Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (ISTD)

We were appointed to carry out an extensive strategic brand exercise for this world-leading dance accreditation board and membership society.

Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing

Out of date and out of step with its 7,000-strong international membership (50 countries worldwide), the ISTD has traded heavily on its 100-year heritage and reputation for excellence within the sector but an early audience survey quickly established the urgent need to re-envision the brand and explore audience perceptions of the organisation’s name.

  • Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing
  • Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing

We needed to engage stakeholders inside and out to understand the brand fully. This included a brand and competitor audit, a large number of one-on-one interviews with stakeholders, international reps and the dance industry, and a series of interactive workshops for the trustees, members, faculty heads, staff, parents and students. We used a number of powerful strategy tools in the workshops to focus thinking and draw out insight. Key to the success of the project was a need to bring the trustees, faculties, staff team and members along the journey with us, presenting at interim stages throughout.

  • Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing
  • Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing

The insight identified a number of key shifts and priorities for the brand. Critically, the new brand needed to be clearly positioned and to demonstrate value to its membership and their students that would differentiate it against it’s two key competitors – Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) and International Dance Teachers’ Association – and against the large number of ‘McDance’ organisations emerging on the international stage, fighting for audience share. We identified that there was opportunity and strength in clearly and singularly positioning the ISTD as ‘for teachers’.

  • Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing
  • Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing

We developed the brand idea of ‘A Passport to Dance’ to encapsulate the value of the ISTD to its membership. It is the world-renowned quality of its teaching, across a diverse spectrum of dance, that gives its members – and, critically, their students – a passport to artistic and professional progression. Engaging today’s students is key to ensuring the ISTD’s future and delivering against its strategic goals.

While we did carry out a naming exercise as part of the process, the trustees ultimately voted against a change in name but, recognising the challenges around it, gave clear direction that the new creative identity must work hard to address the issues with the name where it was able to.

Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing

We appointed Design Culture to partner us through an extensive process of discovery, and enable us to re-imagine ourselves as an organisation. They demonstrated an in-depth understanding of our organisational culture, engaging with our many stakeholders to create a singular vision for the future of our organisation. The journey has been complex and challenging, but Design Culture guided us to deliver a new strategy and creative identity that positions us for future growth.

Gemma Matthews Director of Membership and Communications Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing