‘Not for the likes of you’ success stories

‘Not for the likes of you’ success stories

By Morton Smyth


Discover the success stories of the 'Not for the Likes of You' initiative, as ten organisations share how they changed their overall positioning and messaging to remove barriers to attendance and participation.

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

In 1998 Simon Rattle left CBSO after 18 years at the helm. Up to this point the CBSO had never really taken a strategic approach to marketing and, to be honest, Simon was our message. He was widely known as the chirpy curly haired conductor who had changed the face of CBSO from a provincial ensemble to a world-class orchestra. Simon was replaced by the young Finnish conductor Sakari Oramo who was brilliant but unknown in the UK - and a totally different personality to Simon. Sakari was initially described by some as 'aloof' and 'foreign' and the perception was that quality had slipped - think of Virgin without Richard Branson. We were faced with a major gap in our identity and to add to that, an impending financial crisis. Serious action was required.

A year later, the CBSO was invited to apply to the Arts Council's Stabilisation programme. We had a new Chief Executive in Stephen Maddock, and a new Director of Marketing and Development in Sarah Gee. Both had a clear idea of what needed to happen: we needed a solid strategic approach to marketing and communications, based on audience research but with the addition of a healthy dollop of instinct. We wrote a proper business plan and communications strategy and increased the size of the marketing, press and income generation teams under the new title of the Communications department.

By 2001 we had re-branded the company. We chucked out anything stuffy, snobby and dull and brought our image into the 21st Century. We wanted to be seen as friendly, approachable and passionate about our music, whilst still adhering to our international reputation for high-quality performances and pushing at the boundaries of music-making.

We changed our identity. To do this we:

  • Created a single CBSO brand (we used to have separate logos for the choruses etc)
  • Changed a heavy, static 70s looking logo to a lively, colourful 'splash'
  • Clarified our core values as 'a passion for music'
  • Made our copy informal, chatty and unashamedly enthusiastic and emotional
  • Created a series of billboard ads featuring provocative statements such as 'take the wife out and face the music', 'are you a goer?', 'you never forget your first time'

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Resource type: Case studies | Published: 2013