Articulating National Theatre of Scotland's brand

National Theatre of Scotland is a theatre without walls. Established in 2006, the company has no building but has created over 250 productions of all sizes around Scotland, the UK and internationally. 

In 2018, National Theatre of Scotland asked MHM to help explore and refresh their visual identity. It quickly became clear that to tell the theatre's story with impact we first had to help them articulate their brand aspirations. 

Articulating National Theatre of Scotland’s brand

It’s hard to listen to the National Theatre of Scotland team talk about what they do and not get excited with them. 

MHM canvassed the entire organisation on their essence, driving belief, personality and brand promises. The theatre's core values shone through: they are audacious in their ambition, generous in their approach and truly embracing of theatre without walls.

These core values became the three pillars of the organisation's brand model. We then articulated this model into a one-page document -  a brand triangle -  that functioned both as a practical reference tool to help staff be true to their values and as an important part of the brief for the new visual identity designers. 

Testing audience recognition of National Theatre of Scotland’s brand values

Our next step was to compare the values articulated in National Theatre of Scotland’s brand triangle with its image among external audiences. 

First we conducted an audience survey followed by an interactive audience forum. We used Culture Segments, MHM's psychographic audience segmentation system, to understand how different groups responded to the National Theatre of Scotland's brand.

National Theatre of Scotland’s brand gap with a key audience segment

National Theatre of Scotland’s audience is dominated by two core Culture Segments: Essence and Stimulation

It didn’t surprise us that Essence featured prominently - this segment prizes artistic quality above all else, we found they had great faith in the theatre's artistic programme.

But while Stimulation should be a perfect fit (their description of their perfect theatre experience matched the National Theatre of Scotland's brand values to a tee), we found this segment simply weren’t aware of the scale, diversity and innovation in National Theatre of Scotland’s work. Stimulation had seen and enjoyed the odd show but they hadn’t joined the dots, or really grasped the theatre’s overarching mission. 

Would a strategy to grow Stimulation audiences put off core Essence?

The new visual identity offers the National Theatre of Scotland a golden opportunity to grow their audiences among this like-minded Culture Segment. But it was important to also make sure that a bold, brave Stimulation-targeted marketing strategy didn't simultaneously alienate the theatre's core Essence supporters.

The MHM audience forum gave the theatre the reassurance they needed: National Theatre of Scotland's Essence audiences loved the organisation and wanted their performances to reach a wider market.

Essence wouldn't be put off by a Stimulation-focused campaign: this segment were confident, experienced cultural consumers who considered marketing to be largely for ‘other people’ who need persuasion.  

However, Essence audiences expressed a desire to see publicity from a distance; to understand straight away that a new show was coming up without having to read the blurb. In other words, Essence needed the new visual identity to make National Theatre of Scotland performances instantly recognisable. 

A new visual identity to build Stimulation and connect with Essence audiences

The insight gathered from the MHM audience forum heavily influenced the development of National Theatre of Scotland’s new visual identity and ensured it matched their newly defined brand values.

When testing early drafts of the visual identify, we didn't simply ask participants 'which version do you like best?' Instead, we focused people's impressions of the different drafts. This helped us advise National Theatre of Scotland on which version of the new visual identity aligned most closely to their brand intentions, and why. 

National Theatre of Scotland's new visual identity is a flexible platform that builds on the existing theatre logo. It helps convey varied and compelling ideas that demonstrate National Theatre of Scotland's diverse programming and will actively help close the brand gap for Stimulation.

It also contains a series of consistent visual cues that will help Essence audiences instantly recognise when a production is from the National Theatre of Scotland stable.

It has been a real pleasure to work with MHM on the brand refresh. This process has given us precious information about the public perception of NTS brand overall as well as very precise intelligence on how different visual approaches would affect public perception. We now feel fully equipped to take evidence-based decisions on the way we communicate.

- Charlotte Gross, Director of Audience and Media, National Theatre of Scotland

Image credits
Interference: Anna Cervinkova
Cheviot: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan
Just Start Here: Megan McEachern


Lorna is MHM's Head of Insight. She oversees the quality of the insight processes across the company...

As Director, Jo works with many of our key clients on projects such as segmentation and branding;...

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