Katy Davies works in media and PR for The Love Bites Plays. Here she gives some thoughts on how the company approaches their brand identity.
Setting your company apart as ‘different’ or ‘new’ in what is essentially an extremely competitive market can be challenging. Like us, if you’re not a West End show, chances are you won’t have a huge number of tickets to give away for press nights with the promise of outlets promoting your brand on various websites and newsletters. You may just be looking to break even! So, first and foremost, you have to think about your audience – the people going to pay to see your show. I’m talking about getting them through the door, and not by producing crowd-pleasing, safe theatre. They have to invest something in you before they buy a ticket: a belief in what you are trying to achieve. It’s generally not enough to be ‘different’ – everyone has something new. It is only by making an effort to engage in communication and to provoke an emotional response that you get a sense of how people relate to your brand. Some of this you can influence, some of this you cannot.
The media is a key audience for your brand. We place huge importance on grass roots support – depending on which venue we’re in we approach local bloggers, people who may or may not be theatre reviewers, and get them to come down to see the show and then hear what they think. Read as much as you can of trade and consumer press – get to know journalists, what they like, what they don’t; be familiar with regular features in publications and know what channels could place your brand. Do your research – invite other theatre companies to your show, get them to cross-promote on social media and blog about shows you have seen. Sign up to newsletters and mailing lists of theatre companies you admire and see what works well for them.
These ideas are nothing new. If you are having trouble honing your brand, ask yourself these questions: when did you start out? What was your original intention? How has the external environment changed? If you started as a student company five years ago, maybe it’s time for a brand refresh. Have a look at what else is out there to see what’s working well, and what isn’t, and adjust accordingly. What are people saying about you – or what aren’t they?
The Love Bites Plays brand is something we’ve tried to integrate across marketing communications since we came into being five years ago. The name of the company came directly from the format of each show – short, bite-sized plays about love, enacted over an evening. So immediately we wanted our brand to reflect the collaborative nature of what we do. We commission new artwork for each event. We use different illustrators to give a fresh response to the show. We want the brand to reflect the uniqueness of the diversity that each show has to offer. We get buy-in from our collaborators (past, present and future): playwrights, actors, illustrators – you have to start building relationships internally before you can even think about presenting your brand to external audiences. If your collaborators aren’t kept in the loop, feel valued and part of something, you’re going to have a tough time convincing people who’ve never heard of you to come and see your show. Slowly but surely, you will build up a loyal base.
Social media offers instantaneous, free feedback about what you’re doing. If you’re not getting hits on your blog, either you’re not marketing it effectively or people don’t find it interesting enough. Perhaps it is too corporate or doesn’t get under the skin of what people want to hear. It’s important to talk with your audience and not at them.
Try stuff out – if it works, great. If it doesn’t, try something new.
The next Love Bites Plays show, The Apartment, is at Etcetera Theatre 9 – 11 May.
Image: Joly Braime