Fever FM's faux shutdown for rebranding prompts industry experts to question the tactic's credibility.
The CEO's announcement strategy raises debates on the appropriateness of marketing stunts.
Industry voices criticise the gimmicky approach, questioning the need for sensationalism.
Experts say the elaborate charade prompts ethical scrutiny and highlights potential creative lethargy.
Recently, HT Media Group’s Fever FM, sent shockwaves through its audience by announcing a shutdown, only to reveal a strategic rebranding exercise shortly afterwards. The CEO, Ramesh Menon, took to LinkedIn to share the news, attributing the decision to evolving trends in the media industry and hinting at the perceived decline of the radio sector.
The initial announcement garnered mixed reactions, with some expressing genuine sorrow at the apparent loss of their beloved radio station. However, astute observers on LinkedIn were quick to point out similar tactics employed by job search site Monster.com during its rebranding to 'foundit,' in November 2022.
Menon later addressed the audience again, this time unveiling the campaign Purana Radio ab Khatam (Old Radio is now over) and introducing the refreshed version of Fever FM with the tagline Happening Hai (It's Happening). The faux demise, however, has triggered discussions on the ethical implications of such marketing tactics.
Industry voices weighed in on the matter, expressing divergent opinions on the appropriateness of Fever FM's deceptive manoeuvre.
Why even go this route?
Neeraj Sharma, former senior vice president, strategy at L&K Saatchi and Saatchi, acknowledges the long-standing tradition of using stunts in communication but cautioned about the potential negative impact.
He says, “There are many types of stunts marketers pull. Some that leave us jaw-dropped, some that make us smile or chuckle, and some that leave a bad taste in the mouth. What marketers need to carefully consider is that there is always a danger that consumers might not take such exercises lightly and it's definitely not the best way to create disruption.”
While Sharma believes that the trick doesn’t necessarily result in a monetary mishap, if the ploy isn’t quickly revealed then the reputational risks can loom large. He says, “The impact on revenue is too far-fetched. But if left for long it can have an impact on the brand’s image and perception. Or even worse, consumers might not even bother. And that one should be worried about.”
Sharma isn’t the only one feeling that such marketing trickery can land brands on the wrong side of consumer preferences. Ashraf Engineer, head of brand strategy at Ideosphere, deems the move gimmicky, emphasising that it raises doubts about the brand's credibility.
He states, “The objective was obviously to create as much of a buzz as possible. The move, however, is gimmicky and to my mind, it has more cons than pros. When the audience realises it has been had, it’s not going to walk away with a very favourable view of the brand. Also, to my mind, it raises questions over whether to believe the brand’s messages in the future.”
Whoever executed the campaign would probably claim that they achieved the objective of making people take notice. However, I’m not sure it’s the kind of attention they should be seeking. It reeks of desperation.Ashraf Engineer, head of brand strategy at Ideosphere
The brand clearly wanted to create as much talk as it possibly could. So, in that sense, did the entire charade meet the goal set out by the minds behind it? Engineer says, “Whoever executed the campaign would probably claim that they achieved the objective of making people take notice. However, I’m not sure it’s the kind of attention they should be seeking. It reeks of desperation.”
Also, what impact has it had on the CEO's reputation? You don’t often see the head of the company stepping in front of the limelight ready to take the loyal audiences on a ride.
Engineer opines, “He announced it, which meant he was the medium of the misleading that happened. I suppose, at the end of the day, you can offer creative liberty as a justification but is misleading audiences ever justified? I’m not sure it is and, more importantly, I’m not sure it works as a marketing tactic.”
Gimmick or a creative deficit?
The elaborate rebranding charade not only raises ethical concerns but also underscores a potential creative lethargy. Resorting to deceptive tactics, even in a playful manner, suggests a lack of innovative and authentic approaches to engage audiences. This theatrical exercise appears as a shortcut to grab attention, as per Tarun Singh Chauhan, partner, TSC Consulting.
He explains, “I think marketing is fairly simple. You create a proposition and sell the story. But some people want to dramatise it. These are all high-impact one-day stories to create some buzz. I just find these gimmicks to be a waste of money.”
You have your own platform. Your own reach. Hire a good creative agency and run a proper campaign for six months letting people know what your new identity is. Why introduce such elements of drama?Tarun Singh Chauhan, partner, TSC Consulting
For Chauhan, the entire schtick makes no sense in the way the rebranding was introduced. For a radio station that has its own audience, and its own platform, the need for sensationalism is redundant.
“You have your own platform. Your own reach. Hire a good creative agency and run a proper campaign for six months letting people know what your new identity is. Why introduce such elements of drama?”
Samit Sinha, who is the founder and managing partner at Alchemist Brand Consulting, says that the temptation of brands to resort to gimmicks in the competitive marketing landscape can backfire and lead to consumer backlash.
Especially when under the guise of a 'creative licence', brands resort to stunts that are too clever by half to gain instant publicity. These gimmicks often stray too close to the boundaries of ethicalitySamit Sinha, founder and managing partner, Alchemist Brand Consulting
He says, “Oftentimes, these are just gimmicks for the sake of gimmickry, which have no connection with the brand per se and are therefore not in the best long-term interests. Such instances can even immediately backfire by the brand’s inability to read the room, so to speak.”
While the brand might have been able to generate some conversations about the rebrand, the risks far outweigh the rewards, as per Sinha. He adds, “Especially when under the guise of a 'creative licence,' brands resort to stunts that are too clever by half to gain instant publicity. These gimmicks often stray too close to the boundaries of ethicality, legality and decency, and are therefore occasionally vulnerable to action by regulatory and legal authorities.”