The BBC Proms is the world’s biggest classical music festival and, in 2012, its identity was fractured and staid, using classical music tropes and language that appealed to a narrow audience that was already bought into the BBC Proms brand. There were a lot of music notes. In the face of declining print sales for illustrated titles, it was important that, as the new head of the publishing operation that included the Proms Guide, its flagship publication, as well as concert programmes, I modernised the strategy to create a sustainable plan that actually spoke to broader target audiences.
The first thing I did was to ban those music notes because I thought that the BBC Proms could do a lot more than rely on ‘music’ as its call to action. Why did people come to a Proms concert? Why did they tune in on Radio 3? What was their emotional connection with the Proms brand and its related publications? Answering these questions allowed my and my team to:
Design a visual identity that stirred audience emotions, reducing the distance between the performers and the audience
Create new formats for printed publications that allowed better use of white space (because what we said was important and it needed room to breathe), bespoke images and variation for non-classical concerts (because those audiences were different and the content needed to respect that, not try to shoehorn them)
Describe the Proms in a way that avoided patronising its longstanding audience without alienating newcomers by careful use of language and acknowledgement that there would be multiple entry points to the content
Use the identity more flexibly than previously: I converted the main titles to ebook, produced an app and redesigned the website, creating a consistency across publishing formats.
Print sales stabilised in a declining market.
The Proms Publications team established itself as market leaders within the field of classical music design.
Audiences experienced a consistent feel however they encountered the Proms.
The team made beautiful exhibition images at the Royal Albert Hall that mirrored what had been used in the Proms Guide. They consisted of fewer words and striking images and built, again, on that emotional connection. I received requests from audience members to get hold of the exhibition panels. They'd created something with meaningful engagement in a world where we’re often trying to work out what that is.