Establishing a position in the market relative to the plethora of entertainment options can save performing arts companies vast expenses in trying to meet expectations of a broad audience rather than a targeted audience. Branding is a way of communicating information to potential customers about the relative value of your venture compared with other similar enterprises.
Branding in the performing arts
A brand is an association of meaning with a word, phrase or image, and the perceived value of your venture establishes your 'position' within the market. Two clothing labels, for example, may produce the same type of garment but endeavour to establish a unique position within the clothing market by assigning certain attributes to their product. Branding for Bonds T-shirts and undergarments targets potential customers whose priorities are price, value and no-frills clothing. Branding for Calvin Klein, on the other hand, communicates a very different message to a customer segment that values style over price. Companies selling products and services spend millions of dollars each year assigning special meaning to their brands to ensure they communicate a clear message that captures a unique and hopefully lucrative space in the market.
Successful branding results in your potential audience automatically associating your brand name with the value proposition you are trying to provide. A performing arts company that identifies a predominantly young target audience that values exciting, contemporary performances must attempt to communicate via its brand that its performances meet these audience values. To do this, the performing arts company must know exactly who its target audiences are and what they value. It makes no sense to communicate an image of quality and historical accuracy to a target market that values violence and fantasy. Failure to clearly understand and define what it is that their audiences really value is often the cause of failed branding strategies.
Communicating a brand
A brand is communicated at all points of audience contact; a flyer seen pasted on an inner city street, an advertisement in a magazine, an overheard interview on Arts Sunday or 3RRR and so on. The context as well as the content of these audience contacts help define the brand, for example, a Melbourne Symphony Orchestra advert in "The Truth" could be seen as incongruent with the branded image and may therefore damage the brand. Clever and focused use of media outlets and advertising spends can substantially add value to a performing arts brand, communicating both content and context messages which help enhance the associated meaning to potential customers. The right brand strategy can also aid sponsorship efforts. Clearly defined brands with strong meaning and value to a certain audience, and which are consistent with corporate sponsorship target audiences, stand a much greater chance of garnering sponsorship dollars.
New technologies for performing arts company branding
An Internet Web presence provides a low cost, year-round vehicle for presenting a clear and precise brand identity, as well as providing performance information to an audience. A customised Website provides total control over both the content and context of a company's brand, unlike a review in a newspaper or a mention on a radio program.
The potential of the Internet to brand and position performing arts companies is vast, however it is a tool of communication that may not be appropriate for your target audience. Organisations must seek a variety of communication tools appropriate to their target audiences in developing their brands. Products produced in PAML demonstrated how other media such as radio, CD ROM, and documentaries clearly defined the "look" of a company and its intended audience. Simply employing new technologies in product packaging can communicate the contemporary style of a company and avoids using overt marketing statements such as "we are a contemporary company seeking young audiences".