Creative Scriptwriting and Copywriting

London calling

In copywriting, scriptwriting, writing on September 14, 2010 at 11:10 am

The hardest naming exercise I’ve ever done wasn’t inventing a character or branding a product, it was naming my own children. You have all the same challenges, like avoiding market confusion or narrative ambiguity, but with the added pressure that your offspring will never let you forget if you screw it up. (I always liked the name Thomas for a boy, until I figured out that lumbering a child with the name Thomas Cook might be difficult in the playground).

There is the modern temptation to invent a word. This can work well in the corporate sphere, but should be resisted for your little ones. Imagine the mental state of the parents who imaginatively named their first born Cushelle on the day they discovered that Charmin toilet rolls were rebranding.

Good names aren’t easy. But you recognise them when you see them:

James Bond. Tesco. Capital Radio.

James Bond is a great character name. British – even specifically Scottish. Solid – bonded. Dependable -“My word is my…”. Believable – James Bond is a long way from Jack Steel or Steve Power.

Tesco is a great brand name. Simple. Devoid of external meaning. Lending itself to a thousand brand extensions, from clothing to insurance to mobile phones, as well as baked beans and sliced bread. Tesco is an eighty year-old name that sounds like a contemporary online brand. Which is probably why it also works as a massive contemporary online brand.

Capital Radio – later Capital FM, 95.8 Capital FM, Capital 95.8, and Capital Radio again, but always for its listeners just Capital – is a great name.

Launched in 1973, Capital Radio was the UK’s first commercial music station. The Capital name places the station firmly at the centre of things. This isn’t just local radio, it’s London radio.  The association with capital meaning money helps the smell of high finance and commercialism cling to the brand, and in an era where UK broadcasting, and especially UK radio, was dominated by the BBC, alluding to being a bit of a showbiz wheeler-dealer marked it as modern, dynamic and powerful. It’s surely no coincidence that Capital’s greatest commercial success came in the late 80s and early 90s, when the City was booming, Chris Tarrant trousered millions for the breakfast show and Doctor Fox cranked out the hits on the big drive home. Capital meant London – or at least one kind of big, brassy, shouty, Del Boy London.

At the end of the century, as new competition blossomed, the station started a long slump in the ratings. But research showed Londoners really wanted to like Capital. The name still meant something, even if the product wasn’t quite the London-focussed hit music offer that it promised. More recently, ratings have grown again after a long period of decline, as the station has focused on playing loads of truly terrible Autotuned r’n’b-lite on high rotation (Full disclosure: I am 42 years old) and packing lots and lots of London in between the hits.

Which makes yesterday’s announcement in the media press a little odd.

From January, Global Radio is rebranding its Galaxy network of dance/urban music stations, as well as four hit music stations now broadcasting under fiercely local heritage radio names,  as Capital FM.

The commercial logic in cutting costs, sharing programmes and building a national brand seems sound, even if  the anorak within me is crying inside at what’s effectively the end of local commercial radio in places like Nottingham, Leicester and Cardiff.

But the name? I hope they’ve focus-grouped it.

Capital FM, Manchester? Capital FM, Birmingham? Capital FM, East Midlands?

Capital FM from Cardiff kind of works, although it replaces the obviously Welsh Red Dragon FM. But Capital FM in central Scotland will serve both the capital, Edinburgh, and very proudly-and-defiantly-not-the-capital-at-all, Glasgow.

Surely it’s a recipe for market confusion. Capital means London, as a word and as a brand. It seems to me a bit as if, when ITV dropped its regional brands – Granada, Central, Tyne Tees and all – instead of calling their network ITV1, they had called it Thames Television.

My own focus group on the school run were disappointed. “Trent FM is cool,” says the eleven year old.  But then can you trust the opinion of someone with the same name as a toilet roll?

  1. The biggest problem is that Capital FM is too strongly associated with London and has no meaning whatsoever for people living in Birmingham, Manchester etc. As people on other sites have suggested, using Galaxy as the network name (making Capital FM become Galaxy London, for instance) would further build what is already a well-known and loved brand even stronger – and avoid anger from people feeling that London is forcing something on them or saying “Capital FM Birmingham? Ya’ what. Isn’t that London’s radio station?”

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