A very important element in your choir marketing is your choir branding.
What first comes to your mind when you mention a brand name? More often than not it is the logo. If I say “Apple computers” you will probably think of the iconic apple shape with a bite taken out of it. But that is not all you will think. You will probably have a perception of what Apple means – stylishly designed technology, smooth ease-of-use, expensive. Compare that to what you think if I mention “Microsoft”. The 4-colour block and name indicate, to me anyway, functional, technical, cheap and not pretty. As an Apple user I might be a little biased here, but you get the picture.
A “brand” is what comes to mind when you think of it, what it means to you. The logo is just one of the visual representations that you associate with that brand.
The same goes for your choir branding. Before you look at your logo you need to think about what you want the choir to mean to members and audiences. What is your choir’s “story” and purpose? How are you to be perceived?
Why does choir branding matter at all?
We all like to kid ourselves sometimes that we make rational, logical decisions based on facts rather than emotions, but we actually don’t! As a side note if, like me, you find this whole area fascinating check out work on “Behavioural Economics” by Daniel Kahneman or Dan Ariely (such as in this TED Talk).
Our choices for joining a choir or going to a concert are heavily influenced by the image we have of the choir in question. Do we recognise them and trust that it (the taking part or listening to them) will be enjoyable? Do we feel a connection with them? The choir branding helps drive our decision. These days individuals have such a high number of competing groups that they can join or sources of entertainment. Your choir branding will directly impact both choir numbers and audience sizes.
Not just the visual choir branding
Your logo is not the only element that needs to reinforce your desired choir branding. When you have decided on what ‘personality’ you want to portray to choir and audience members (more on that later) then you will need to ensure it is supported by a whole variety of things. These may not all be immediately apparent and not all visual.
Did you ever stop to think that simply using the word “choir” in your group name could impart a strong image? To many people it represents worthy, middle class, middle-aged, classical and often religious rather than fun. That is no problem if you are comfortable with the image, but if you are looking for a different audience then you might like to, heretically, drop the term?
Sadly, for singers like me, the phrase “male voice choir” can have the added connotations of “pale, male and stale”. That is why recent successes have often used different names, for example Only Men Aloud, the London Gay Men’s Chorus and university a cappella groups like Out of the Blue. Having said that, a recent group that I thoroughly enjoyed at the Edinburgh Festival and who have subsequently packed in audiences around Australia and New Zealand call themselves “Choir of Man”. It just goes to show that there are no hard and fast rules!
Another factor affecting your choice could be regional naming. If you want a strong connection with your community then include a reference to it – you will probably be able to drive local loyalty. If you are looking to have a far wider, or even international, appeal then a local place name might be limiting. If you are aspiring to international recognition you must also be careful of unwittingly creating a faux pas along the lines of the slogan ‘Nothing Sucks Quite Like Electrolux’ which the Swedish company did not realise has a slightly different meaning in the UK!
The design of your logo is obviously key to your brand identity. You need to consider whether you want traditional or modern, corporate or trendy, image-based or typographical, monochrome or multicoloured. I would counsel against following the very latest trends in logo design. These tend to look dated quite quickly. Unlike commercial organisations you probably do not have the finances to continually update your logo so go for a design that is likely to have a long “shelf life”.
You must also consider its practicality – it will probably be used in a wide variety of places from websites and social media to letterheads, posters and flyers. The shape and complexity of your logo will need to take all that into account. You may even want to have more than one version, although I would suggest minimising this as you want the logo to be immediately recognisable. If you have a multicoloured logo I expect you will need a monochrome version for some uses.
You will need to select a colour palette for your choir branding. The psychology of colour is well researched with different feelings associated with different colours. For example, if calmness and trust are important to your choir, you might consider a shade of blue. Try black if your choir wants to be seen as sophisticated and glamorous. However, if you want the feeling to be one of energy and excitement consider red. There are numerous sources of guidance available such as the excellent Art Therapy blog.
You need to also ensure that all the colours you use in you choir branding work together harmoniously. To do this you should use what is known as a ‘colour wheel’ to derive your ‘colour palette’. Online tools such as from Adobe will help you to do this. Once you have decided on a palette – just ensure that it is used in all your marketing materials for consistent recognition.
Just as with colour, there is a psychological impact from your choice of font in your choir branding, including in your logo. For example, serif fonts such as Times New Roman are associated with authority, tradition and respect with sans-serif fonts like Helvetica seen as clean, modern and objective. There are numerous typographical resources such as this to guide you.
If one of the attributes of your choir that you want to promote is its uniqueness you may want to consider having a custom font designed just for you. It might be pretty expensive if you don’t have a graphic designer in the choir, but it will make your logo and marketing materials instantly recognisable and different.
Design – websites, posters etc
As well as the logo, colour palette and typography you use in your marketing materials you need to ensure that the design and any images used support your choir branding. For design guidance you can refer back to the my “8 tips from a professional graphic designer” post.
What does your choir’s concert dress say about your choir? Do you look like an outing of Coach Drivers from OAP Tours (as the male voice choir traditional ‘blazer & slacks’ uniforms have been unkindly compared to) or a group having a sing-a-long in the pub (no uniform at all)? As what an audience sees is an important part of your choir branding then you do need to pay good attention to it.
It is all very well to say, “we want to look modern and individualistic”, but that does not mean you have to abandon the idea of a uniform all together. Why not just have a code that includes any item with a certain colour, obviously it will be the key colour you have selected in your choir branding colour palette.
The style and nature of your uniform will not only generate an image in the mind of audiences but will also strongly influence the desire of prospective members to join your choir. I firmly believe that the “coach driver” look is one of the contributory reasons behind male voice choirs’ inability to attract young members. Let’s all get behind the “#DitchTheBlazer” campaign!
Uniform is not the only factor strongly influencing both the impression of your choir to audiences and the attractiveness for prospective new members. What you actually sing has to strongly support the choir branding you want to achieve. It is no good wanting to be seen as a contemporary popular choir and singing just hymns from the 19th century! If that is what you want to sing, then decide on a different branding.
I know that finding venues available for concerts at a reasonably low cost is a difficult task that many amateur choirs struggle with. This is probably why we very often end up in churches or church halls. But have you ever considered that it might just reinforce the religious connection that some people associate with choirs?
If one of your choir branding attributes you wish to reinforce is the link with the local community, have you thought of singing a few numbers in the pub, or talked to the local major employer about performing in the works canteen? The rise of the “flashmob” has gained popularity because of the modern desire for quick hits of entertainment where we are now, not just 2-hour concerts in formal surroundings. It is also a great way of getting publicity in your local area. The more local “outreach” you carry out the more your brand value of “local” will be strengthened.
As well as where you sing and what you sing, the way in which you sing will have an impact on your choir branding. Do you stand in regimented rows or move to the music? You don’t need to have a highly choreographed stage show, just a little movement may help dispel feelings of “stuffiness”.
Do you pay enough attention to how you come on and how you leave the stage? On how you sit or stand in between numbers? As I expect that one of the attributes most choirs want to show is a level of professionalism then these things will have a great effect. Chatting away to your neighbour while the next item is being announced, or, worse, while a soloist is performing, will destroy that professional image. This is all part of choir branding.
Consistency is key
Everywhere that audiences and potential new members come across your choir, physically, visually or digitally, will leave an impression in their mind. It should go without saying, then, that all of these interactions must leave them with a consistent view of your choir, and that view should be one that you desire them to have.
So, you need to ensure there is a high level of consistency in the messages you give out. It may be worth even creating a “Brand Guide” like corporate bodies do. It documents all of the factors I have mentioned above so that everyone in the choir understands them. It is particularly useful for new members and also for design agencies, printers and other external people you might need to use in you choir marketing.
