MARKETING MIX: PROFILE; A Lick and a Kiss: Gordon McNamee * Managing director * KISS 100 FM

If Gordon McNamee had ever been featured on What’s My Line, it is unlikely he would have been unmasked as a corporate high-flyer.

If Gordon McNamee had ever been featured on What’s My Line, it is

unlikely he would have been unmasked as a corporate high-flyer.

As managing director of Emap’s London-based dance radio station Kiss 100

FM, you could easily come across ‘Mac’ hanging around clubs at 2am. But

if you did, you’d expect him to hand you a flyer or sell you a T-shirt.

His shoulder-length dreadlocks make him look like he ought to be one of

the band of protesters trying to block the construction of the Newbury


But the truth is that south Londoner McNamee is one of Britain’s great

entrepreneurial class. Kicked out of school at the age of 13, he

launched a series of businesses before leading Kiss from being a pirate

radio station to a legal licence-holder at the age of 30.

In the five years since Kiss obtained that licence, McNamee has provided

an object lesson in how to target 15- to 24-year-olds with very little

wastage - although he might not phrase it like that.

Mac’s activities at Kiss have been wide-reaching. On the back of the

London station, he has built a national presence through licensing the

name to regional partners. He has also overseen a sponsorship deal with

brands such as The Guardian, Holsten, Foster’s Ice, Kahlua and Levi’s.

Sponsorship and event promotion make up about 40% of revenue.

He has also recently pushed through the launch of a magazine called The

Lick and taken the Kiss brand on to television with a nightly show on

the Mirror Group’s Live TV.

Kiss 100 was launched during the first wave of commercial radio

expansion in London and became profitable two years ago. Kiss reaches

just under one million listeners a week - equivalent to a 3.7% audience


Although the format is dance-oriented, there is a marked difference

between its daytime and night-time programmes, which McNamee sums up as

‘revenue by day, reputation by night’.

Daytime strategy is to drive up average listening hours through more

mainstream playlists, while at night a stable of around 30 DJs a week

operate with complete stylistic freedom. ‘We use DJs that are leaders in

their types of music and we run it like a football team,’ he says. ‘If

they keep scoring goals, you don’t kick them off the team.’

It is the night-time output that defines the Kiss brand as loosely anti-

establishment. And it is flexible enough to accommodate the inevitable

shifts in taste across house and soul, jungle and techno. ‘The youth

audience change the badge on their jacket every couple of months. We

reprogramme to keep up,’ explains McNamee.

In the extremely competitive London market, he says Kiss has been left

untouched by the promotional battle between Capital, Heart and Virgin.

The Radio Authority is poised to award another London licence which many

expect will go to an indie-music format such as XFM or Festival, in

which Kiss has a 20% stake. ‘There is a need for an alternative rock

licence,’ says McNamee, ‘and if Festival gets it, we could do a good

joint sell against Capital, which has the most 15- to 24-year-olds.’

Outside London, Kiss has expanded on a number of fronts. It has a 20%

stake in a bid for the east Midlands regional licence and has done

franchise deals with Manchester-based Faze.

Faze licenses the Kiss name for Kiss 102 in Manchester and Kiss 105,

which launches in Yorkshire next February. ‘Faze came to us because so

many people knew the name Kiss in Manchester,’ says McNamee. ‘Our

research shows the brand also comes up strong in Leeds and Sheffield.’

Kiss marketing strategy is underpinned by detailed lifestyle data from a

BMPP research panel of 15- to 24- year-olds called RAW. That said, it is

important with Kiss 100’s target audience that any marketing is not seen

as overt or exploitative and activities are designed to create the aura

of belonging to an exclusive, trendsetting club.

Events such as Kiss in Ibiza, which attracts 1000 people to a festival

of clubbing each summer, are created to reinforce that perception.

Likewise, The Lick can only be received by calling up the station.

‘Although it is free, the distribution mechanism encourages loyalty to

the Kiss lifestyle,’ says McNamee.

Those that know him say McNamee’s strength is an instinctive

understanding that Kiss is not just a radio format, but a way of life.

Although the station has an extensive promotional strategy, he insists:

‘We don’t have Kiss FM nights at clubs, or jeeps with Kiss FM painted

all over. For us, the best form of marketing is word of mouth.’

‘Mac is the Kiss brand,’ says one agency source. ‘When he talks to

advertisers and agencies, he is streetwise, clued up and takes no crap.

That’s the same policy as the station and exactly what the London radio

scene needed.’


1983-1984 Radio DJ and broadcaster - Sound City

1984-1985 Drive Time show host - JFM

1985-present Managing director - Kiss 100 FM