Branding Takes Center Stage

It’s almost Labor Day, which means it’s almost time for <<drum roll>> THEATER SEASON!

I look forward to the beginning of a theater season like most of my neighbors look forward to the playoffs. I’m so excited to sit my butt down in a seat, sometimes twice or thrice a week, and see some theater. Sometimes I write about it.

My day job enlightens me to more aspects of theater than I would otherwise notice. A theater company, and each production they stage, is a brand, just like any other entity out there. They need to sell tickets in order to keep their doors open. Word-of-mouth is a producer’s best friend, but he or she must be a savvy marketer. The branding of a production’s name, stars, genre and story is essential to marketing their productions to the widest possible audience. Especially when you consider how few people go to the theater now, or at least how few new people go.

I have always been in love with the branding at New York’s famed Public Theater, the institution that is responsible for the birth of “A Chorus Line,” Shakespeare in the Park, the inimitable Joe’s Pub cabaret, and Broadway’s latest phenomenon, the likely-Tony-and-Pulitzer-winner “Hamilton”. (Check out a gallery of some of their branding work on Behance.) Their branding is heavy on typography, photo illustration and collage, and color-based graphics. They load their brand marks and posters with lots of words, few images and usually some blast of excitement. Their look is unmistakable, even if it strays from the last campaign.

A look at their building in downtown Manhattan, near NYU, shows how thorough their branding is, too. Look at that interior, with their trademark lettering labeling each part of the interior. How informative, democratic, beautiful—classically Public, it’s a hybrid of street and classic. And that mesh grating beneath the marquee, with the stamped-out logo! Gaaa!

We can thank the smart folks at Pentagram for this work. The Public’s branding has been an indomitable part of New York City’s identity, from my perspective. I can’t imagine these loud, interrupting posters not greeting me as I walk through the city. I hope to make it back there soon and see a show. Until then, see you at the theater!