Commentary: A quick refresher for arts managers....'What Is Branding?'

James M. McNamara, Arts Branding blog, 5/2/11

We thought branding was pretty much a well-understood, accepted concept within the cultural arts field. But then we got this response to one of our new business letters sent to a marketing director:

"...We're not interested in developing a new graphic look for our organization. We have a graphic artist in-house and use local companies for graphic services as needed."

I really thought that in 2011 we are past a "what is branding?" discussion. And maybe we are. Maybe this was a one-off reaction and the rest of you are just fine in your understanding.  So, just to get the definitions out of the way, because I know you've all heard them -- just think of them as your quick, go-to guide to email to confused colleagues:

  • Branding is to marketing as strategy is to tactics. I like this one. It's short. It's quick. It's an easy concept to grasp.
  • A brand is the sum of all the impressions one has of [an] arts organization. This one's important because [it] encompasses how an audience views an organization's: Mission and vision; Building and facilities; Collections and exhibitions, or season programs; Public, educational, and outreach programs; Name and graphic or visual identity; Digital and print advertising; Public relations and news about the organization; Actual and virtual word-of-mouth helped by social media; Social media itself; Digital and print communications; Comparable and/or competitive organizations; and Boards, management, and staff.
  • Branding is the practice of aligning all those impressions to ensure that they form the consistent and unified image and message that we want for our organization to differentiate ourselves and create the right impression among our audiences so that they will be more likely to visit or attend more often.
  • A logo is to branding as the tip of an iceberg is to the whole iceberg. A logo is often the most visible or most used part of a branding program, but a brand and branding encompass all the components listed above.

Commentary: In Philadelphia, when it comes to selling our arts, what is our 'brand'?

Gary Steuer, Arts Culture and Creative Economy blog, 5/3/11

Patricia Martin, an expert on corporate sponsorship and connecting brands with consumers, visited Philadelphia last week to work with some of our leaders in government and tourism who are responsible for marketing the City to potential sponsors.  Part of the discussion involved exploring the "brand" of the City.  There was a really engaging discussion about how Philadelphia is perceived both internally and externally and how we can better communicate our core assets.  There was general agreement that as a City we have a "culture of ingenuity", and that this framework can be a useful construct to link our heritage (which essentially involved "inventing" America and the modern democracy) to our 19th Century period as the "workshop to the world" when we were about designing and making just about every kind of product imaginable, to our current creative energy that ties together our arts & culture scene with technology and science.  Our history is not frozen in time like Williamsburg or Machu Picchu, but integrated into and still part of a living, breathing, creative metropolis.  We also discussed that we have a population that "looks like the future" -- our increasing diversity mirrors the demographic shifts taking place throughout the country.  And -- to put it bluntly -- "we are NOT New York City."  By this we meant that we have many unique assets that preclude measuring ourselves in relationship to New York.  Yet our geographic location between New York City and Washington DC, combined with an excellent international airport clearly offers significant benefits from a business attraction, tourism and branding perspective. Our "place" does matter. This is not a knock on NY - I still love NY and love spending time there. This language is a useful shorthand, but Philadelphia needs to do a better job communicating what it IS without resorting to having to say what it is not.


Commentary: In Wisconsin, a new branding campaign for local arts

Stevens Point Journal, 4/14/11

"The Arts: No Shortage in Portage."  You'll be seeing and hearing that slogan, and variations of it, all over the county, because The Arts Alliance of Portage County wants you to associate the arts with the area.  At the Buzz Around Town event, The Arts Alliance, in partnership with other arts organizations, unveiled a first-of-its-kind arts branding campaign Wednesday night at Gallery Q in Stevens Point.  "We want to make people aware that Portage County is an arts place, so that when you think of Portage County, you immediately think of the arts," said Otis McLennon, Arts Alliance of Portage County Executive Director.  The Arts Alliance received a $2,000 grant from the county for this branding campaign, which officially kicks off this month, which is also arts month. Anne Katz, executive director of Arts Wisconsin, said she wants to help people realize the arts are part of the solution. She reminded people that Gov. Scott Walker's proposed state budget cuts the Wisconsin Arts Board by 73%, a move she said would damage the economy and opportunities in central Wisconsin. She encouraged people to contact Walker and let him know it is a bad idea.  Barb Fleisner, executive director of Centergy, the central Wisconsin Alliance for Economic Development, said: "We're with you.  We all need to work together."


Re-branding Orange County's performing arts center

Los Angeles Times Culture Monster blog, 1/12/11

The Orange County Performing Arts Center went out of existence [in January] -- but not to worry. It's just the name that's gone, replaced by a new moniker, the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.  The name honors the family that gave the land for the performing arts center, for its neighbor, South Coast Repertory, and for a neighbor-to-be, the Orange County Museum of Art -- which aims to move from Newport Beach to the Costa Mesa arts district, pending the small matter of raising tens of millions of dollars for a new building.  With the new name comes a new logo that keeps half of the old one -- the shape of the facade of the 1986 multi-purpose Segerstrom Hall -- while adding the new name in a new typeface.    "There are opportunities and challenges when you change your brand," said Terrence Dwyer, president of the performing arts center. "We believe it's a very positive change. We will brand Segerstrom Center for the Arts with enthusiasm and rigor."  The Segerstrom Center already has hit on one way of building goodwill for its new brand: For its 25th-anniversary season, which starts in September, some tickets for every performance -- 10,000 in all -- will be priced at $10. Dwyer said that the distribution method is being worked out, with an eye toward reaching new audiences but also toward thanking existing patrons.  The center also announced a new performance initiative -- the commissioning of a dance program starring Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev, independent of their work as leading dancers with the Bolshoi Ballet.

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