A guide to branding your group

It may be the last thing you want to think about when running your group, but your brand is crucial. It’s the story you choose to tell others about who you are and what you’re doing. 

For leisure time music groups and music promoters, image is paramount and is central to how you are perceived. 

Any time a potential new audience or group member comes across your group, whether that is online or offline, what they see or read will leave an impression. Creating a strong, consistent identity – your brand – gives you some control over that impression and helps people feel a sense of connection to you.

When thinking about your brand there are two key questions to ask yourself: 

  1. Who are you? 
  2. How do you communicate that?

1. Who are you? Defining your personality

Your group will already have a personality. A good exercise for your committee or management team is to think about what that is. Think about your story so far and your values. It's important to think about what you are – not what you want to be.

Exercise 1 – asking yourself 

Like any personality your group will be made up of many parts. Some questions to ask yourself:

  • What do you do?
  • Why do you do it?
  • How do you it? 
  • Who do you do it for? 
  • Who are your members and/or audience? 
  • What music do you make or present? 
  • Why do you make and present that music? 
  • What are the top five fantastic things about your group?
  • How do you serve your community?

Think of some key words or phrases that sum up your group ethos – are you fun, challenging, serious, modern?

An important part of your personality is your voice. Ask yourself, how does your group speak? Will it be formal, informal, chatty, direct, humorous?

There are no right or wrong answers - the important thing is to be clear about what you want to be and why – if you have this in place you can start to think about how to tell the world. 

Exercise 2 – asking others 

It can be easy to be too narrow in your focus. Understanding how others perceive you is an important part of working through your personality. Ask the wider membership and people outside your group (friends, audience) what they think. It is best to structure this in some way but without making it too onerous. It could be a short focus group discussion or survey. A really effective way can be asking people for three words they think sum you up.

Ideally what they say will match what you have come up with. But it won’t always be exactly the case and don’t worry if it isn’t – that’s all part of understanding your personality.  

Leopards can change their spots 

You should have now built up a picture of your group’s personality. You may be very happy with it or you may want it to be different. 

Either way the final part of phase one is to decide what you want it to be.  Use all the work you have done so far and start to build a picture of what you want your group’s identity and voice to be. What do you like and want to keep? Are there bits you want to change? Any differences between what external people think and what you think should be considered here too. It can also be useful to think about what you don’t want to be. 

There are no right or wrong answers - the important thing is to be clear about what you want to be and why – if you have this in place you can start to think about how to tell the world. 

Exercise 3 – summing up

It can be useful at this point to summarise your agreed personality and voice. This could be a short sentence or two or even just three words. Whatever you decide, a short simple and clear summary will be helpful for phase two.  

2. Communicating your personality

At the end of phase one you should have built up a good picture of your group's personality and how you want to be perceived the start of a brand. The next step is to think about how you communicate that personality. 

The short answer here is  everything. Everything about your group from your name to the fonts you use and how you run your rehearsals says something about your personality and makes up your brand. 

Exercise 4 – brands audit

Before you start this process in your group it can be useful to look at other brands. Think about your five favourite or most commonly used brands – this could be anything but it’s good to have a range of the functional and fun or luxury  your bank, supermarket, a clothing range, food producer, make-up brand even your local shop.

Think about what that brand means to you – how would you describe its personality? Now look at anything you have of theirs – an actual product, their website or app, a bag, a letter – anything. Look at the colours, logo, tone of voice, imagery, fonts and anything else visual. How (and how well) do those things communicate their personality? You don’t need to spend lots of time on this and don’t get bogged down in trying to find profound insight. The idea is to think about how brands communicate with you.  

Everything about your group from your name to the fonts you use and how you run your rehearsals says something about your personality and makes up your brand.

The building blocks of your brand identity 

The next stage is to start applying this thinking to your group’s personality. Think about all the things you do that in some way communicate with people and say something about your group. These are the building blocks of your brand. 

Exercise 5 – review your building blocks

Look at the building blocks of your brand and for each one ask: does it reflect your personality? Does it do as well as it could? Use the summary you came up with in phase one as a reference.

To help with your review we have come up with some suggestions of things to consider. They may not all apply to you  if they don’t think about whether it is something you can start doing to help communicate your personality. 

