Commentary: The art of rebranding

Adam Thurman, Mission Paradox blog, 4/12/13

Want one more arts marketing lesson from World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE)?  Then let's explore the idea of rebranding. Let's start by defining our terms. A brand is a promise.  There are obviously a lot of ways to represent a brand i.e. a logo, a tagline, etc. but at the core a company or person with a strong brand promises something and then delivers on that promise. So the only reason to ever rebrand is because you are in, some way, changing the nature of your promise. When you think about it that way you realize that a lot of so called rebranding campaigns are a waste of time and money.  They are a waste because nothing fundamental about the organization or person has changed. You make the changes, then you rebrand.  Not the other way around. So what can the WWE teach us about that process?  Here are two lessons.

1.  Rebrand often - The WWE has rebranded at least four times in the past 30 times or so.  As I discussed in my post earlier this week that effort was often built around drawing new audiences.  But I think it's noteworthy that a live entertainment organization felt comfortable changing up the look, feel and programming so many times. Consider what would happen if an organization committed, in advance, to a rebranding (and all the changes therein) once every seven years. What would happen if a person updated their personal brand once every 3 years? My point is that you shouldn't treat your brand as sacred.  It can be touched.  It should be touched.  It must evolve.

2.  Name your branding - When the WWE changed things they did the obvious stuff.  They redesigned the color schemes.  They altered the logo a bit.  But they also used a powerful marketing tactic: naming. The 80's were the era of Hulkamania. The early 90's meant the rise of the New Power Generation. The late 90's and early 2000's were the Attitude Era. And now the WWE is talking about the WWE Universe, which reflects the global nature of the brand and their commitment to social media. Those names become powerful signals that change is happening and it welcomes people to be a part of it.


Commentary: 6 ways to help your brand succeed

Hannah Sawhney, Americans for the Arts blog, 3/1/13

Every organization needs a brand -- it's your core identity -- the nucleus of the cell. Everything revolves and functions around it. But there's more to it than just a design-savvy logo, and as arts marketers, we need to keep this in mind when thinking about branding. In the National Arts Marketing Project's most recent e-book, Turn Branding OOPS into Branding WHOOP WHOOPS, we look to the different aspects that make up a brand; focusing on ones that are have been successful with their branding efforts and others, well, that have lacked the "whoop whoop" factor when trying to reach the top. Although we may think that we have what it takes when it comes to knowing our arts patrons, when it comes to brand management there are some key pitfalls that if overlooked can be harmful or even detrimental in the long run. So how does one know what is behind that well-designed logo? Or, when undergoing a major re-branding effort or even starting from scratch, how can we ensure that we are taking the right steps to success? Here are 6 points to make sure your brand doesn't fall into the OOPS category.


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Below are stories behind the rebranding of two Florida arts complexes:


In Naples, changing 'the Phil' to 'Artis-Naples'

Harriet Howard Heithaus, Naples News, 4/26/13

The Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts -- The Phil, familiarly -- has been renamed Artis-Naples. But what's in a name? "A new name is only one part of the story," declares Mike Benson of Berliner-Benson, the Brooklyn-based consulting company that worked with the former Philharmonic Center for the Arts to create its new name. Kathleen van Bergen, CEO and president of Artis-Naples, says the initial RFP did not include a name change. "We wanted a look and feel that communicated we were not just what happens in (the 1,425-seat Hayes Hall) but in every building." The complex has both an art museum and a continuing education building. The study of local perceptions was a revelation. Outside its patrons, and even among its patrons, was the perception the institution is [only] an orchestra hall. "We had board members who told us 'I didn't know how much you offered,'" van Bergen said. In the end, a name change became part of the move forward. It was not without careful discussion with, and a vote by, the board. [However,] public reaction to the name change has been largely negative. Benson said that's to be expected among those who weren't brought into meetings to explain the name weeks and months before its announcement. "There's a certain contingent who loved what the Phil was, and their reaction is 'Why are you doing this to me?' Well, that's great for you, but what about the people who don't want to see a philharmonic orchestra but want to have all the experiences that can be had in a center like this?" he said. Both Ned Lautenbach, chairman of the board, and van Bergen said one of their local advisers, who brought good cautionary advice during the nine months of the rebranding study, was a person involved in the rolling out of the "New Coke" decades ago. The drink was a miserable flop. "It failed because they had the wrong product," Lautenbach said. "We don't have the wrong product."


In Sarasota, six venues become 'The Ringling'

Susan Rife, Herald-Tribune, 4/15/13

Employees at The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art arrived at work Monday to new boxes of business cards and a gift shop stocked with T-shirts, coffee mugs and ball caps emblazoned with the museum's new name: The Ringling. The new branding is the result of an 18-month study that "is really about a change in attitude, a change in philosophy," said Steven High, The Ringling's executive director. Each of the museum's six venues has a new icon and color to go with a simplified name under The Ringling umbrella: Museum of Art, Circus Museum, Historic Asolo Theater, Cą d' Zan, Bayfront Gardens and Education Center. The rebranding is the result of an 18-month study involving surveys of patrons, staff, board members and the arts community. The museum, which will retain the official name of The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art as stipulated by John Ringling in his original bequest, hired Worldstudio, a New York strategy and design firm to help create the new logos. Much of the rebranding project was handled in house. The overall cost was about $100,000. The museum's logos and naming conventions over the years have ranged from the simple (The Ringling Museums) to the very complex, which have detailed the museum's role as the State Art Museum of Florida and its affiliation with Florida State University. But all those words are not Internet or social-media friendly, said Pam Fendt, director of marketing and communications. Surveys asked patrons to play a word association game and come up with the best description of the museum. But the wide range of adjectives ultimately came down to an understanding that the museum is a complex institution and there is "joy in our complexity," said Fendt. Still, "we really needed to settle on something." Said High: "What we were really looking for was shorthand." 

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