The power of niche positioning for regional radio brands

By Phinda Magwaza

The positioning of a brand as ‘niche’ is ultimately a marketer’s dream – it gives clarity within a sphere of focus and allows for the opportunity to delve into the core insights of a known market. In time, a niche position builds a trusted level of familiarity as it establishes emotional buy in from the target market.

Our sales colleagues may argue against just a singular niche strategy, as it might be susceptible to market saturation and maybe even a restricted pool within which to on-sell to advertisers and seek growth. But the marketer’s role, though, is always to take care not to succumb to the pressures of just delivering a bottom line in isolation of a sustainable, long-term brand building exercise.

People trust experts. Experts become trendsetters, because of their focus on one specific market or discipline. This has also largely been the underlying success factor of ALS stations. The very same mantra is applicable to a niche, regional radio station’s strategy.

Never before has it been easier to deviate from a positioning of niche, with social media and the growth of digital, the consumption of content by a host of different audiences is now done with the speed of a click… but brands still need to resist the urge of becoming everything to everyone. Niche is indeed a long game strategy.

The brand narrative of Gagasi FM is clearly indicative of the fact that the niche model works. Know your audience! Then get to know them even better, and offer them authentic content through mediums that resonate with them. Through niche positioning, Gagasi FM has managed to grow exponentially and simultaneously establish an upward course that peaks each time a brand building exercise is executed.

Gagasi FM has firmly established itself as a niche brand – niche by location, niche by interest and niche by the community which it serves. And it’s important to truly understand that there is still a substantial amount of growth that can be achieved within the aforementioned realms.

If we take location, there are still pockets of growth that can be realised through increased provincial reach, but success in this avenue is heavily reliant on authentic engagement. It is for this reason that Gagasi is fast becoming the amplified voice of a broader community deeply rooted in a traditional influence, but acknowledging that individual growth will come from alignment with aspirational and global perspectives.

The value Gagasi FM offers its consumers

Gagasi FM’s on-air offering talks directly to the market through targeted content, news, music and on the ground activations.

Our strategy over the years has been to grow young talent from within our ranks. These are mostly KZN born, young people who have grown to be influential figures not only behind the mic, but also broadly within the entertainment space. This makes our talent very relatable. Our consumers can identify their own hopes and aspirations in our presenters.

The advertising game: Local brands vs national brands

We are living in a diversified country and the reality is that demographics differ from one province to another. Similarly, it is very important to note that what resonates with the black audience also varies according to regions and lifestyle outlook. This means that in driving advertising messages effectively, you can’t ignore provincial demographics, whether you are a local or a national brand. Therefore, regional stations are the most effective vehicle for both local and national brands.

Brands with a national footprint need to understand their market share in regions. What works in Johannesburg and Cape Town will not always work in KwaZulu-Natal. Brand awareness differs per region and can be attributed to different factors. This means the advertiser’s approach, messaging needs and platforms used per region should differ. It is not so much about having a national or a local brand strategy, but more about what messages need to be communicated to what audience.

The challenges we face in attracting ad spend

The advertising industry is still conservative in their approach to media buying. The understanding of what is required to attract in particular a black audience still leaves much to be desired. The reality that most agencies and even head offices of big corporates are mostly based in Gauteng poses more challenges. There is still a gap in terms of an accurate understanding of regional radio stations and their impact on the targeted audience. This requires aggressive and consistent trade marketing strategies to ensure ongoing brand and consumer insights.

360° consumer engagement

One of the biggest advantages of a regional radio station is the connection the brand builds with listeners, through multiple platforms. This connection is built through engagements across on-air, online and on the ground as touchpoints. Signature events are vital. In our case, we host the Annual Gagasi FM Beach Festival that takes place every first Saturday in December, as a kick-of for station’s Ilangil’Thola Khona Summer campaign. We also have the Gagasi FM Red Star Experience, our lifestyle village at the Vodacom Durban July.

In terms of CSI, we run the Geleza neGagasi campaign, which focuses on education. We also have the Shero Campaign that takes place during Women’s Month each year where we celebrate KZN women making a difference in their communities.

We recently joined forces with the likes of SAFSEC, DJ Black Coffee, DJ Tira and our very own Spectaculah and DJ Naves in a campaign titled #GagasiFMCares, which will see us rebuild a mass centre that will benefit the community of Umlazi, who were the hardest hit in the recent floods.

We also recently launched our new website following a re-brand exercise that we did towards the end of last year. The response from the audience has been phenomenal.

Listenership measurements and how we use these in strategic planning

Most stations were heavily affected by the move from RAMS to BRC RAM, but generally everyone is slowly stabilising, depending of course on the targeted market as listener patterns evolve with time. Gagasi FM has managed to remain stable even with these changes and still ranks in the Top 10 radio stations in South Africa. We are not complacent in our outlook and are consistently finding ways to evolve and give value to consumers.

Niche in essence means that a brand has carefully carved out a segment of the market and whoever targets that very same market becomes the competitor, but what has stood true for Gagasi’s success, is that whichever brand has attempted to acquire our market has failed. It is simply because niche offerings for niche markets cannot be emulated – at least not authentically.

So inevitably in the niche game, you become your own competitor; you are only as good as your last move.


Phinda Magwaza is Gagasi FM head of brand.