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Rebranding isn't just refreshing visual identity, it’s part of a strategic jigsaw in articulating your purpose. Rambert has been looking at ways to resonate beyond its immediate audience, as Jo Taylor explains.

Rambert's cause written on the wall
Rambert's Cause written on their studio wall.

Rambert’s recent tour was artistically off the scale. While box office met our overall target, we weren’t packed to the rafters, but we are excited about who showed up. 

Historically, a Rambert audience has been significantly more mature and less diverse than the population. And very dance-knowledgeable. Our visual rebrand is part of a bigger strategy to reach a younger, more diverse, new audience. 

It's early days but something is shifting. Last month a venue director asked “who are these people and where did you find them?” I’m waiting for the data to prove or disabuse me of the notion, but I saw a much more diverse audience, behaving differently. They couldn’t find the box office, were taking selfies with the show posters, and whooping when they felt like it.

Can’t rely on exceptional choreographers

At nearly 100 years old, Rambert has prestige in our sector. One in five adults in the UK have heard of us and that figure doubles among the over 55s who remember the Rambert of the 1970s, 80s, 90s. But among under 35s, awareness is negligible and prestige meaningless.  

Recently, our audience sizes have varied wildly with huge numbers for a small number of works, leading to the assumption that Rambert’s audience is “very repertoire sensitive”. I challenge that, as that means Rambert doesn’t have an audience, only some of its repertoire does. 

Either way we want to build an audience that is a diverse, brilliant and daring fanbase. We want to find new, different voices and ideas, so we can’t rely on our exceptional choreographers as the main selling point. And learning from the past, selling the repertoire results in audiences who show allegiance to the works rather than the company. 

Our strategy is to build an audience for Rambert. To build a brand around Rambert’s experience requires us to have absolute clarity and articulation of our promise. We spent time over several weeks reflecting on our purpose, the difference we want to make in the world, and why we might be particularly attractive and impactful. 

The resulting model is aspirational but everything in it can be evidenced and reflects the vision of our leaders. It informs everything we do from commissioning, participation and community programmes, and fundraising, to House Rules, recruitment and staff appraisals. With everyone involved it’s easier to get buy-in and leaves no-one struggling to understand their role in delivering the promise.  

At its heart, our cause 

What if… there was a dance company where brilliant and daring people could show up and be supported to push themselves to move the world forward.  Welcome to Rambert.  

We’re not only here to put on the best dance performances. We believe that to give brilliant and daring people the chance to inspire others is to give them the power to change the world for the better. 

Our dancers are chosen for their individuality and are diverse in their bodies, ethnicity and background. Their performances are superhuman, but they are entirely human: relatable, inspiring, motivating. We want you to take inspiration from them and be encouraged to believe in your own potential and motivated to fulfil it.

We recognise this isn’t for everyone. Not everyone wants to be brilliant and daring, or to push themselves. Not everyone will love what we do. But if this does ignite your interest, then attitude – not characteristics or previous dance experience – should be the only thing that might exclude you. For example, we’re not here for those who aren’t willing to embrace inclusivity, anti-racism and environmental responsibility.

Key to the strategy is our desire to build a fanbase, as opposed to a customer base. This means connection and relatability, not just transactions. So, we need to be able to translate our promise to our target audience and invite them to connect.

From Essence to Stimulation

Using the Morris Hargreaves McIntyre segmentation tool - Culture Segments - we identified an opportunity in the Stimulation segment. Stimulation folk are risk-takers, adventurers, early adopters, drawn to ideas and brands with something to say. 

Historically our core audience was not only older but largely from the Essence segment - confident, well-informed, arts-centric. These segments are built on mindset not demographics, so each segment includes all demographic groups. Shedding light on what resonates and motivates with each segment, we find this powerful for crafting messages that connect with our target audience. 

With the strategic material in place, we partnered with Hingston Studio to create a visual language for our new brand We shared insights about our audiences with them and explored why previous branding had resulted in the current Essence audience. 

Now we needed to present ourselves differently – passionate and brave but not oblique and always serious – if we were to resonate with a new, younger, diverse, Stimulation audience.

The brand is Rambert - our dancers are the campaign

Rambert dancers (l. to r.) Simone Damberg Würtz, Aishwarya Raut and Musa Motha. Photo: Mariano Vivanco. Branding: Hingston Studio

We knew Hingston would produce the highest quality, beautiful design, but the main measures of success were 1. brand-led 2. segment-driven 3. true to Rambert, but breaking out of category.

We learned from non-arts brands who put audiences, not just products, centre-story. We’d been playing with “What ifs” for some time in our messaging, liking how this could both provoke and motivate. But this idea finally landed when Hingston paired it with the ultimate invitation/call to action: IT’S YOUR MOVE.

The brief was to capture the dancers as superheroes but not deities. They dare and motivate rather than intimidate and demoralise. We present them as leaders, mobilising through positive provocation and directly address the audience.

We’re only just starting to move the needle and continue to roll out the strategy. Coming up we have a show where the brand (Peaky Blinders) is far bigger than us. But we’re confident, faced with the new audience this affords, we now have the tools to make Rambert fans of a significant number of them.

Jo Taylor is Director of Audiences at Rambert.
@JoeyTaylor | @rambertdance

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