Could you describe your company and the work you perform?
Indian Ink is a touring theatre company based across Wellington and Auckland.
For two decades now, Justin Lewis and I have pursued our idea of the ‘Serious Laugh’. That is, opening mouths with laughter in order to slip something serious in, combined with a love of mask and story.
Indian Ink blends western theatrical traditions with eastern flavours and has been critically acclaimed for its use of live music, heightened theatricality, humour, pathos and great storytelling.
Together with a team of long-term collaborators, we have created a series of award-winning original plays that have delighted audiences throughout New Zealand, as well as Australia, the USA, Singapore, Germany, India and the UK.
What are the core values of your company?
We value human connection, integrity, humour and nourishment of the soul.
We aim to make theatre that is beautiful, funny, sad and true. It’s been described as offering “humanity and psychological insight”.
We go to the theatre to be transported by a great story and to enjoy characters who live large in our imaginations. We want the experience to leave an indelible imprint on your hearts. That’s why we’re called Indian Ink!
How would you describe the profile of your (prospective) audience?
Our core market is ‘art-house’ theatre lovers, and is best identified by cultural values rather than ethnicity.
This group has a high representation of ‘essence’, ‘stimulation’ and ‘expression’, according to the Morris Hargreaves McIntyre international standard segmentation system for arts, culture and heritage organisations, Culture Segments.
They are art and culture loving individuals who like to seek out new experiences rather than follow the crowd.
People attend our shows because they have a desire to be entertained, inspired and delighted. Often they will already have a disposition to attend theatre and an interest in the world of plays.
Based on our most recent post-tour survey, our audiences comprise 24% males and 76% females, with 96% of the survey respondents identifying as aged 45 or older.
Some 86% of respondents were NZ Caucasian, with the remainder comprised of 2% Asian, 2% Indian, 1% Maori and 9% other Caucasian.
Most of our audiences have average household income of $80k+.
How do you currently engage your (prospective) audience?
Our three main engagement strategies focus on offline communication, online communication, and outreach and networking.
Offline channels include advertisements in print media that reaches our core target market, such as NZ Listener and NZ Herald. We also advertise outdoors on street flags, billboards and bus backs where possible, to build awareness and hold presence in the city that we’re performing in.
We work closely with our publicist to ensure the media covers our work and finally, prior to each tour, we send out personalised letters to our direct mail database of 7,500. Digital communication includes eDMs to more than 6,000 supporters on our email database.
Through social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram we regularly engage with our online audiences, with the aim of bringing them on the Indian Ink journey. We give them behind-the-scenes insight, and keep them up-to-date and interested in our work through storytelling. Our website is another platform that tells Indian Ink’s story.
During our tours we also advertise on online platforms such as Eventfinda and Stuff.co.nz to build awareness and reach prospective audiences.
Outreach and networking is the third plank of our audience growth and engagement strategy. We have a nationwide network of rabid fans who promote our shows whenever we roll into town.
Workshops, school tours and community events also help audience engagement, and where ever possible we carry out cross-promotional activities with other theatre companies, for example Silo Theatre.
What are the key challenges you have to overcome to locate and select sponsors?
We have found it extremely challenging to get results from ‘cold calling’ companies in search of sponsorship, especially larger corporate entities. We have also found in recent times these bigger companies have set their sights on larger festivals or events with wide-ranging programmes and prominent profiles.
Where we have found success is with a mid-sized family businesses. This is where our Patron Programme comes into play. We have a network of 37 generous individuals or couples who love what we do and want us to keep doing it. They are often able to introduce us to a business, perhaps where the husband or wife is a fan of the arts and a fan of us, which allows us to establish a personal relationship and everything flows from there.
The formal parts of our in-kind sponsorship with partners, such as Soar Print and Mainfreight, include printing posters and helping out with freighting sets internationally, in return for advertising in our publicity materials, tickets to our shows and the opportunity for private audiences.
The informal benefits include growing our audiences and networks and more as below.
Could you describe the value shared and received beyond the dollars?
In terms of the audience, they get to participate a live experience. There is a connection that happens when people gather in a room to hear a story told well that you don’t get anywhere else.
In a world which is increasingly becoming more fractured and mediated through tiny screens, Indian Ink is all about being more human, turning off your phone, looking you in the eye and rejoicing in our crazy shared humanity.
For patrons and sponsors, as well as experiencing the plays themselves they are invited into the creative process with invitations to open rehearsals, readings and workshops. We also offer exclusive ‘money-can’t-buy’ events such as private shows for their clients and employees, for example.
Many patrons describe their association with us as a privilege, and that in turn, is a relationship we cherish and nurture.
*Disclosure: Shoreline Partners are proud members of the Kasundi Club. Theatre with spice!