If Hank Williams Jr. is “Extreme” You Need a Better Hook

Posted on October 5, 2011


When I took over KXPK in Denver the station was having an identity crisis.

In an effort to drive a wedge into Clear Channel’s cluster of rock stations the management team had put Howard Stern on in morning drive.

Then they discovered the other 19 hours of the day needed good programming too.

My first suggestion, which should surprise no one, was call the station “Extreme Radio.”

And I got shot down.

Somebody at corporate was afraid that we would have to do “extreme” things to live up to the name and would end up causing a lot of trouble.

I’ll never forget the analogy they used to explain their decision, “It would be like calling a station ‘Guns 107.5.’ Eventually you will have to shoot somebody.”

I argued the name was simply imaging; smoke and mirrors to give the station a specific position in the listener’s mind.

Today I’m not sure that would be true.

Today everything is branded as “extreme.”

Razors, digital cameras, cold medicine, you name it there’s an extreme version of it.

Meanwhile, ESPN is forced to rest, if not outright retire, Hank Williams Jr.’s Monday Night Football theme after the singer described House Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama playing golf  as being similar to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu playing 18 holes with Hitler. You can see the video here.

Add those two factors up and you can see that being “extreme” today would clearly require more than just smoke and mirrors.

Let’s face it, when dandruff shampoos have “extreme” ingredients and country singers don’t hesitate to compare the President of the United States to one of the most awful people to ever walk the planet, it’s going to take more than just a good slogan, production and a few moderately edgy promotions to be “extreme.”

And in many ways I’m glad that’s over.

With everything the audience is exposed to today just being more shocking than the next guy is no longer a viable strategy.

To stand out in the listener’s mind today it takes content.

Real, valuable, unique content.

Thoughts, opinions and information that add something to the existing dialog and can only be found on your show.

If you aren’t delivering that on a daily basis you are going to have a tough time standing out from the crowd.

Of course if you need help finding your voice and standing out from the din, I’d suggest hiring a good mechanic.