ‘overcommit’ to the position, and the positioning, to such an extent that they are clearly the softest signal in the market – not in radio people’s minds, but in the listener’s mind. DMG will know this.

Any observer, or participant, who suggests that the incumbent stations will not block the Smooth flanking attack is wrong. The incumbents will play defense, and they should. That’s good strategy.

So will Smooth be successful?

Clearly it is premature to answer that question until we see how DMG implement what is within their control - but expect it done very well - and how the defensive game is played by ARN - equally, expect that done very well.

It will be interesting to watch.

I hope Smooth is successful.There are some very good people on the floor in those two radio stations who have had a tough time for a long time. They deserve success. And the industry needs strong radio stations.

A successful ‘Smooth’ would be a good outcome.

 

Dan Bradley is Executive Director of Kaizen Media; a boutique international radio consulting and artist management company, working with radio stations, media talent and music artists.

You can contact Dan here.

 

Published on Friday, 18 May 2012 06:00



Chris Rieger(7:43am 18 May 2012)
There's nothing more exciting than a relaunch and the early signs are positive for dmg. The marketing from what we've seen so far is spot on and sends a clear message as to what the station is/will be. It's just a shame that other areas may've suffered as a result ie. News. I do hope there are some subtle differences between Sydney and Melbourne though as they are two very different markets and the one size fits all approach doesn't always work as we've seen in the past. It'll be interesting to see what ARN does in those markets. Bring on Monday morning and best of luck to those involved.
rob mccasker(8:49am 18 May 2012)
Great piece Dan. Insightful and clearly demonstrates what thought and skill is required to successfully launch a radio station. Gone are the days of 'build it and they will come' Good luck to all at Smooth including Pers, Ed and Browny
Mark C. van Laarhoven(9:02am 18 May 2012)
In the highly fragmented markets that are Sydney and Melbourne, there is a place for this format if it is executed well and reflective of the individual characteristics of each. Definitely opens up some sweet spots in a revenue sense too. Great article.
the outsider(9:23am 18 May 2012)
ARN must be disappointed their MIX streams aren't in a stronger position in time for for this dmg launch. Despite heavy and (in my opinion) questionable marketing for both breakfast shows, MIX Syd and Melb aren't growing commensurate with $$ spent. The gap is therefore wide open for Smooth something ARN will need to obviously will need to defend without having great strength. It will be very interesting to sit back and watch this unfold. Excellent and thought provoking reading btw
Anonymous(11:05am 18 May 2012)
Agree on the issues for ARN and MIX who in Melbourne at least sound like the FOX musically but lack the spark. Sounds like Smooth will offer something unique to the market ... dare I say they will sound different??!!
Scott Muller(14:50pm 18 May 2012)
Not only very positive news that this format is launching after so many years of industry-wide discussion ... it's also a very positive yet ironic omen that an artist who got his first Oz airplay on Smooth's sister station, Nova 969, is now doing the Smooth TVC. (The song was Buble's cover of the Spiderman theme tune).

Bodes well.
Keith Fowler(17:04pm 18 May 2012)
Seems the new place to relax will be for everybody except the staff at smooth and DMG senior management and quite possibly the ARN staff and Mix and Gold staff who may not be that relaxed when they're listening to it.
Johnny lonely(17:31pm 18 May 2012)
What in gods name is Keith Fowler talking about?! The man speaketh in riddles!
IAN WRIGHT(8:33am 19 May 2012)
Nova started with their no more than 2 ads in a row policy and later exited the promise. I wonder what the SMOOTH policy is AND what their accept/reject policy is on loud, over the top ads. Do they knock back the revenue ?, re-record spots in their preferred style (at cost or no-charge initially ?)or do they accept what they don't have control over from Agencies ? There's also a wonderful opportunity for LIVE SELL spots to work very well on SMOOTH. But,do they have the announcers who can effectively SELL NOT TELL ? Time WILL tell and I wish DMG success with ratings & revenue. Mind you, although many will disagree, revenue can still be healthy without big ratings, it's all about connecting effectively/efficiently with who you have, as opposed to those who haven't discovered you yet !
Lee Cornell(11:34am 19 May 2012)
Great points Dan; and as you note, execution is going to be key in the equation. "SMOOTH", "LITE", "MAGIC" etc brands do very well in highly competitive major markets elsewhere in the world and the format/brand is long overdue to stake a claim with audience in Australia; and not just morph into "AC"/"CLASSIC HITS" territory. Formats tend to end up sitting a bit wider downunder by comparison with say the U.S. Again, as you note SMOOTH has to be on top of that as a brand; particularly in the build; and will be. There's big opportunity and revenue in the position,the BUBLE thing is a very cool start... and with the right air talent...
Anonymous(8:53am 21 May 2012)
Biased article much? It stinks of Dan Bradley sucking up to DMG. How about a perspective from someone with no vested interest?
dan(9:22am 21 May 2012)
'Anonymous', I'm not sure why you believe I have a vested interest. I can assure you that I don't. And nor do I 'suck up' to anyone, DMG or otherwise.

The article represented my perspective. And was written with no objective aside from giving my viewpoint.

You can agree or disagree with my observations (and clearly DMG disagree given how they have launched Smooth today), however to suggest I have written an article biased towards DMG, or anyone, indicates that you don't know me at all.
Jason McLean(11:59am 21 May 2012)
Good response Dan.....can't see how you were biased there, maybe anonymous doesn't think much of DMG. Seems to me Smooth have done their homework and launched these stations better than Classic Rock/Vega etc. It'll be tough, but I don't think it'll impact WS or Mix, Smooth have a unique brand that should draw a niche audience. I think the 40-55 demographic, especially females will be their strongest reach, lots of potential revenue there.

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