  • Your name – people may make perceptions based on certain words (e.g. a ‘choral society’ might be seen as a very formal group while ‘singers’ might be viewed as more relaxed). 
    • Is your name easy to understand? 
    • Vocal groups: are you singers, choir or choral society, or something else entirely? 
    • Orchestras: will your audience understand ‘Sinfonia’, ‘Sinfonietta’ or ‘Philharmonia’?
    • Promoting members: should you call yourself ‘concert club’, ‘concert society’, or something else entirely?
    • Could using your location in your name help to connect you to your community?
    • Read our case study about a group who changed their name
  • Your logo – is it clear and easy to understand? Does it work in both small and big sizes, and in colour and black and white? 
  • Your strapline – a short phrase that sums up your group, often used in conjunction with your name or logo (for example: Nike’s ‘Just do it’ or Sainsbury’s ‘Live well for less’.)
  • Your colour scheme – different colours have different connotations. Does the colour you choose reflect your image e.g. calm (blue), glamorous (black), energetic (red)? There is lots of research in this area – this blog is a good starting point. Do your secondary colours complement your main colour? Do these colours translate if you need to print something in black and white?
  • Your imagery – pictures and videos can be as powerful, if not more powerful, than words. Choose carefully – make sure they reflect how you want people to see your group.
  • Your typography – choose one or two fonts that reflect your personality and use them for everything. There are numerous typographical resources to help guide you.
  • Your dress code – how your members are dressed is the most visible thing at a public event and so should reflect your personality. 
  • Your music – last but not least the music you actually perform or promote has to strongly support your personality. It is no good wanting to be seen as a contemporary popular choir and only singing hymns from the 19th century!

These blocks will help build your style and your tone of voice which will express your personality. For instance, if you decided your personality is crazy, kooky and fun you may fill your posters will multiple colours, mosaic imagery and use informal chatty language on your website. Or if you summarise yourselves as classic and elegant, you may decide upon posters with a single striking photograph combined with minimal black text using a simple font. 

Digital 

Many of the building blocks above will be used across your website, social media and emails and will help reflect your personality. It important to not think of them as separate blocks though. Just using the correct fonts and colours isn’t enough. You should think about how they work together to communicate your personality.

With all these digital platforms you are speaking to the world, so the voice you use is vital in reflecting your personality too. You should be aiming for a consistency of personality across all these platforms. 

Print 

Whether it’s a poster, flyer, event ticket or even signage at a concert, your printed material is another chance to say something about who you are. The way you communicate may be different – for example the writing style for web copy, a recruitment flyer or event poster will all be different, but all should be underpinned by the same core personality and building blocks. 

We have lots of other guidance to help with the digital and print side of things  whatever you are doing remember to keep asking yourself; does it reflect our personality? Could it do it better? 

In person 

It can be easy to think brand is just about digital and print. But the personality of your group comes through most strongly when someone spends time with your group, be it a rehearsal, a performance or another event. 

If you’ve decided that your group is fun and friendly, then rehearsals should be run this way. If you want a more formal and traditional personality, then events should reflect that. 

The 'in-person' part of your brand can be harder to pin down. Some of the building blocks (sign fonts or dress code) will have an impact on the feel of the event. Your digital and print material reflecting your groups personality should help – if promotional material is formal and traditional, audiences will be expecting just that from your group.

There is a less intangible element to this as well – the atmosphere and feel of your events. This often comes down to the people involved. Group leaders, be they musical or committee, play a key role in setting the tone here and making sure leaders are ‘on brand’ is important. But the wider members have a role to play too – each one is a potential brand ambassador. That doesn’t mean they all have to be the perfect embodiment of the brand  but making sure your members understand the personality of the group will be a big help. 

Finally 

Thinking about branding is not an easy process, but it is one worth doing. By following the phases above, you should start to have clear and coherent idea of the what your groups is, what you want to say to the world and how you are going to do it. This can then help inform how your run your group from day-to-day decisions to longer-term planning. 

As with many things, it is an ongoing process. You need to give your personality and brand time to take root and find its place. At the same time, you need to keep an eye out and make sure it is still where you want it to be. Repeating the process every few years is a good idea even if it's just to tweak a few things here and there. 

Top five take-aways

  1. Think about your group’s personality as it is right now
  2. Ask people outside your group what they think 
  3. Decide what you want to be 
  4. Communicating your personality is not just about promotional material – everything you do as a group says something about the group
  5. Make sure your members are on board and understand your brand. 

 

For related content including marketing your events, social media, website design and member recruitment, view all marketing resources.


We hope you find this Making Music resource useful. If you have any comments or suggestions about the guidance please contact us. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the content of this guidance is accurate and up to date, Making Music do not warrant, nor accept any liability or responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the content, or for any loss which may arise from reliance on the information contained in it.