When radio promotions go wrong, they often go very, very wrong. Remember the promotion in Sacramento last year at KDND, when a woman died from water intoxication following “Hold Your Wee for a Wii?” Of course there’s the infamous WKRP Thanksgiving turkey drop promotion. The sad and laughable promotion at the ficticious WKRP, where the lovable but dimwitted GM Arthur Carlson thought that live turkeys dropped from a helicopter would be a good idea on turkey day. Who cold ever forget Carlson’s shocked quip when the turkeys started cascading to the ground in a mass homicidal avian horror? “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!”
Yep, there have been some really bad radio promotions. This afternoon I noticed that The Wolf in Denver has launched a cute promotion to have fun with the upcoming Democratic Convention in Denver. The Rocky Mountain News is reporting The Wolf is changing its name from The Jackass for the duration of the Democratic convention. According to Don Howe, VP market manager and self-proclaimed “chief jackass,” The Wolf is hoping to “burro the competition.”
On first glance the promotion seems harmless and cute. I’m sure whoever came up with the idea, thought “wow, this is brilliant.” Sure the jackass idea is clever, will get them a bit of press and make everyone at the station and the core listener’s smile. I just hope by the time the cuteness of the promotion buzz wears off, some programmer at the CBS group will figure out that this idea is wrong, very wrong.
As anyone with any experience in branding will tell you, keeping your brand secure is really, really important. The Wolf has undoubtedly spent countless thousands of dollars advertising its brand, endless hours training its jocks to say “The Wolf” as the first thing out of their mouths, hired an Imaging Director to create an aural brand built around the station name, a Promotions Director to build visibility of The Wolf brand, driving home “The Wolf” over and over again. Branding The Wolf into the minds of its listeners, in hopes that they will write down The Wolf in an Arbitron Diary. Then some marketing genus comes along and brainstorms this cute little promotion to undo all that hard work and confuse its listeners by changing the name of the station for a few days. Successful companies hold their brand dear to their heart, and do anything and everything to protect it. Could you imagine Apple Computer, The New York Times, Coke or any company changing its name for a few days because it was cute and could get them some press? Not a chance. Someone please send the dingbat who came up with this idea back to his sales office and don’t ever let him or her down the hall again.
I did listen to the stream of The Wolf today, and thank God, their still calling themselves The Wolf. So either the station management decided it was a bad idea, they haven’t instituted the promotion yet or someone in corporate heard about the idea and threw a hissy fit. Thank God. Just a little piece of advice for all the amateur Program and Promotions Directors out there thinking of trying something like this; you only change the name of your radio station if you’re going to actually change the format of the radio station. Besides, wouldn’t “The Broncos” have been a better name anyway?