You love stuff, I love stuff, she loves stuff, we all love stuff! From T-shirts to hats, mugs, posters, and just about anything in between, merchandise is an excellent way to promote your work, create another revenue stream, and build your theatre’s branding. But mass-producing a series of random merchandise isn’t the way to go about it; your merch should be edited and strategic, driving loyalty from established patrons and interest from potential ones. 

If you’re hoping to clearly define your theatre’s brand identity, merchandise is an excellent component of that marketing strategy. On The Stage explores how to use your merch to build a stronger, clearer identity. 

What is Brand Identity?

Let’s start with a universal truth: no great brand, company, or business is in the market without a brand identity. But what, exactly, is a brand identity? 

A brand identity is how a business – or in this case, your theatre – presents itself in the public eye. This is visualized through logos, trademarks, advertising, public relations, product production and the like. Businesses create identities in a variety of ways, but to establish a clear picture, they typically ask themselves these questions first: 

  • What message do I want my business to convey to the public?
  • What do I offer to my patrons?
  • How is my business different from others like mine? 
  • How are my competitors and my organization similar?
  • What are my company’s values and/or my company’s mission statement? 
  • What does my company do best?

Once your theatre has created a clear identity, creating branded merchandise is a tangible marketing effort that takes that identity into the world. Think of this branded merchandise as an extension of your theatre itself. Diving into your theatre’s identity, and everything it represents, is valuable information for creating meaningful products that will stick with people.

Ways to Use Merch to Build Brand Identity 

So, now that you’ve clearly defined who you are as a theatre, you can utilize merchandise to build and spread that identity in your community. A few ways to do this include: 

Create Emotional Connections

People don’t just love stuff for the sake of having stuff – they enjoy merchandise because they typically have an emotional connection to it.

Think of your favorite shirt. No, not the most expensive one, or even the cutest – the one you truly love the most. More than likely, you have a happy or sentimental memory associated with it, right? Along the same lines, well-branded merchandise can elicit an emotional reaction. 

So – how can you create emotional connections between patrons and your merch? Sell it during events – whether that’s your latest show, an important fundraiser, a gala, a workshop, or a programming activity like a summer camp. Create great memories with your patrons and they’ll more than likely want some merch to remember the occasion. Even more, they’ll associate your brand with positive memories and community involvement. Win-win! 

Keep Branding Consistent 

Creating a strong visual brand persona can be tough, so remember that successful merchandise branding relies on consistency. If your merchandise doesn’t have the same “feel” or “vibe” as your other branded property, it won’t immediately register as yours. And if you’re gunning for brand recognition, that’s the last thing you want. 

Uniformity is key. But remember, consistency doesn’t have to be boring. Make sure you’re keeping these elements similar yet fun across the board: 

  • Typography: The fonts you use on your merchandise should be the same fonts found on your website, ads, posters, programs, and any other promotional materials. While you may think this is boring – not so! People respond to consistency, and when they see similar designs and fonts across the board, they recognize and remember who that branding is for. 
  • Colors: Much like fonts, the colors you use in your branding – whether for your theatre at large or for specific shows – should remain similar throughout all marketing efforts. This again creates patterns of repetition that further strengthen your brand identity. 
  • General Design: Shapes, custom patterns, logos, and other design elements should also stay consistent. 
  • Brand Voice: What sort of voice do you want your theatre to have? Are you the friendly yet knowledgeable theatre expert? How about the relatable, down-to-earth theatre enthusiast? You should be keeping the same ‘tone’ throughout your marketing copy. 

Cater to Your Demographics

As you’re building your merchandise product lists, remember to consult the data on who, exactly, will be buying it. Before clicking “purchase” on a large merch order, ask yourself a few questions to ensure maximum sales and thus, a stronger brand identity in your community:

  • Who is your typical patron? 
  • How old are they?  
  • What do they value in a brand?
  • What do they expect to see from your theatre?
  • What do your patrons want when it comes to merch? Hats? Cups? Clothing? What will be most useful to them? 
  • Would certain features on merchandise be more helpful or effective than others?

By understanding your patron base, your merchandise can be edited to reflect their wants and needs. This, in turn, will lead to stronger sales numbers. And with more of your merch being worn and utilized in the community, your brand identity will strengthen. 

Focus on Quality over Quantity

Mass production of merchandise, while it may be low-hassle and cost-effective, could also mean you’re sacrificing on the quality of your products.

Instead, make sure the merchandise you’re producing and selling is top-notch, from the actual components of the product, like the thread count of the shirts or the material of the mugs, to the design and copy branded onto them. 

By creating high-quality merchandise and keeping your selections sleek and exclusive, you’re increasing the perceived value of your brand and, in turn, strengthening that all-important brand identity. Top-of-the-market merchandise will further establish your reputation and credibility within the community.

Additionally, a focus on quality merchandise means it will last longer. Longevity is key to great merchandise, as it’s the gift that keeps on giving as free marketing (think walking billboards) for your theatre. 

Take Pride in Your Product

Great merchandise can strengthen your brand identity, because it creates pride within your ranks. Allow your merch to increase staff, cast, and crew morale  – they will be proud to utilize their own merchandise and even prouder to see it out in the community. 

Another point of pride will be differentiating your theatre from others in the community. You will certainly stand out as being on a higher echelon than your competition if your merchandise is top-notch. This will strengthen that brandy identity tenfold. 

How On The Stage Can Help

Merchandise and building a strong brand identity can be hard enough to manage solo, and even tougher when you’re also planning your next production alongside a bevy of other tasks. This is where On The Stage (OTS) comes in. We provide an on-demand solution to make merchandise sales far more manageable and profitable. A few perks of OTS’ merchandise include: 

  • An easy-to-use set-up: With OTS, you can create and sell theatre merchandise from your online store (also easily created through On The Stage). Merch offerings include show shirts, mugs, posters, and more, featuring your production artwork or theatre logo.
  • Flexible pricing: You set the pricing to fit your needs and revenue goals.
  • Full automation: OTS handles the printing, production, order fulfillment, and drop shipping, so you don’t have to worry about the logistics.
  • Various design options: The OTS suite offers preloaded item templates that you can select for your merchandise campaign. The design is handled automatically with your show art or logo.
  • On-demand ordering and drop shipping: Each custom piece of merch is printed on demand and shipped directly to the customer – meaning you don’t handle order fulfillment or stock management! Gone are the days of storing unsold inventory or running out of popular items!

The perks are clear: With On The Stage, all you need to bring to the table for merchandise is your brand identity, and we’ll do the rest – building brand engagement and loyalty in no time at all. 

If you’re ready to get started, book a demo with On The Stage today.

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