This is a transcript for an episode of Branding Love Letters, which is available wherever you listen to podcasts.

Find your platform by clicking the love letter:

"BBC's Branding Brilliance" — Steve Folland, Being Freelance Podcast

Steve Folland (00:00): Hello, I'm Steve Folland, I'm a podcast and video creator, and this is my love letter to the BBC.

Sam Thorogood (00:20): Welcome to Branding Love Letters, exploring the emotions brands evoke and the journeys they take us on. I'm Sam Thorogood, a graphic designer and your host. In each episode, I invite a guest to pick their favourite brand and unpack why it means so much to them. This podcast is a celebration of the branding that informs, impacts and inspires us. So, without further ado...

Steve Folland (01:02): It must have been listening to Radio 1 in my bedroom. But equally, because the BBC is everywhere, it was all mixed up with watching The Broom Cupboard coming back from school, watching the early days of CBBC, and watching Ski Sunday and Last of the Summer Wine and the Antiques Roadshow every Sunday, signalling the fact that it was the start of a new week. But I loved Radio 1. I loved listening to Simon Mayo's breakfast show when I was at primary school. I loved listening to Bruno and Liz at the weekend on their breakfast show. Like, you know, even before I was at secondary school, when I was into all the cool stuff, I loved listening to Radio 1.

Sam Thorogood (01:48): So what kind of age are we talking for the kind of Radio 1 craze?

Steve Folland (01:54): Well, it must have started when I was really young at primary school. I remember listening to it, like, as soon as I'd wake up, it was on my clock radio. And then I'd listen to it while I was having my breakfast. And then I had a Walkman with a radio because I mean, come on. And I would walk to school once I was old enough to do it alone, listening to it and pretending that I was kind of like on Radio 1 in my head. And then all the way through, I would do the same actually, come to think of it, through secondary school, but probably by then listening to Steve Wright and listening to Chris Evans, with my Walkman on, so with my headphones on, on the bus on the way to school. But what was great was that everybody kind of was, so you'd end up chatting to people about what had happened on the Radio 1 Breakfast Show. And then after school, I'd rush home and watch The Broom Cupboard because like kids TV only started, I think, probably at four o'clock or something like that. So you'd watch Gordon the Gopher and Ed the Duck and all their various human presenters introduce TV shows. And there was, oh God, and then it would culminate with Neighbours coming on at about half five and the smell of dinner coming on. And you'd see that little clock, you know, like the spinning globe of the BBC on TV. And that would mean that it was almost dinner time. And so there'd be this rush to lay the dinner table in the five minute gap that you had between Neighbours finishing.

(03:33): And this is how I remember it anyway. And then either the six o'clock news or hopefully we'd be able to spin the TV round. We actually had to wheel it round from the lounge so that we could see it in the dining room. So that our mum would let us watch Star Trek or Quantum Leap or whatever was on that night while we cooked. Yeah, you had that, quick, it's on and everybody would pile down the stairs. Because if you, you know, you couldn't pause it, you couldn't, you weren't recording it. So you had to get really good at saying no, no, no, no, this is what happened. This is what I've gone to a planet and this has happened. Oh, no, he's woken up in Quantum Leap. And suddenly he's a circus trainer. And, and then you'd be. Yeah, all sitting around having dinner watching these shows like it's so I don't know why our house... It feels thinking about this podcast, chatting about the BBC, that we must have grown up watching the BBC much more than watching ITV. Like, I don't know why. There wasn't even that much choice was there. But it feels like all the radio we listened to was the BBC. We weren't listening to like Capital FM, because we were close enough to London to listen to it. But we weren't it was always the BBC, always BBC TV, it seems.

Sam Thorogood (04:47): And just as kind of a side note, I guess we've kind of in a sense lost that element of liveness haven't we when it comes to maybe less so with radio, but certainly with TV, I have the sense that really with Netflix and streaming, there's much less of an event that is built around watching a TV show. Because like you say, if Star Trek is, is on, it's going out live, and you've missed the previous episode, it's kind of too late, isn't it? You need to you need to catch up, you need to hear what's happened. And then you're, and then you're into the flow of the story. Do you think there was something specific about that liveness and that kind of that sense of it being an event that made it so special and nostalgic as you as you think about it?

