Lessons from one of Australia’s biggest media rebrands

Southern Cross Austereo's head of marketing and communications, Nikki Clarkson, reflects on the challenges and lessons from one of Australian media's biggest rebrands.

In 2011, Southern Cross Media Group and Austereo merged to become Southern Cross Austereo.

At the time, I recall being equally excited as I was daunted by the task ahead. Our business had gone from a clearly defined and marketable radio enterprise, to a diverse multimedia giant. Meanwhile, I had gone from living and breathing 10 radio stations under two well defined radio networks, to grappling with more than 90 stations in a new amalgamated portfolio.

In 2016, a new national brand strategy and architecture was bought in aligning all SCA radio stations either Hit or Triple M. The plan would affect 67 brands, 40 markets and 1,115 line items, making it the largest rebrand in Australian media history.

At the project’s completion in December 2016, you could have practically hear a sigh of relief reverberating from SCA offices right around the country. The task had required incredible planning, collaboration and manpower.

In terms of volume of deliverables and reach of impact, rebranding all SCA’s regional stations was by far the biggest project I’ve ever been a part of, and one of the most rewarding. Here’s what I learnt:

Great brands are everything – get them right and handle with care

I’ve always been a firm believer that great brands can lift a business, and this experience is testament to that. I have been with SCA for more than 10 years and I believe we are the strongest we have ever been, and the strength of our national portfolio is an important contributing factor.

Call me biased, but I truly feel there is something unique and special about Hit and Triple M – they unite people.

When a family come from somewhere like Wagga to the footy at the MCG and see “Triple M Rocks Footy” signage right around the stadium, they see their local station– Triple M Riverina. It’s our hope that this generates a sense of great pride and community spirit among our listeners.

The fact you can now go on a road trip from Brisbane to Townsville and listen to the Hit Network the entire time is fantastic. It’s familiar, it’s constant and everyone knows what they can expect; great content, exceptional shows and the best music.

Great brands are also constant work! It would be a colossal mistake to create something exceptional and expect it to stay that way without constant review and concerted effort. Our challenge is to keep growing and evolving with our brands for our listeners and delivering music, content and national and local experiences that connect with them.

Resilience is key – pace yourself

With a project of this size, it can be easy to become overwhelmed, lose sight of the end goal, or feel despondent when things deviate off track.

It’s important to plan meticulously in the beginning. This will help you foresee potential obstacles and establish a series of micro-goals, allowing you to celebrate “little wins” along the way.

Also, know when to ask for help. The successful execution of this project rested on the collective strength of our people. Have a clear vision and get everyone on board – you’ll need them!

Timing is everything – be patient and communicate well.

Generally speaking, marketers are people who like to get in there, roll up their sleeves and start ironing out the kinks. When it comes to brands, we have the ability recognise issues and start conceptualising solutions, but it’s important not to get ahead of ourselves. Timing is absolutely everything.

Plan meticulously and wait for the right moment

Our loyal listeners needed time to adjust to the idea of a new station. For many, the brands we intended to change had been around for entire lifetimes and played a part in the every day; they had been there on every weekday commute, over the sound system at work, and murmuring away in the background in many of life’s big moments. We were acutely aware of how nostalgically valuable they were. If executed correctly, we could win the support and loyalty of listeners, and if executed incorrectly, we could leave a very bitter taste indeed.

In the months leading up to the switch, we relied heavily on our content experts to use our radio stations to promote ‘a change was coming’, and they did this exceptionally well. Nationwide competitions and on-air promotions slowly built affinity with communities and conjured excitement.

At midnight December 15, we pressed go and began to roll over all 67 stations and haven’t looked back.

Keep evolving – simplify further, build equity with sub brands and brand extensions

As I mentioned earlier, great brands take work and we must continually look to evolve and do better.

We continue to grow the Hit and Triple M networks with the addition of new and exciting events, experiences and digital radio stations, while also ensuring our proposition remains clear and succinct.

One example of this at SCA is RnB Fridays. What started out as a fun programming idea has since become one of our most powerful sub-brands that is worshipped by listeners.

We recognised an opportunity to extend RnB Fridays by creating live events around the country, where listeners could immerse themselves in RnB music culture. We are now into our third year of RnB Fridays Live and will this year will run our second RnB Vinedays series.

We feel there’s still so much more we can do with RnB Fridays and have lots of exciting plans for the future!

Enjoy the journey, share the success

Enjoy the ride. Every project, no matter how big or small, will come to an end eventually, so see it as an opportunity to learn and grow.

Extrapolate as much from the experience as possible, acknowledge the small wins along the way, and when the work is done, take a moment to celebrate what you’ve accomplished with everyone who helped along the way.

Nikki Clarkson is SCA’s head of marketing and communications.


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