A Permanent Home for Provocative Theater. Arts Branding had the pleasure of working with MCC Theater as it made plans to build its first permanent theater complex. MCC Theater stands out in the crowded nonprofit, off-Broadway theater market of New York City. Its challenging, edgy works make audiences sit-at-attention, rapt by plays and musicals focused on contemporary societal and moral issues. MCC itself states: “Our mission is to provoke conversations that have never happened – and otherwise never would.”

As MCC considered an expanded season and offerings, and additional educational and community programs, it wanted to refine how and what it communicated to attendees, supporters, artists, and educators.

Discovery Based on Research. Arts Branding recommended an information gathering and analysis process that incorporated several methods of research, that would built on the findings from each method. We wanted to MCC to be able to confirm or overturn assumptions, and be open to knowing how the external world views them.

We used a combination of internal and external interviews, attendee surveys, focus groups, and an online survey to uncover and characterize MCC’s communications issues. We also tested different positioning directions, and MCC wanted us to test the equity of their current organization name and different naming directions, and provide a viewpoint and recommendations to move forward.

A Combination of Confirmed, Overturned, and New Issues. Each research method yielded baseline information from which we delved deeper in successive research. Ultimately, 9 key findings surfaced using Pessen Strategic Research. Two findings validated assumptions that MCC knows are vital to why audiences value their work. Four findings invalidated MCC’s assumptions about what audiences thought. And, three new issues arose that MCC needed to consider as it prepared to evolve into an theater organization with its own venues in a part of Manhattan that would be new to them, attendees, and supporters.

Clear Insights and Recommendations. Research on directions for MCC positioning and naming provided clear insights on how  to best position the organization to potential audiences, the equity of the current name, and where the organization could pursue new naming directions – if it chose to – and directions that were inadvisable to pursue. Naming is one of the most emotional branding issues that an organization can address, and clear answers, even with research, are not always an outcome.

Arts Branding provided insights on the research findings based on its past experience, trends in the field, instincts into audience behavior, and brand best practices in the cultural field. We also provided recommendations that would help MCC further evolve its brand overall and its place among comparable organizations within the New York City contemporary theater field.

Solid Knowledge for Key Decisions. MCC’s management and Board Brand Committee felt they gained valuable information from the thorough vetting of issues and ideas through research. They fully understood that while research doesn’t provides answers per se, it does provide valuable insights into how audiences feel about the issues that MCC needed to address to move forward. MCC felt confident in the findings and recommendations that we presented and ready to move on the next phases of creating MCC’s communications tactics.

MCC Theater complex launch: Fall 2018. Renderings: Andrew Berman Architect.

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