Radio Station Owner Banks On Disney Brand Name

June 5, 2002
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MUSKEGON — The latest tunes on the Muskegon airwaves have a distinctly younger sound.

Children and young teen-agers, in fact, are the target audience for WKBZ AM 1520, which last month became an affiliate of Radio Disney, an arm of the Walt Disney Co’s. ABC Radio Networks.

The station features music, contests and prizes and programming geared toward 2- to 14-year-olds, with a core target audience of children ages 6 to 11, as well as their parents, station owner and General Manager Kimberly Kennedy said. The adult target audience is generally mothers ages 18 to 49, Kennedy said.

WKBZ is going after advertising revenue based a simple formula: That parents quite often base their buying habits on the children’s tastes. Example: Mom and dad like to eat bran flakes for breakfast, but buy Frosted Flakes or Lucky Charms instead.

There’s also the “nag factor” that affects a parent’s spending habits on many other consumer products, Kennedy said.

“People don’t realize how our children really cause us to buy things,” Kennedy said. “They really do change how you purchase things.”

Kennedy acquired the 10,000-watt radio station earlier this year from WL Broadcasting at the urging of her husband, Barry, a radio veteran. She had become well acquainted with the station after working for years as a contract engineer.

Once she assumed ownership, Kennedy sought to change the station’s eclectic format of news, talk and music, plus Sunday church services. She opted for a franchise agreement with the Radio Disney, which provides a 24-hour satellite feed and has 51 affiliates nationwide.

Kennedy’s station is the first Radio Disney affiliate in Michigan.

Kennedy hopes to leverage Disney’s heritage to attract listeners and advertisers, the latter of which may want to link themselves with the Disney name.

“It’s basically having the company brand your company,” Kennedy said. “When you think about wholesomeness and children, what sells? Disney pops into everybody’s mind.”

Kennedy is steering marketing efforts toward using remote broadcasts and providing entertainment at events such as company picnics. She’s also working on a partnership with five area charter schools to run a campaign against illiteracy.

While WKBZ’s broadcast signal covers only Muskegon County and portions of northern Ottawa County, Kennedy hopes to eventually tap the Grand Rapids radio market by relocating the station’s transmission towers.

While the station’s format is new, Kennedy believes it will catch on in West Michigan. One positive sign was the 400 calls that Radio Disney had received as of early March from listeners and their parents in the Muskegon area who were playing the network’s daily contests.

“That means children are listening,” Kennedy said.

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