Branding - Selling Burlesque In a Commercial Market
Let’s face it, once you get past the illusion and glamour, burlesque is a business. Whether you’re a solo artist, a troupe, a costumier or a teacher, to gain traction in a niche (and sometimes overcrowded) market can be a tricky path to traverse.
I’ve made burlesque my main source of income thanks to solid branding of my school, The Bombshell Burlesque Academy, and I’ll be sharing some things I took in to consideration when I took over the running of it in 2012 before relaunching it in early 2014. Of course, this is focused on a business, but the same factors come into play when looking at your personal brand too.
1. Embrace the fact that you have a low budget for branding unlike other corporate entities and that you’re, most likely, going to have to do it all yourself.
This means a hell of a lot of research and trial and error before you hit the sweet spot. Look at your competitors and take note of what is and isn’t working. Also note what you personally do and don’t like – this could be logo styles, website design, colour schemes, layouts and tone of copy. Once you have a solid idea of what is going on around you and what you do and don’t like, making those choices will be much simpler for you.
2. Who are you and what do you do?
Brainstorm on what you’d like your audience to know about you and why you think they’ll engage with you over a competitor. This is known as your Unique Selling Proposition (USP), and should be very clear. You need to say to your audience “Engage with me for this specific reason”.
For The Bombshell Burlesque Academy (BBA), this took a little restructuring of the existing business model. We were running burlesque and other vintage styled classes in a number of suburbs, which was not dissimilar to the three other schools in Brisbane. I decided that, for a point of difference, we would concentrate our classes in Brisbane City to capture clients who were likely to engage in classes straight after work. This change has been highly successful for us and the students responded well to the regular location.
BBA’s USP is now – Book into our classes/book our artists for your event because we are:
* Centrally located in a consistent location
* Have professional entertainers as teaching staff
* Specialise in high glamour entertainment
These three elements individually are not unique, but together they are the USP of the Academy.
Names can make or break a brand. If it can’t be pronounced, spelt or remembered then you’re in trouble. Of course, research names that are already out there and ensure that you’re unique. Your name should also be a reflection of you and leave an impression with your audience.
When I became director of BBA in 2012, it was called The Bombshell Burlesque & Beauty Academy as it had been founded as a partnership between a makeup artist and a burlesque performer. While we still offer Vintage Styling and Pinup Workshops, I felt that these were an innate part of burlesque and dropped the ‘and beauty’ from the name to better reflect our product offering.
The ‘Bombshell’ part of the name was already established, with many referring to our students as ‘Bombshells’ so it was too valuable to alter, even if I had wanted to!
4. What does your brand look & sound like?
Logos and colour palettes are key to a consistent presence, particularly online. I had researched burlesque schools and businesses globally to see what I found appealing and what seemed to be in excess. From that, I knew to avoid the colour red, and anything with red velvet curtains in the imagery. I worked closely with KTB to design our current logo, which picked up on the ‘vintage pink’ of our previous logo, and added in an easy branding symbol – a diamond. For me, it was key that the logo be simple and ‘stamp’ like for printing on merchandise and watermarking images.
I ensure that this logo and our formats are continued on to all of our collateral, including flyers and posters, so that it’s instantly recognisable to our clients.
Also take time to think about the ‘personality’ of your brand – what does your copy sound like? Are you writing for potential students, corporate bookers or other industry members? Is your tone warm and welcoming, glamorous and inaccessible, pompous and funny? Think of the kind of audience you hope to attract and write accordingly.
5. Help your audience to find you!
With social media, this is easier than ever! In 2012, BBA didn’t have a functioning website, so my first step was to build one, applying all of the choices I had made in previous steps to best reflect my full brand. 60% of engagement of our clients is on mobile devices, so it was important that the website worked on mobile too.
After that, I spent time updating Facebook and creating Twitter, Google + and MySpace (yes, even MySpace) accounts. I personally don’t have the time to create unique content for each platform, however it’s easy enough to choose your most used platform and set it up to auto post to the others. That way, whatever platform your potential clientele choose to use, they can find you.
This is a very simplified overview of a much longer, detailed and, for me, constantly evolving branding of The Bombshell Burlesque Academy.
Remember – consistency is key, unless it’s not working! If your audience engagement wanes, take time to re-evaluate your brand and apply changes as needed. If it’s a major change, keep your audience updated and frame it as a positive. As our clients are looking for escape, negativity doesn’t sell burlesque!
I hope that helps a little and can inspire you on your own branding journey!
xoxo Lila Luxx