My friend and radio colleague, Steve Jones, is one smart observer of all things rock n' roll. By day, he serves as VP of Brands and Content for Newcap Radio – owner of 101 radio stations across Canada.
But his “side hustle” is fascinating – Steve is the author of Brand Like A Rock Star and Start Me Up – two popular books that have made him a star on the speaking circuit. Many of you have undoubtedly seen Steve at radio and music events, but he has expanded his repertoire to helping businesses and brands use lessons from rock n' roll to improve their marketing prowess.
So if anyone understands radio, marketing, and the rock culture, it's Steve Jones. He recently shared a memo with me he sent to his team, lamenting why so many great radio stations don't capitalize on their heritage and brand strength by designing and creating great looking wearables.
Sadly, many broadcasters have thrown up the white flag – or white T-shirt – when it comes to merch, incorrectly assuming modern-day listeners won't spend $20 for a cool piece of station gear.
Steve cites the generally poor quality, dated look of most radio station wearables. He points the finger at poor-fitting shirts, as well as “cheap suppliers and cheap fabrics,” as explanations for why most audience members don't value or desire traditional station merch.
But the photo at the top of this post – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sporting a CHOM 97.7 T-shirt with his young son over Father's Day was the impetus for Jones' memo to his station programmers.
It's a captures a moment in time that exudes fun, family – and radio. Long before he entered government, Justin grew up in Montreal, cutting his teeth on great rock n' roll from the legendary CHOM. And just like most members of your station's audience, he is still intensely proud to wear his team colors, symbolizing who he is and the music he still loves.
In his memo, Steve points to Detroit-native John Varvatos, a brilliant fashion designer who specializes in rock n' roll fashion. Varvatos packs fans of his clothing lines into his 24 stores all over the world, including a new addition in rising downtown Detroit.
Varvatos' shirts look, feel, and fit great. And for that privilege, fans pay as much as $100 to wear them. Don't even start pricing out Varvatos' suits, shoes, pants, and other accessories. His customers stand in line to pay big money to show off his cool rock n' roll fashions in London, Malibu, Manhattan, South Beach, and Moscow.
Steve pointed out to me the CHOM shirt Justin Trudeau is wearing is a throwback. In the same way that just about every pro sports team has now brought back retro uniforms, jerseys, and hats, a handful of stations I've worked with over the years have done the same with T-shirts.
97Rock in Buffalo (hmm…close to Canada) is one of them. A number of years ago, PD John Hager ordered up shirts with the original logo on the front and the current logo on the back. They couldn't keep them in stock.
Not every radio station can leverage its heritage, its cache, and its brand to cash in on its time in grade in Boston, Bakersfield, or Brownsville. But the truly iconic stations – whether they're rock, country, alternative, hip-hop, or public radio – have that special sauce – nostalgia – that can power the sales of merch.
As we've pointed out in past blog posts, it's not just about extending the brand's visibility in the market. It's about adding much-needed non-traditional revenue to sagging bottom lines.
The truly great companies have learned that leveraging their strengths goes well beyond selling ads and sponsorships. Multi-dimensional brands know that fans don't just do business with them – they're proud to show off their great taste in music…and radio.
Even the country's popular Prime Minister.
As Steve wraps up his staff memo:
“Nobody wears our shirts. That's mostly true. And it's mostly our own damn fault.”
Special congratulations to 97Rock PD of more than three decades, John Hager, one of the finest programmers in the land. John was recently named as an inductee in the Buffalo Broadcasters Hall of Fame, class of 2018.
Jacobs Media has consistently walked the walk in the digital space, providing insights and guidance through its well-read national Techsurveys.
In 2008, jacapps was launched - a mobile apps company that has designed and built more than 1,200 apps for both the Apple and Android platforms. In 2013, the DASH Conference was created - a mashup of radio and automotive, designed to foster better understanding of the "connected car" and its impact.
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Fred was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2018.