/tsg

Branding tips for theatre companies

Branding is the stuff that you do to control how you show up.

  • It is rooted in who you are as an organization and the values that you hold at your core.
  • It expresses at a very profound level the impact that you want to have on the world and the way you’re working to make that impact.
  • It embodies your organization and sets you apart from the pack, turning noise into melody.

Here are some simple ways you can improve your theatre company’s branding.

Less is more

When it comes to branding the overall direction is that simplicity is best. Rather than introducing a distinct colour for every show or playing with a new font to draw attention to a specific element, do less.

It’s best to use:

  • a smaller colour palette
  • fewer typefaces
  • repeatable visual items

Branding is how you stand out in the noise and the key is consistency. This is much easier to achieve when you’re doing less.

Logo

Your logo is an investment. Getting it right provides a big piece of the puzzle that is your online presence.

If your logo looks like it was sketched out on a napkin or drawn using MS Paint in the 90’s, it’s going to make your theatre company appear amateur. What that means is it will work against you in your efforts to attract and build trust with new audiences.

  • A good logo will last years, even decades.
  • It’s flexible, so you can use it across different media, whether print or digital.
  • It’s recognizable, whether used in a small space (look at the tabs on your browser) or a large marquee.

Colours

With a good logo in hand, your next obstacle is to choose a colour palette that properly represents your brand.

Rather than sticking to blacks, reds and yellows because that feels theatre-y, think about the mood you want to create or the emotion you want to leave your audience with.

Then choose a colour palette that’s harmonious and creates that. Remember: less is more.

Keep that palette nice and tight and controlled across your website and all your channels rather than introducing a new colour because you think it’ll make some kind of splash.

A good brand palette will have:

  • a primary colour
  • one secondary colour (two at the most)
  • a light and a dark

Typography

Typography means the fonts you’re using.

Just like your colours, you want to keep your font selection under control. The basic rule here is pick one, maybe two, and stick to those.

Make sure that you’re allowed to use them (Google Fonts is a good resource) and if you’re pairing fonts, make sure that they look good together. But above all, make sure your fonts are legible.

Don’t use a cursive for a heading because you think it’s a fun touch. The primary job of a typeface is to be read (easily).

Oftentimes, you’ll want to define a style for your paragraph text and one for your headings (maybe one other style for quotes or captions or something else you might want to draw attention to). Some organizations have a font they use for web and a font they use for print.

That’s fine, as long as at the end of the day, those fonts work together as a complete system and you use them consistently.

A note about accessibility
As you’re defining your colours and fonts, check to see if they have sufficient contrast to pass accessibility tests. Here’s a contrast grid you can use to verify.

Photography

As a theatre company, you’re likely going to have a lot of photos (hopefully). A key to your photos is making sure there’s a cohesive style that fits with the other elements of your brand.

Even when you’re using production photos with very different art direction, you can still provide a consistent photographic style.

Think of the following:

  • Framing
  • Composition
  • Saturation
  • Colour warmth

Brand personality

So far, we’ve talked a lot about visual elements, but your brand is much more than just “how it looks” — it’s also about how it sounds.

Every word you use, every headline you write, every social media post you publish, all make you sound a certain way. The more consistent and intentional those are, the more you’re able to establish your brand as a clear unified entity, rather than a vague, globulous mess.

How do you establish that consistency? By defining a brand personality. There are many ways you could go about doing this, but my favourite is through brand archetypes.

Thinking about your brand like a character, consider big questions like:

  • what primary value drives you?
  • what are you afraid of?
  • what are your strengths?
  • what are your weaknesses?
  • how do you want people to describe you?

And like with any character, it’s where your answers reveal a tension that interesting brand personalities really start to emerge.

Voice

Once you’ve identified out your brand personality, you can define your brand voice. This is how you will sound no matter where your audience meets you.

To create that consistent voice (and communicate it to the people who are going to be in charge of expressing it), pull out some key attributes. A brand with the following attributes:

  • elegant
  • precise
  • simple

…sounds a lot different than one’s that’s:

  • quirky
  • finds the humour
  • smart

I always recommend to define the attributes by showing the edges. For example:

  • quirky but not weird
  • finds the humour but never at the expense of others
  • smart but never pretentious

Tone

Tone is the expression of your voice in different situations. We all act and speak differently depending on who we’re talking and the context of that relationship. That’s not because we’re inauthentic or false; it’s just the situation that demands us to put on a different mask.

It’s the same with brands. I like to encourage organizations to think about the different emotional states their audience might be in when they interact with them.

Say your audience is frustrated (it happens) or stressed for some reason, tapping into the fullness of the attributes “quirky” or “finds the humour” might not help the situation. In fact, it could irreparably damage your relationship. You need to define how you approach different situations.

  • Make a table listing all the different states your audience might interact with you in (check out your social media messages or emails to your support or help account for specific examples).
  • Then put together a scale for your tone that shows the full range of how you show up for your audience.
  • Put together examples to show the different tones you might adopt depending on the context.

Here’s an example of a scale:

  • celebratory (examples: when someone buys tickets or has just seen the show)
  • useful (examples: when someone lands on the page for the show, we want to surface all the information they need before they go looking for it)
  • instructional (examples: when we need someone to do something they might not want to, we want to give them clear instructions)
  • reassuring (example: when the audience expresses concerns, we want to address their worries while making sure they feel heard)
  • supportive (example: when the audience has a negative experience or feels stuck, we want to be proactive in helping them find the best solution)

Your range of tone will pair really well with your voice and work to create a consistent, intentional experience for your audience, no matter where they are or the nature of their interaction with you.

Set the direction

Over the course of the article, we’ve looked at how you can work on your brand by improving your:

  • logo
  • colours
  • typography
  • photography
  • personality
  • voice
  • tone

We’ve also established that the key is to consistency is less is more. And hopefully you feel empowered to make things a little better without having to tear down the whole building and starting from scratch.

And it’s important for me to say: doing something is always better than doing nothing.

But you might have noticed that all of these things work together and affect each other.

The best way to lay the proper foundations that will properly inform the best choices you can make on each of these is to start by looking at your overall brand strategy.

That’s where you’ll define who you are, who you’re talking and what sets you apart so you’re not just intentional in how you’re showing up, but you’re strategic.

Want to read more?

Get more content like this
If this was helpful, I send out a regular newsletter where I share more tips like this for theatre companies.  
Yes!!! You've done it! 👏