"A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer's decision to choose one [company] over another. If the consumer (whether it's a buyer or a donor) doesn't pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer. A brand used to be something else. It used to be a logo or a design... Today, that's a shadow of the brand, something that might mark the brand's existence. But...if you've never heard of it, if you wouldn't choose it, if you don't recommend it, then there is no brand, at least not for you. Design is essential, but design is not brand." --author Seth Godin, 12/13/09


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Commentary: What we can learn about branding from a Fringe theater

Laura Holway, Mildly Minnesotan blog, 10/10/12

I always get excited when I see arts groups gaining momentum and doing well for themselves. Minnesota Fringe darlings Transatlantic Love Affair are no exception. This physical theatre ensemble formed in 2010 to produce Ballad of the Pale Fisherman. It was a huge success. With their 2011 production Red Resurrected, audiences were anxious to see if they could follow up with another memorable show. They did, and then again this past summer for the 2012 Fringe. Then, to top it off, co-artistic director Isabel Nelson recently won the Emerging Artist Ivey Award. They are doing a few really smart things I think we could all learn from.

Slow Growth: Rather than trying to put on a whole season at once, they built their repertoire a show at a time -- but with consistency. Specifically, a show a year.

Make It Tour-able: Their shows don't involve fancy sets, props, or other elements. So, now that they've developed and staged 3 shows, they can easily continue to tour them and make money off of the hard work they've already done.

A Core Group: The core ensemble for all 3 productions has been mostly the same. As a director, this means you can start to build a language with the people you are working with. Coming back to a common language and method for working saves time. And, when you continue to work with a consistent method, you just keep getting better at it.

But, the thing I notice the most in their work?

A Signature Style: a brand, if you will: They tell a story (usually a take on a classic -- a myth or a fairytale), but with their own theatrical style. When I walk in the door, I know what to expect: there will be some a capella singing to accompany the staging, there will be familiar characters, there will be some clown work performed with amazing precision to illustrate the activity on stage. And, there will be tons of heart.  This isn't to say that they are predictable -- the company finds plenty of ways to surprise. But I know what I've signed on for. This shows in the way that word spreads about their performances- people talk about the signature aspects of the company. So, finding your specific artistic voice is important -- knowing what you are and what you aren't.


Commentary: Brand building for orchestras

Orchestra Management blog, 10/27/12

For many consumer goods, we take branding for granted. Yet despite substantial economic and demographic pressure, few orchestras have so far begun to contemplate the potentials of brand building. At the same time, not every orchestra will benefit from (or even be able to implement) a thorough branding strategy -- to do so requires certain resources and is most suitable for those ensembles that experience strong competition or aim to create an international profile. The example of the "DüSys" (Düsseldorfer Symphoniker, Germany) shows how effective branding campaigns can be. Run in 2004 with huge photo adverts from orchestra musicians throughout the city telling the people "I am a DüSy" (a member of this orchestra), it has generated impressions still lasting today. Yet while successful, the current artistic director, Michael Becker, decided to shift the focus towards a stronger identification with the Symphoniker's new concert venue. By deleting the successful DüSy campaign a lot of (public) money has been just burned. Other high value, premium orchestra brands have been much more careful in developing their brands step by step, but always keeping the core brand itself. The Konzerthaus Dortmund is a case study for a stringent brand strategy; built around a "three-step concept" -- (1) brilliant acoustics, (2) closeness to audiences, (3) sophisticated programming - the Konzerthaus has developed a coherent and recognized identity over the past ten years.


Commentary: Using sound to build engagement and brand equity

Adrion Porter, Americans for the Arts blog, 10/4/12

Is your brand being heard and not just seen? Many marketers focus their time and resources primarily on visual stimuli to create brand awareness. As the marketplace is becoming more crowded, brands are challenged to break through the clutter and distinguish themselves from the competition. Why is sound essential? One word...emotion. Research has proven that sound has a direct path to the emotional and memory parts of the brain. As more consumers make purchase decisions driven by emotion rather than function, having sound as part of an identity system allows for brands to resonate in ways that visuals cannot. Audio branding communicates those intangible brand associations that pull at the heartstrings and create unforgettable experiences. Audio branding can span beyond music. The human voice is also a powerful asset that can be effective at reflecting a brand's personality. A strategic application of audio branding has the unique ability to heighten the overall brand experience, and provide greater returns. Why? Because music and sound help to not only increase mindshare but also "heart-share." It is all about emotional engagement, which is the best brand investment for your marketing dollars.


Commentary: Arts orgs need to learn the limitations of their brands

Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune theater critic, 10/12/12

When the Royal Winnipeg Ballet arrives on Nov. 2, it will play at one of Chicago's crown jewels: [The] Auditorium Theatre. But if you read the official announcements, you'll notice the name of the venue has been quietly adjusted [to]: The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University. Or ATRU for short. This is not a moniker (like BAM for the Brooklyn Academy of Music) that's likely to ever catch fire. To most Chicagoans, the Auditorium will always be the glittering, gilded, acoustically perfect Auditorium. Appending the name of Roosevelt to the Auditorium might accrue additional prestige to the university, but it actually hurts the perception of what, for the entire 20th century, was the city's most prestigious venue by making it sound like a college auditorium. One can understand why Roosevelt wants to append its name to the theater. Not only does the university own the building, but it fought and won a protracted legal battle to establish full control, a battle that went all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court. But the Auditorium is in show business, and having the right does not make it a good idea. Indeed, it's symptomatic of a desire among arts institutions to slap the institutional name on everything, even though corporate America figured out years ago that it is sometimes better to let a brand be an independent offspring and keep the parent out of the press releases. So why don't the arts do this? When did you last hear of a nonprofit arts organization acquiring another brand or creating one itself with a different name? It is, at minimum, an interesting idea. Why not create a boutique program or venue with a different name? Why not add bigger expertise to smaller arts groups? Why leave these strategies entirely to corporations, when nonprofits could not only gain some much-needed revenue but also improve the reach of the art? Corporate America is strikingly quick to see the limitations of its own brands; in the nonprofit world, that's a tougher truth to understand.

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