Branding  as process. Some steps towards a strong orchestra brand.

For many consumer goods we take branding for granted. Yet despite substantial economic and demographic pressure, few orchestras have so far begun to contemplate the potentials of brand building. Their identity as a cultural institution brings certain caveats when pursuing this strategy, yet it also offers great advantages.

Even so, it is possible to generalize a number of steps towards brand development:

1. brand identity and the definition of core qualities,

2. positioning and the definition of unique selling propositions,

3. their realization and communication (e. g. through corporate design), and

4. brand controlling.

At the same time, not every orchestra will benefit from (or even be able to implement) a thorough branding strategy – to do so requires certain resources and is most suitable for those ensembles that experiences strong competition or aim to create an international profile.

The example of the “DüSys” (Düsseldorfer Symphoniker, Germany) shows how effective branding campaigns can be. Run in 2004 with huge photo adverts from orchestra musicians throughout the city telling the people “I am a DüSy” (a member of this orchestra), it has generated impressions still lasting today. The brand “DüSy” for the orchestra had been set within weeks in press, media and customers minds. Yet while successful, the current artistic director, Michael Becker, decided to shift the focus towards a stronger identification with the Symphoniker’s new concert venue. By deleting the successful DüSy campaign a lot of (public) money has been just burned.

Other high value, premium orchestra brands as the Berlin Philharmonic, the Gewandhaus Orchestra or the Staatskapelle Dresden have been much more carefully in developing their brands step by step, but always keeping the core brand itself.

Premium brand: Berlin Philharmonic

On top of talent and quality as the indispensable requirements, professional entertainment agencies emphasize the necessity to develop a “unique selling proposition” (USP) and an easily recognizable profile, right down to looks and personal appearance of the artists and esp. the orchestra members. Yet motivations to listen to classical music are strongly individualized. It is therefore crucial to develop detailed insight into one’s audiences – thus making audience research an integral element of branding, as it provides the information to position an ensemble in accordance with audience demands.

The German Konzerthaus Dortmund is a case study for a stringent brand strategy: built  around  a “three-step  concept” – 1. brilliant acoustics, 2. closeness to audiences, 3. sophisticated programming – the Konzerthaus has developed a coherent and recognized identity over the past ten years. Finally another example: for the Mahler Chamber Orchestra (MCO), as a freelance travelling ensemble, brand identity is absolutely crucial. The MCO has identified four core attributes: 1.quality, 2.internationality, 3. democratic structures and 4. personal relations.

To sum up: An excellent orchestra needs a strong brand.