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Grow Your Loyalty

brand loyalty

What is brand loyalty?

It’s what makes us drive past two drug stores to shop at a third, swear by a certain coffee, buy our detergent despite a sale on another. It’s a consumer behavior pattern driven by a trusted relationship and positive associations with the product or service. For dance studios, your public brand is far more than just a name on a team jacket: it’s a company philosophy tied to core values and rigorously maintained. 

An effective brand will help you grow public recognition—to attract new customers—and, most importantly, loyalty—to help you keep them. Let’s look at three More Than Just Great Dancing!® studios with successful brands to see how they’ve maximized the benefits of brand loyalty.

THE POINTE SCHOOL OF DANCE:

The Pointe

An effective brand will promote what your studio is, explain who it serves, and build community.

When dance teacher Vanessa Terrell purchased a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, studio from its retiring owner, her employer, she noticed that there was no general sense of community. The website was outdated, the logo and brand colors were inconsistent, and its social media presence was nonexistent. “I knew I wanted to make the whole studio feel connected,” she says.

She started by throwing one party for staff where she talked about new goals and unveiled the studio’s new name and trendy hashtag—#gettothepointe—plus another for the competition team, where she handed out jackets and T-shirts with her new logo. She also asked both groups for help in creating a studio where “every dancer and family felt they could belong,” Vanessa says.

That first year, facing pushback from a longtime staffer and a student bullying issue, she was firm about staying true to her desired brand as a positive, inclusive studio and showed the malcontents the door. “In addition to defining what we wanted to be, I felt it was important to define what we did not want to be,” Vanessa says.

7 ACADEMY OF PERFORMING ARTS:

Ben Anderson

A coordinated social media marketing strategy will strengthen your brand.

After training in London, Ben Anderson returned to his home county of Shropshire, England, determined to create a welcoming space where children could study dance and musical theater. “As a young boy, I often found myself overwhelmed with a sense of not fitting in or belonging,” he says, explaining how his Telford studio was founded to “inspire and celebrate individuality.”

Today, his well-defined studio philosophy of “7 Pillars of 7 Academy” (“Everyone is Welcome,” “Nurture Self Confidence,” etc.) is featured on his website and reflected on social media: posts use similar words and phrasing such as “nurturing” and “sense of belonging.” 

The studio’s color, purple, which Ben believes symbolizes “ambition, strength, and acceptance,” is liberally used in marketing and coordinates professionally with pictures of smiling students in their purple dress-code leotards.

JOYFUL ARTS MOVEMENT:

A well-defined brand is rooted in purpose and passion.

Illinois resident Abby Odom has owned her studio since age 18, but last winter at age 32, struggling to balance life as a new mom and business owner, she considered closing. Then COVID struck. She looked at studios launching awesome online programs and princess story times and just cried. She didn’t know if she even had the strength to attend a drive-by birthday party for a student—but then thought about how the little girl had few friends, and how happy she would be to see her dance teacher.

“I knew if my studio shut down, she would not dance anywhere else,” Abby says. “I have a soft spot in my heart for kids who are bullied or shy—I love to get them into my studio and build them up and tell them ‘You are awesome.’”

Joyful Arts Website on phone

Abby rededicated herself to her business—and started by rebranding. After buying her hometown studio in 2007 she had changed the name, but now set about to create the mission statement and core values the organization lacked. Her new studio name and its catchy, youth-centric nickname—JAM—came to her in a flash. Working with a MTJGD™ graphic designer, Abby decided on a trendy lower-case logo where the “u” in Joyful is a smiley face and a “happy” unisex color palette of pink, orange, green, and blue.

Having lost half of her already-depleted client base during COVID, only about 30 studio families were on hand last summer when Abby announced the rebranding during a Zoom call, but her enthusiasm was infectious. Both her customers and staff quickly climbed on board.

Today her entire outlook about her studio has changed, and her enrollment is the strongest it’s been in years. Her website tells the story she wants to tell, not of a studio that’s “professionally focused and neat and tidy” but of a fun environment that brings joy to everyone who enters—Abby included.