Steve Folland (05:32): I think there is. Yeah, I think you're right. And like, there will be certain things that you would watch live. And like picking out different bits would be like Noel's House Party, which was genuinely kind of like groundbreaking TV, when you think about it, the fact that he would go live into people's living rooms, and the cameras would be like staring out of their TV back at them. Which is like, Ant and Dec are still rinsing that like 20, 30 years later. But like Ant and Dec, that's like a live thing now. There's very few things like that. Maybe like families get together and they watched Ant and Dec live because it's better when it's live. Or maybe like in the noughties, it was more sort of like Big Brother, everybody would watch that live. But yeah, definitely back then, you had to watch things live. And also, there was less choice. So you'd all be talking about it the next day in the playground. Like even once you're at secondary school, then it would be did you see Shooting Stars or The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer or whatever it was that we were all into at the time. And people just don't have that now. Like maybe families might all watch Strictly or something like that. But it's all too easy for one kid to pick up an iPad and just start watching something infinitely cooler.

Sam Thorogood (06:57): Yeah. So you've talked a lot about your childhood. I mean, as you left home and started to work, was the BBC a big part of your personal or maybe even professional journey, as it were?

Steve Folland (07:09): I always wanted to work for the BBC. I wanted to work for them when I was listening to Radio 1. I wanted to work in the media. I remember saying at school, that's what I wanted to do. And my geography teacher, weirdly, saying that, you know, you know, you might be on the radio, but what if you were working behind the scenes? So like I applied to work, do courses in media production and things like that. There was a radio show called Collins and Maconie. They used to do a show together and they were looking for like reviewers to... They would send you the latest CDs and you would review it on their show. And I applied to that. And I got I remember I got sent I can't remember all the albums, but one of them was the Chemical Brothers album where Beth Orton sang on it, which was such a good album, such a good song. And I remember actually going down to London and they had it was actually made by an independent production company. So I was a bit gutted when I got there and realised it wasn't the actual BBC, but still got to go into like a into a proper recording studio to record my review that I'd done. It's insane that they went to all that trouble when I think about it, but still. And I was kind of like just really drawn in.

(08:28): I really wanted to work in those radio studios. I really wanted to work on the BBC. So, yeah, I went off to Bournemouth and I did media production, which was like radio, TV, new media. Back then it was like CD-ROMs. And while I was there, I made I really... I was really into the audio side of things. And my tutor encouraged me to enter a Radio 4 competition for like documentaries for this documentary I've made. And I ended up winning. I mean, there was lots of winners because the whole point was, if you if you won, your documentary would get like played out on the radio. So my five minute documentary about performance poetry, which is what I've done for some reason. Yeah, actually got played out on Radio 4. A producer who worked on that got in touch with me and said how much she liked it and invited me in if I ever wanted to do work experience or whatever. So I went into Radio 4 while I was a student and sat in on You and Yours, which is like a it's kind of like a consumer show on Radio 4. But it goes out live. And I remember sitting there watching the presenters, watching the production team. Weirdly, they were still using reel to reel tape machines. And like by then at university, like we had DAT tapes. We were using audio computer editing software like this was, I don't know, 1997, 98. At the BBC, they were still using reel to reel tape and this guy having to edit it. And I was asked to go down and find Bill Oddie in reception and bring him up and stuff like that.

(10:15): And then I went and did proper work experience like for, I don't know, six weeks at a production company that made stuff for the BBC and worked on the Mary Anne Hobbs show, The Breezeblock. And she invited me in to sit in at like, I don't know when that show went out, maybe 10 o'clock at night, midnight. Foggy memory. I know we went in and like John Peel was finishing his show, I think, in the next studio. So we got to meet him and sit in on that. And I worked closely with this guy at this production company who was actually the voice of Radio 1, this guy called Steve Cripps. He like his voice was the one you'd hear going, "Pete Tong, the essential selection". And bless him. He like took me under his wing and like even recorded voiceovers for my own radio show that I was about to start on like this radio station down in Bournemouth while I was at uni. So that there was all these kind of like little things that kind of kept drawing me back to it. Like going down, I remember going down to that basement studio, actually in the BBC for like the Mary Anne Hobbs show. Like just I really want to work. I really want to be doing this. I never, I'm not. But very cleverly would give me a pass but then take the pass back.