How to define your choir branding strategy
The definition of your choir branding is not a ‘quick fix’ task. You should approach it as a major project and I have divided it into five suggested phases below.
Start off by deciding who to involve. You want enough people to have a good debate with different views but not too many that makes the whole process unwieldy. Those involved must take on board the fact that everyone will not agree with everything decided. This is no place for diva egos! Probably best around 5-6 people that can cover the spectrum of committee and choir members. You will need to have one of you identified as “facilitator/scribe” – probably whoever is going to do the follow-up work in phase 2. This could even be someone external to the choir, especially if you are outsourcing marketing work.
Phase 1: Opinion gathering
You can set up one or more “brainstorming” sessions with the group to answer a series of subjective questions about the choir’s personality, musicality and raison d’ȇtre.
I find that the way to run these sorts of sessions and ensure that the input comes from all attendees, not just the ones with the loudest voices, is to use the “post-it” note approach. If you have a whiteboard or flipchart in a room all the better but if not, then a large sheet of paper on the floor will do. Give each person a pad of post-it notes and a pen.
For each question have everyone write words and phrases on post-its individually and in silence (difficult for the some of the choir members I know!). Then when everyone is finished (probably best to limit time to no more than 10 minutes – you are looking for immediate reactions) get each person to stick their notes on the board/sheet.
Now is the time for discussion and debate. You should aim to agree on 3-5 answers for each question and rank them in order of importance.
I would suggest that the questions you should pose are:
How would you describe our choir’s personality?
List adjectives and qualities, you associate with our choir. Think about members, sections and committee. If it helps refer to other famous brands. For example, are you an Apple sort of choir or Microsoft, Waitrose or Tesco, Ford or Jaguar etc?
How would you describe our choir’s musicality?
What words would you use to describe our repertoire, sound, skill level, quality?
How would you describe our audiences “personas”?
Take a look at my post “Understand your target audience” and have everyone list the various demographic, psychographic and behavioural characteristics that they associate with our desired audience members.
This exercise can be carried out in one session or spread across a number.
Phase 2: Initial analysis
One person (or two at most) takes the results of the brainstorming away and attempts to make sense of it! Document the output from the session and make an initial stab concluding what that could mean for each of the branding aspects I listed above (“Not just the visual choir branding” section above).
Phase 3: Agree conclusions
Back in your project team go through the conclusions reached in Phase 2. Debate until you can agree enough to create a simple choir branding strategy. It might be useful at this stage to get everyone to look at the logo and websites for a few other choirs and list what they like, and don’t like, about them.
Phase 4: Build designs
If you are lucky enough to have someone in the choir with a level of design skills then get them to take away the branding strategy and come up with logo, typography, colour palette, image designs. If not, you will probably have to employ someone. You can hire the services of a graphic designer or, for a lower cost but probably not quite as personal a service, there are online services such as fiverr. If money is really tight you could even have a go yourself using free tools such as canva or logomakr.
Phase 5: Execute
As a result of having put a lot of effort, and perhaps cost, into this exercise you should obviously look to getting the maximum benefit from it. Implementing the changes could be a long process, especially if it involves redesigning your website, changing choir uniform etc. But try and make the process as short as you can.
Announce the intended changes to the choir and get them excited about it. Then, whenever you are comfortable that enough has been done to make a visible difference, launch to your supporters and even externally to the press.
Last, but by no means least, make sure that your branding strategy is maintained. Don’t let the odd poster go out or concert take place that doesn’t portray the image you desire. Your choir branding is fairly delicate and can easily be disrupted if you are not careful. If you want to evolve it do that consciously not by accident.
Of course, let me know if I can be of any help in defining your choir branding – good luck!
Understand what your choice of colours will mean to audiences. Art Therapy Blog >
Build your colour palette out. Adobe Colour >
Understand what your choice of text fonts will mean to audiences. Content Group Blog >
Online freelance services for design. fiverr >
Online logo templates & tools. canva >
Online logo creation tool. logomakr >