An evolution not a revolution: The Rock sharpens up its logo after 27 years

After nearly three decades on air, The Rock's had a facelift with a new logo. Gone is the squiggly text and in its place, a slick, modern approach in the familiar black and red colouring.​ We talk to the station's content director Brad King about how the new logo represents 27 years of evolution while retaining its tongue in cheek irreverent humour.

By Erin McKenzie | July 27, 2018 | news

It was 1 December 1991 The Rock began broadcasting in Hamilton as The Rock 93FM with a rough around the edges logo to represent the brand.

Content director Brad King explains the roughly drawn 'The Rock FM' was the result of the logo being hand drawn before being faxed to management for approval. Those original squiggly lines made it all the way to the finished product.  

But after 27 years of the station naturally progressing with the times, it’s time for the logo to follow suit.

The red and black colour scheme remains, while the squiggly lines have been swapped out for a slicker ‘The Rock'.

The original logo, the new logo

The change in font reflects the fact life inevitably changes, King says.

“Technology changes, lineups change and music changes. If you keep the same thing going for an eternity it gets boring.

“The Rock is an evolution, not a revolution.”

Brad King

But why now for a change? After nearly 25 years with The Rock, King says it’s taken him the last few years to find the right time for the new lick of paint, and the strong end to 2017 opened an opportunity.

“In a position of strength, it’s been easier to change and tweak.”

Looking at the GfK radio survey results, the most recent survey from earlier this month shows its total cumulative New Zealand audience (10+) was down 9,800 to 419,100 listeners each week.

Looking across the regions, it gained listeners in nine out of 12 markets and was the outright number one station in Dunedin, Taranaki and Southland.

The most recent survey follows two surveys of growth with the first survey of 2018 showing its total cumulative New Zealand audience (10+)  increased 1,200 to 428,900 and the last survey of 2017 showed an increase of 1,000 to 427,700.

Based on the results of the most recent survey, its biggest audience is in the 25-54 age group with 264,200 listeners tuning in. Meanwhile the station has 41,400 listeners in its lowest demographic, people aged 55-74.

In its target demographic 25-44, the station was number one for share.

Painting a more detailed of a picture of The Rock’s audience, King says it has a massive audience of males in blue-collar and tradie professions but 40 percent of those tuning in are female.

A religious following

Despite a new logo after 27 years being a significant change for the station, King says it won’t be going out to audiences to announce the new look. Instead, the new logo will make itself known through the promotion of the Rock 1500 countdown, an annual promotion he says is a massive part of its audience’s lives.

“It’s the perfect timing to do something with the logo,” he says. “Listenership increases, the audience is engaged and we spend a lot of money marketing it.”

Coinciding with the return, next week a ‘Rock Is Our Religion’ campaign will kick off, starring Shihad frontman Jon Toogood dressed in full cassock and collar. He’ll appear alongside the station’s announcers who confess their many and varied sins.

“For this campaign we wanted to showcase just how powerful the listeners’ passion and dedication is, which is why we went with ‘Rock Is Our Religion’,” says King. “We know that religion, in its various forms, is something that shares a similar dedicated following to rock music. The Rock may be known for our tongue in cheek irreverent humour but this campaign is purely about the music.”

Keeping true to its tone

Despite the new, slicker look, King says that tongue in cheek irreverent humour won’t be going anywhere. It’s still the station’s essence, however in saying that, he does point out that over the last 27 years there’s been room to evolve and tackle topics of a more serious nature.

An example of this is the discussion of mental health, one he says Bryce Casey on The Morning Rumble is particularly passionate about.

“Fifteen to 20 years ago, we would have said ‘harden up’, but in this day and age, The Morning Rumble have been passionate about mental health and raising awareness about it.

The audience gets in behind it 100 percent.”

Last year, Casey and Roger Farrelly (Rog) raised the topic of suicide with Amercian musicians Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins following the deaths of musicians Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington. The result has been described by The Rock as “the most raw and most real conversation” it’s been a part of.

The move to open up talk about mental health is one of the “very cool things” King sees when looking back over his years with the station.

He joined The Rock as a self-described “young, long-haired bogan” when it was still a Hamilton local. Farrelly had been on the air for two years at that stage and together, they moved the station to Auckland before expanding it nationwide.

Asked for other highlights, King only has to look as far back as this year’s Radio Awards where Thane Kirby and Duncan Heyde from The Rock Drive won Best Music Non-Breakfast Team.

King says the win is no mean feat after only a year working together.

One of the pair’s promotions has also been a high point for King, with the pair flying out to Mauritius last month to undertake a search for MH370.

They'd seen the search efforts of Australian Peter McMahon, who had images of suspected wreckage and posted conspiracy theories on social media and wanted to see it for themselves.

McMahon shared the coordinates with Kirby and a Give-a-little page was set up to raise $35,000 for the expedition ­­– a goal they achieved.

Looking back, alongside the highs there are also some moments King thinks: “We probably shouldn’t have done that.”

One of those is the ‘Win a Wife’ competition, which saw winner Greg Morgan fly to Ukraine to choose a bride from an agency.

However, the promotion did not go down well.

Former Green MP and social activist Sue Bradford was one of many who criticised the competition, telling Stuff: “It is unusual and somewhat disturbing that a commercial entity would commercialise what should be one of the most meaningful human relationships and actually offer it as a prize for a radio show," she said.

"It's really taking commercial radio to new depths."

She joined many in thinking it should be pulled.

Years on, former Rock Drive announcer Jono Pryor says in the video celebrating the rebrand: “If you tried it in this current climate it would not go down well."

Going digital

Alongside The Rock’s own natural evolution, the rise of digital has forced the radio station to branch out from behind the mic.

King says its stepped up the change with additions to the team who specialise in digital content as well as cameras added to the studios to get video content to share.

“Social media, in particular, is huge these days,” he says. "We have come along leaps and bounds and serve digital as much as radio to the audience.”

King makes a special shout out to host Jim Cawthorn, who he calls a “hidden gem” who loves performing in front of the camera.

“If you are not in that game you are not going to win. People love video content and digital is a massive part of The Rock.”

Turns out "as long as you pay for it" has some limitations.

A post shared by The Rock (@therockfm) on

Rock on

Having adapted to the digital changes, the rock music world in which The Rock operates is also throwing up its own challenges for stations of the genre to overcome.

King says rock music is not as prolific as it once was, and as a result, there have been rock stations overseas that have reformatted to more popular genres like pop.

Last year, Nielsen’s US Music Mid-Year Report 2017 showed hip-hop and R&B had overtaken rock music as the most popular genre in the country for the first time, according to Kulture Hub.

In New Zealand, a similar trend can be seen when looking at the GfK radio results, which show Mai FM (up 15,800 to 454,700 listeners in the most recent survey) and Flava (up 14,100 to 210,700) are on the way up compared to their contemporary music competitors.

The Edge dropped 18,300 listeners to 621,500 while ZM gaining just 2,100 to 504,800.

The Rock was down 9,800 to 419,100 listeners and Radio Hauraki was down 6,200 to 281,500.

However, rock music has a sign of hope in New Zealand's young music students.

This year’s Smokefree Rockquest saw a record 859 entries, with approximately 2800 young musicians competing at regional heats and finalists across the country.

King also has a positive outlook about The Rock's future, saying its approach to have fun and not take life too seriously will keep the station providing an escape from daily life well into the future.

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