Sam Thorogood (11:42): But in a weird way, your career kind of has... I mean, would you be doing podcasts if it weren't for the BBC?

Steve Folland (11:52): Possibly not in that they definitely made me love radio. They made me love audio and wanting to work in audio. It definitely came from that. And it also the BBC gave me this mix of the fact that things could be fun, but they could also be serious. You know, like you could have this mixture of content like it wasn't all flippant. It wasn't all silly. That definitely comes from when you think about it, the BBC, this whole educate, inform, entertain, is it like this whole Reithian theology, but they have going back 100 years and it still rings true today. And I think that was kind of in me and the stuff that I wanted to make and do. I actually ended up leaving university and going and working for a commercial radio station. After all this time of never listening to radio with adverts, I was the swine making the stuff. And it still amazes me that people would listen to radio with adverts on. But thank God they did, because that was more like my job. But then I started, I would still like freelance. This is where I started freelancing. I started freelancing on the side because I still wanted to see if I could get into like those bigger radio stations and the BBC. But I don't think any, I wouldn't have ended up doing what I do if I hadn't fallen in love with that element of the BBC and all that stuff really early on.

Sam Thorogood (13:31): What emotions does the BBC evoke for you?

Steve Folland (13:35): It's kind of like a warm, I guess like a warm emotion. I am really fond of the fact that it exists and I am inspired by the stuff that they make. And the fact is you don't have to like everything they make, like there is something for everybody on there. So yeah, I like the, I'm inspired by the quality, for the most part, of what they make and what that kind of stands for and the way they push themselves forward, always kind of like evolving. But overall, weirdly, when you say emotion, I'd say it's like a warm fondness towards it.

Sam Thorogood (14:28): And talk to me about the visual identity from your point of view, how the BBC has presented itself over the years. I mean, I guess in the years that you've been following it and part of that story, the logo's changed a few times. They had a rebrand in 2021 and they unified all of their different elements. What's all that doing for you?

Steve Folland (14:48): It's amazing what they managed to achieve with the BBC, with those three letters. So it's easy just to think now of those three blocks, which work so well across all the different things. I remember when it was slightly wonky, slightly italicised with different colours underneath it. In fact, I remember when I won that Radio 4 competition, they sent me back my DAT tape in a jiffy bag, you know, with a letter in it. And when I went travelling around Europe when I was about 19, I took that jiffy bag with me the whole way because I was so proud that it had that logo on it, that BBC kind of logo. I kept all my mini discs in it. But it's odd that actually a lot of it is sub-brands, isn't it? Like Radio 1, Radio 2, most of my childhood obsessed with Radio 1. But then I was thinking about how BBC 2 used to have those insanely brilliant idents, like the little logos, where the number two came to life. It was like on roller skates. It was a fly trap. It had this whole way.

(16:02): I'm sure that came before Channel 4 started mucking about with their logo. I don't know. Maybe I'm wrong. But it was ingenious. And it showed how BBC 2 was like this kind of fun, quirky sibling to BBC 1. I remember the branding of the clock and the globe that would come up on the channel before the news. But then that sphere kind of got carried through with some of the BBC's later kind of idents when, you know, you'd have hippos going around the circle or street dancers or the one with the wheelchair basketball, I'm thinking. Like there's all these different... But actually, I think the brand is kind of beyond the visual. It's those words, in fact, not even words, are they? Three letters that kind of inspire those reactions. So for me, like I said, it's warmth or trust or quality, the things that you can believe in. I find it quite interesting that actually it's not just about the visual of it, especially when you think that so much of my love of it was through radio as well, where it would be around the sonic jingles and branding that you would hear.

Sam Thorogood (17:23): Those amazing Radio 1 jingles.

Steve Folland (17:26): Yeah, Radio 1. It's gone through some, you know, the sung ones to the beat ones. And even now, like when you hear Radio 2 with that "BBC Radio 2" and like the different... Sometimes it's cheesy, sometimes it's a big band. Yeah, they managed to, I don't know, kind of like somehow they pull it off. I do like, though, you mentioned the recent branding and I love those three blocks of the BBC. I think it works really well and the way they have you know, like done the different icons for iPlayer, BBC Sounds, BBC Sport, News, all of that. I think it works really well. Yeah, hats off to whoever managed to do that.

