Fun with Marketing

You may have noticed that we've undergone a bit of a makeover recently. In anticipation of the 2016-2017 season, we:

- created a new logo
- came to some new font and color choices
- took a new, and fairly elaborate, publicity picture
- made a promotional video
- substantially upgraded our website

Why now? If you've been to any Salastina performances, we hope you'll agree that the music-making has always been top-notch. Materials and venues to reflect that quality? Not so much.

The primary motivating factor behind our re-brand was our move into a new venue. We were lucky to perform in a lovely church last year. It had some great things going for it. Parking was easy. It had good seats, ample legroom, and decent sight lines. Above all else: it was free. (Few assets top that one.)

It wasn't long before we realized we needed a venue that was a better fit for who we are and what we do. We were looking for better acoustics, a more refined and welcoming atmosphere, and most importantly, a greater sense of intimacy. Happily, we found all of this in Barrett Hall

Moving to a new venue can be a big step towards developing an organization's identity. (Exhibit A: how the LA Phil leveraged its move into Disney Hall.) Switching venues without upgrading our message in kind? What a missed opportunity that would have been. Doing both simultaneously would, at the very least, make our move more visible.

This past Spring, we were also prepping our membership program for launch. This program was a major milestone in our fundraising efforts. Salastina's print and web materials needed to reflect that donor and audience support had contributed towards this stage of our growth. Seeing that we'd "upped our game" in this way would hopefully inspire future giving.  

When we put these two changes together, it became clear that our marketing needed a timely boost. It was yet another example of how inter-connected all the moving parts are. 

Our learning curve

Classical musicians are content people. My favorite violinists of all time -- David Oistrakh, Leonid Kogan, Jascha Heifetz -- none of them were about to be on the cover of GQ.

Fritz kreisler, on the other hand: easy on the ears and the eyes -- in that fin-de-siecle kind of way.

Fritz kreisler, on the other hand: easy on the ears and the eyes -- in that fin-de-siecle kind of way.

In fact, we musicians are often suspicious of glossy packaging. Sometimes, unfairly so.  (Discrediting criticism of good-looking soloists like Anne-Sophie Mutter comes to mind.) 

We've all played concerts in which the venue, marketing materials, and other production elements were first rate -- but the music itself was mediocre. When this happens, it strikes us as maddeningly upside-down.

And sometimes, we bear witness to cringe-worthy attempts to repackage classical music in incongruously sexy ways. I will never forget seeing a chamber music concert advertised at a club called -- wait for it -- "Moist." 

Yes, we musicians are often high-and-mighty when it comes to messaging. It's as if what we do stands far above caring about image. How do you "sell," or "market," a product as lofty and abstract as the internal enrichment of one's soul? This seems like a laughably tall order. (Now that I think about it: meditation is sexy -- though yoga pants on attractive, Zen people probably have a lot to do with that.) 

It's true: classical music is extremely hard to market. But to brush marketing off as somehow besides the point? At best, this attitude is endearingly idealistic. At worst, it's naive and self-righteous. We learned something humbling through our rebranding process:

There is no such thing as compelling, honest marketing if you don't know who you are and what you stand for. 

When I shared this sentiment with our graphic designer Caroline, her response was: "marketing is pretty existential, isn't it?"

A humbling lesson

Good marketing, we learned, comes down to two critical questions:

1. Who are you?
2. How are people who should care going to care?

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed our rebranding process. It got me thinking about Salastina's mission and values from a fresh angle.

In order to figure out what we want to come through to people, we had to hone in on our message. This had a wonderfully focusing effect. 

Caroline sent a survey to several audience and board members. She asked them questions about Salastina, and about how we compare to other local chamber music series in their eyes. She called it a "competitor analysis." 

We were all thrilled to see consensus among the responses. This consensus helped us feel confident that a meaningful "brand identity" was already coming through. This made the task of differentiating ourselves much simpler than it would have been otherwise.

Our work then became about how all of this translated visually into a logo, font and color palette, publicity photos, and web design (courtesy of Kevin Lee). The entire process was tremendously fun, creative, and instructive. 

The new logo better reflects the friendliness of our concerts, and the overall culture of our organization. The font is warmer, and doesn't have the classy-yet-distancing effect of the original. The new logo reads as both more modern and more accessible. At the same time, the shield communicates elements of advocacy, family, and timelessness. 


Abstractly speaking, even this blog is a marketing tool. With every entry, we are sharing who we are and what we stand for.  

What we struggled with most in our rebranding process was the content of our promotional video. Telling our story in under two minutes? There were a million unsatisfying ways to skin that cat.

Happily, Jonathan and Daniel from Wirewalker Studios were very patient with us. And we love that the finished product accomplishes the two things we most wanted to convey: the audience experience of live classical music, and its transformative power. (Yep, the clip is from Verklarte Nacht -- "Transfigured Night.")

According to Caroline, our rebrand should last us another 5 to 10 years. I'm almost looking forward to the next round. Who knows what we'll want to reflect then, based on how we've grown?