Today Radio builds itself around companionship and conversation

The branding for Stringray's new music variety station is about crowd-pleasing topics that match its playlists.

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93.5 Today Radio is a Toronto radio station that’s being built as a place to drop in and overhear interesting conversations, like people had around the water cooler pre-pandemic.

In February, Stingray rebranded 20-year-old hip-hop and R&B station Flow 93.5 to 93.5 Today Radio, shifting the format to music variety (the “Flow” branding was sold to CINA Media Group, which rebranded its hip-hop station G98.7 to Flow 98.7).

Creative agency Berners Bowie Lee has been working with the Stingray station for about a year. The campaign is coming to market now via OOH and paid social, with 70s-style illustrated conversation starters, from how weird it is that milk is sold in bags to mishaps with texting the wrong person.

Today FM’s brand identity is not just based on the music variety format, but the talk that happens in between songs, and is designed to feel like a place where you can drop in to hear fun and interesting conversations like an office lunch room, says Michael Murray, one of Berners Bowie Lee’s founding partners.

As part of the agency’s strategic process, it realized that radio formats have been stagnant since the 90’s: music stations either stick to a genre or cover pop-hits across generations.

BBL_Stingray-MegaVertical_432x576_Taxi_r0“We looked at it like, ‘what’s going on in the world, what’s going on in the internet?’” he says. “If you look on Reddit and all these platforms, there are a lot of back and forth conversations about topics that catch peoples’ attention.” The agency then asked itself, “what do radio stations look like in an internet era?”

Murray likens the Today FM playlist to dinner party or kitchen music. They are songs everyone knows and everyone likes, regardless of genre, “universally accepted good songs.”

Dedicated talk stations can have polarizing subjects and tend to have heavy conversations that people are beginning to find exhausting after two years of a pandemic and now a crisis in Ukraine.

The key insight was that people are looking for companionship, rather than argument, and the billboards and ads are getting people to visit the station based on conversation snippets. A music variety station, with its crowd-pleasing playlists, is the perfect station to take up those kinds of conversations.

According to Devon Williamson, another BBL founder, it’s targeting people of different conversations and diverse backgrounds, age ranges, and value sets, together.

It’s a differentiator, Williamson says, as there are not many options serving this.