Sam Thorogood (18:16): What has the BBC done over the years that has really surprised you?

Steve Folland (18:20): Well, they always evolve. So in a way, the red button surprised me because it was like, sorry, what? I pressed the red button and it was a bit clunky. It didn't really work, but it was the early days of sort of like interactivity. And then there was the iPlayer, which, you know, it's easy to forget now that we have Netflix and Disney+ and all of that, but like streaming video in the way that the iPlayer introduced to us and sort of made common in so many households. That surprised me, the fact that that exists. But actually, I think the braveness in a lot of their comedy, so much of the comedy was experimental and maybe commercial people wouldn't have taken a chance on it. So obviously, I had mentioned like Reeves and Mortimer and things like that, but you could go back further through The Young Ones or Monty Python or Fawlty Towers and so on. And into the radio ones where it's all quite surreal. But like recently, I was listening to a podcast, which is only on BBC Sounds from Jonathan Pye, who's like a guy who, comedian, he pretends to be a fake journalist who sort of like has these off-air rants. And he was became famous really on YouTube or Instagram and Twitter and making these little videos, but somehow has now got a BBC podcast. And it is really on the edge is... I mean, the language on it is filth in places. But also the thoughts and what he's saying, and it even has a go at the BBC itself. It is, I feel like that's really brave, like there's lots of safe things about the BBC, but they do push that kind of boundary, even though probably they'll come into flack for it.

Sam Thorogood (20:29): And if someone had never heard of the BBC before, how would you describe this brand to them in just a few words?

Steve Folland (20:36): A trusted, quality producer of radio and TV. There's more to it than that. But like, they they are the one in this country that kind of sets the standard that the rest follow. And it's not without its faults. But I think actually, around the world, we have a really yeah, real quality to our TV and radio in this country, that is led by the fact that the BBC set those standards first for the rest follow.

Sam Thorogood (21:17): Steve, tell me more about you. And tell me where we can connect in with what you're doing through your, your different, you know, all the different things you're doing, the different podcasts and your business. Yeah, share a bit more about how we can connect.

Steve Folland (21:30): Yeah, well, funnily enough, I never got hired by the BBC properly. But I left commercial radio and went freelance. So for the past 10 years or so, I make podcasts and business videos for businesses, you can find out more or track me down on LinkedIn or wherever. But I also when I went freelance realised there wasn't much support out there for freelancers, which sounds insane, because now there's so much of it. But I started a podcast called Being Freelance. So if you enjoyed this one, which you should, because you put so much effort into it, Sam, it really shows. Then yeah, search for Being Freelance. And we have a community as well. And of course, for new freelancers, it's all good. It's all at

Sam Thorogood (22:15): And it's a it's a fantastic podcast. I'm a... I'm a subscriber. So I would encourage everyone to check that out. So finally, Steve, I would love for you to share this this love letter that you have written to the BBC.

Steve Folland (22:29): Okay, I take a quick sip. It's a long time since I've written a love letter, Sam. Dear Auntie, I don't know who decided to call you, the BBC, Auntie. Maybe it was a put down as if you were uptight and in a cardigan. But I know a lot of pretty cool aunties. And I like a cardigan. Anyway. Auntie suits you. Those three letters have been there my entire life, like a relative that has taught me, inspired me, made me laugh, sometimes encouraged me to stay up late and even perhaps have things my parents probably wouldn't have approved of. You've brought an incredible world into my world. And you and I have changed a lot over the years. Yet it feels like we're still reassuringly the same. Those three letters that convey so much punctuating the years like the pips on the radio news that we used to hear. Yeah, stay classy. Keep pushing us all forward. Love, Steve.

Sam Thorogood (23:33): Well, Steve, thank you very much for letting us hear your branding love letter.

Steve Folland (23:37): Thank you, Sam.

Sam Thorogood (23:40): You've been listening to Branding Love Letters and I've been Sam Thorogood. I'm on a mission: equip pioneers like you to bring others onto your journey. Come and find out more at Thanks for listening. Oh, and big thanks to Thomas Thorogood for the music. Take it away, Tommy boy.

Sam Thorogood | Pilgrimage Design