RECOGNIZE:

Growing brand loyalty takes time and effort.

“I’d find myself looking for marketing ideas on Instagram, and I’d click and click and an hour’s gone by” with nothing accomplished, says Vanessa, who has removed online content creation from her overflowing plate—her front desk manager now takes and posts candid videos and pictures daily. Knowing her teen students “live on” Instagram, shout-outs for their hard work or progress are posted there, while her website is set up to share information with parents (dress codes, practice videos) and teachers (deadlines for editing recital music).

Ben suggests studio owners strive to understand their customers’ social media preferences and utilize those platforms during peak periods—but beware of too many posts with limited value. “Ensure that each post has a specific outcome and avoid posting just for the sake of it.”

His partner, Alex Richards, the studio’s creative director, wasn’t professionally trained yet with a good eye and enthusiasm has developed a marketing plan that gives families “an understanding of us as a business.” “We’ve gotten away from generic copy and are more focused on telling our story,” says Ben, who discusses strategy with Alex and the studio’s management team monthly.

One of Abby’s goals is to create a social media ambassador program where families will get rewarded for sharing posts or giving the studio public shout-outs. Currently, a young office worker takes candid shots of studio doings; Abby encourages teachers to do the same by giving public shout-outs for any fun lesson snapshots they send to her.

CONSIDER:

A brand can be used as a jumping-off point for auxiliary programs, recital themes, and even curriculum.

For this year’s recital, Abby went with “That’s my JAM,” a play-on-words with the studio’s nickname that also refers to that special song a person can’t help but dance to. Students were tasked with finding their own costumes in one of the studio’s four logo colors. “It will be a colorful hodgepodge mess,” she says with glee.

She’s also designing JAM “Joy Jackets” that students can customize with patches of things that inspire them or bring them joy, such as getting their first pointe shoes. (Abby has arranged for the patches to be made by an old friend who owns an embroidery business.) She’s also expanded her curriculum with programs designed to create joyful experiences, such as a summertime mermaid program for parents and kids, and “it’s OK to take an hour for yourself” adult classes.

A 7 Academy open house/free trial lesson day held shortly after the studio reopened in-person was dubbed “Experience Day,” playing off one of the studio’s “7 Pillars”—Create Memorable Experiences.

REMEMBER:

Having a strong, consistent brand will attract and keep customers.

Though 7 Academy was closed for almost a full year during COVID, the studio retained 96 percent of its pre-pandemic enrollment, Ben says. “I think that speaks for itself when we talk about loyalty,” he explains, adding that the studio’s determination to field a “dream team” of teachers and its commitment to community service also work to create strong bonds with its family members.

Abby believes her studio’s “clear about what we are” brand has helped her attract new customers from a wider area—this season, about half of Joyful Arts Movement’s clients hail from neighboring towns.

Vanessa says she has worked hard to polish her studio’s brand, and a big part of that has been honest communication between all parties—herself, her customers, and her staff—which has been essential to creating the studio community she wanted.

BOTTOM LINE:

Your brand’s biggest fan needs to be you.

When Abby bought her studio from her former teacher she “felt I had to keep it the way she had it because it was working.” Rebranding—“I realized there is no one else out there like me”—has given her confidence to tackle other difficult aspects of her business, such as dealing with customer payments and reaching out to set a friendly tone when a new studio opened in town.

“For a business owner, if you don’t believe in your business’s core, you can’t stand on it,” she says.

Vanessa suggests narrowing down what you want the feeling in your studio to be. “Then open it up to your staff and say, ‘How can we make sure when anyone thinks of our studio they think of this?’”

Once your brand is set, be sure to celebrate it through social media. Vanessa recalls doing an inspirational post about a senior student who tore her ACL before an important competition yet showed up on crutches to cheer her teammate on.

“Figure out what you want to see: find it, then celebrate it and encourage more of it,” Vanessa says. “It all works to create a culture that breeds loyalty.”

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