Queensland Theatre has transformed to become the fastest growing theatre company in Australia — at a time when others face shrinking audiences, cut-backs in government funding, and struggle to find relevance with younger demographics. The theatre’s success is off the back of a change in artistic direction that introduced artistic director Sam Strong in 2015 along with a complete brand overhaul via For The People.
When the theatre relaunched in September 2016, the results were almost immediate, with rapid engagement from old and new audiences. Following the launch, the theatre experienced its fastest and highest selling show of all time. It grew subscriptions by 12% resulting in the highest number of subscribers since 1988. Queensland Theatre grew its donations by 61% – more than double the number of people donating from Season 2016. Since that exceptional start, the theatre has gone from strength to strength, with each year surpassing the last in season ticket sales and donations.
The strategy for the brand followed the lead of Strong’s vision to break down barriers for new theatregoers and bring a more open and inclusive attitude to reaching audiences. By opening theatre up to everyone, the Queensland Theatre has been able to shine a light on all of the various activities of the company, including First Nations programming, touring productions across the state, and its leading youth programs.
As for its brand and season campaigns, Queensland Theatre took bold steps to ensure it won over audience loyalty.
Says Strong: “We faced a challenge where our company’s brand was struggling to gain traction against other performing arts companies (including venues we were appearing in). For The People’s strategic thinking helped us position ourselves more effectively in Brisbane and nationally.”
It was a bit of a heresy in theatre-terms but a key change was giving prominence to the theatre’s branding over individual productions. Along with a new logo, custom typeface, vibrant colour palette and bold art direction, the change to the brand architecture has helped build awareness, recognition and trust for the Queensland Theatre for the long term rather just promoting individual shows to audiences.
The 2020 season campaign by For The People shines the spotlight on a series of character studies. Previous season campaigns focussed on other key aspects of Queensland Theatre such as set building and lighting design.
Says Strong: “The work of For The People has been integral to the transformation and success of Queensland Theatre. Our visual identity has become iconic, clearly identifiable and now the subject of occasional imitation by other organisations.”
Says Jason Little, executive creative director, For The People: “And by staggering the reveal of its brand over the last four seasons through different aspects of Colour, Stage, Light, and now Character, our vision for Queensland Theatre has been to open up audiences to the different elements that bring theatre to life. This had the benefit of giving the public an insiders view of theatre, over a number of years.”