Branding gone wrong

Sony Centre for the Performing Arts (CNW Group/Civic Theatres Toronto)

Some competitions make sense. But when they don’t, boy does the community have an opinion about it. The Sony Centre for the Performing Arts; the Toronto Centre for the Arts; and the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, currently called Civic Theatres Toronto have opened up a “national public naming competition” − with a “great prize package valued at up to $2,500.00” awarded to whoever comes up with a better name than Civic Theatres Toronto for Civic Theatres Toronto.

Clyde Wagner, the former Luminato Festival producer appointed to the position of president and chief executive of the CTT in January of 2017, is now looking to Canadians from Victoria to St. John’s to help come up with a spicier moniker.

“It’s a new era for Civic Theatres Toronto and it’s time for a name that captures the excitement and scope of what we will be offering in our future programming,” Mr. Wagner says in a news release.

Currently working with a branding firm on a tried and true method to uncover the brand DNA of a product, this is definitely not the way you want to “engage” the community. There’s a process and methodology for creating an identity for products and in this case institutions. Yes, crowd-sourcing may work for other brands where the target audiences are evolving and social media and engagement further powers the brand. But in this case, where there is a desperate community, and fragmented identity, forcing a “cool” name to it won’t fill the seats, if you will.

So, what do you call a group of mostly commercially sized theatres, too expensive and large for our not-for-profit performing arts groups to use, that sit empty half of the year and are subsidized to the tune of $5.1-million a year by Toronto citizens? You would think that after a year and four months in his job, Mr. Wagner would be telling us – not the other way around.

“What’s in a name?” the Civic Theatres Toronto website asks, quoting Shakespeare’s Juliet. “Everything,” it answers itself.

Perhaps if there were artists involved in running these buildings ostensibly built for art, instead of CEOs and vice-presidents of programming, one of them might have pointed out that Juliet’s actual response to her rhetorical question is: “That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet.”

Here’s hoping the flowers that bloom in May when Mr. Hammond and Mr. Wagner unveil their programming plans smell a little better than this naming competition does.

 

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