Get clarity on your brand
By Sofie Haag
Have you ever wondered why it is that some artists and arts organisations have hundreds of thousands of followers online, always sell out their events and are fully booked many years in advance, and yet others – who are of the same artistic quality or even more experienced – struggle to get noticed, make little money and rarely fill their events? It is said that success leaves traces, and if you look closer at the leaders in your industry you will find that they have a clear brand that´s consistent throughout their marketing and communication activities. A brand that magnifies their artistic vision and makes it easy for others to understand who they are and what they are about. They have figured out a way to communicate with their fans and followers, engage with them and keep them wanting to come back for more. You know what to expect from them and they are shining lights in their own right.
That is down to the power of branding. An artist might be world class but will not cut through the noise unless that gift is packaged in such a way that people can find it and then like what they see.
A well-developed brand strategy helps you attract the right opportunities, stand out in the market place, and connect with your ideal audiences/customers, media outlets and key influencers. It also sets you apart from your competition and helps you to know what to say no to and quickly identity things that are not aligned with your core values.
By doing so, you will be seen as a leader in your field, and as a result increase your visibility and revenue streams, sell more tickets and attract sponsors and partners for your cultural events and launches. It will be easier for agents and producers to promote you, and for promoters and arts venues to commission your work when you are a well-known name with a large following.
This will build a momentum and an upwards spiral. Use this momentum to drive traffic to your online platforms, social media, and mailing list in order to build and grow your own community.
A word of advice though. If you notice resistance from within when you think about branding and promotion, make a note of it so that you can dig deeper and find out what is really holding you back.
LIMITING/NEGATIVE BELIEFS ABOUT BRANDING AND INCREASED VISIBILITY
There are many proven strategies and tools to help you formulate a strong artistic brand and business strategy. Several of them included in the resources section of this chapter. None of this will matter however if you have got limiting beliefs that are blocking you from moving forward. Often we are not even aware of this, but you´ll find clues in difficult situations that keep on repeating themselves. It could be facing the same challenges over and over, financial struggle or feeling hesitant about raising your visibility online. You might feel branding is to commercial, that it distracts from your artistic work, that it takes up to much time or that you don´t have the resources you need. Don´t let this hold you back. Instead, identify what´s stopping you and work on that to come up with solutions to help you move things forward.
In the case of branding for instance, it is just another word for how you manage your identity as an artist to connect with your audiences and people you want to work with. You can keep things simple and manageable, and still achieve great results. The strategies and tools mentioned in the workbook are there for inspiration and to give you some ideas.
YOUR PERSONAL BRAND, PRODUCT BRAND AND COMPANY BRAND
So, how do you build a brand? And should you focus on building only one brand? No, as a matter of fact there are three different brands to consider; your personal brand, product brand and company brand. As an arts professional you already have a personal identity linked to your art, and this is your personal brand. This is you, who you are, what you stand for and how people see you. The product brand could be a production, a tour, a festival or any other cultural project. It could also be a workshop series or something similar. It is often fixed in time and has a start and a finish. And finally, a company brand is what it says. A company with an annual, well defined organisation in which projects come and go. All of these three categories need to have their own brand strategies, and ideally link to each other for synergies and brand recognition. The key here is consistency, so that it looks the same across all channels by using the same fonts, colours and design. They should also connect to your mission statement and appeal to the audiences you want to reach.
Inner work + your “why”
A great place to begin is to be crystal clear about your big “why” and the direction you want to take. What are your core values, your vision, mission, passion, purpose and what is the difference you want to make? Where do you see yourself in five years time? In one? How would people describe you and what you do? Your personal style, your attitude?
Get clear on your USP, Unique Selling Proposition, what makes you unique and stand out. What are your strengths and what are you known for? A great way to then share all of this, is by crafting your very own story.
Story-telling is becoming increasingly popular for branding and marketing purposes, so do take some time to really hone in on your own story. Make it inspiring and engaging. This will allow people to connect with you at a deeper level.
What do you have to offer
Following this exercise, think about what you are offering and clearly identify your products and services (for instance tours, live performances, merchandise and online content such as digital workshops, masterclasses, tutorials etc). Also identify how and where you are delivering them (is it live, via streaming tools or something they can download from your site) and what value you are bringing to the market placeHow do you want people to feel when they interact with you and how do you want to be remembered?
Who is your ideal customer
You need to be where your audience and customers are, so the more you know about them and where they hang out, the easier it will be to connect with them. This also goes for journalists, industry experts and other people you have in your network. This is the core.
THEN its time to look at your brand image, and decide how you want your audience/customers to perceive your brand. What do you want the look and feel of your brand to be? A great way to get started is to create an inspiring vision board (to manifest your future vision, dreams and goals) and a mood board (to set the tone for your brand, with colours, fonts, images etc that resonates with you and your art). This will then lay the foundation for a bespoke brand design to be used across your websites, social media, press and marketing material. Once your design elements are ready, save all the info in one place for when you need to print, use or share material (logos, sizes, fonts, formats, name of colours etc). This is called a brand board, and all of this will be covered in the workbook.
Your brand should be linked with, and support, your artistic career goals so that everything you do is connected and leads to the next step and your overall objectives. It will also be easier for people to support you if they know where you are heading.
People buy from people they know, like and trust. A great brand, in combination with a clear strategy and consistent communication with the people you want to connect with, can dramatically increase the results in your artistic business.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR BRAND BOARD WORK FOR YOU AND NOT AGAINST YOU
A final word on branding of websites, social media etc. Don’t fall into the trap of making it visually appealing without checking that the search engines pick up on the information. Your sites should convert visitors into buying customers. A combination of images, audio, video and copy will help you rank higher on the internet BUT can also slow down the speed of your websites if the visuals are to heavy. It is worth spending some time with an industry professional to help you with this, as this will help you increase sales and save marketing costs later. You can also add hashtags for increased visibility, metatags on your sites for SEO-ranking and keywords people are using in your industry to look for artists similar to you. It is important to know that the best results come when a strong brand is combined with optimised copy and technical back-end to boost the brand.
BRANDING IN DIFFERENT CULTURES
A note on branding in an international context. Before you travel abroad, it is good to research the culture of the country you are visiting from a branding point of view as well. Marketing material might need a different layout in another country, be worded differently or have a different call to action. Also note that titles on a business card might mean different things in different countries, and that there could be hierarchies to pay attention to when you contact people to pitch your artistic project or creative idea (where a title on a card can function as a door opener. Or not). Many countries use business cards, and if you decide to print one, spend some time on it so it reflects the rest of your brand. Little details like this go a long way.
FUTURE TRENDS IN BRANDING
The arrival of augmented and virtual reality as well as artificial intelligence, 360° live streaming, instant translation tools and bots is a game changer and something I recommend you build into the equation from the start. How do you want your brand to be represented in those arenas? You will be able to connect with people globally, who can attend your performances from their living room. You can invite them backstage, arrange interviews and have a conversation with them. The possibilities are endless. Depending on your brand, your audiences and how you want to be defined, you can use these tools to support that vision. A lot is happening in this arena, so keep an eye on it and see what works for you.
The future is already here and by taking charge of your brand, your story and making sure that everyone involved share the same values, you are able to not only magnify what you do but also lead the way for others to follow.
Where you want to go? That´s up to you to decide. Focus on a few branding strategies that resonates with you and do those really well. Then scale up from there when you are ready.
“Branding is what people say about you when you are not in the room”
What do you want the story to be?
The options are endless!
Check the WORKBOOK with a series of questions for you so you can consider all the issues in a structured way.