Burlesque Brand Building 101 with Viva Valezz

By on July 5, 2015

If you are in burlesque, and you are interested in selling yourself, you have to be able to look at yourself like a product. And part of the success of you as a performer and being able to sell yourself is to know some basic marketing techniques. I have my masters in communications and marketing, so promotions is like my hobby. It’s something that I love so much, and I’m lucky that I love it so much, because it’s not real intuitive to a lot of people. It’s not real difficult, it’s just time consuming.

Individuality by Jonathan Phillips

Individuality by Jonathan Phillips

Building a good brand has a little to do with luck. It has a little bit to do with your talents as a performer. It also has to do with looking at yourself like you’re not a person sometimes – looking at yourself like you’re trying to sell aspects of yourself or aspects of your troupe or aspects of your festival.

For me, the first thing that I do is I try to figure out exactly what it is that I want people to understand about me, which takes a lot of time, because sometimes you don’t know at first what your burlesque personality is. Sometimes you don’t know the message that you want to give people. You don’t know ultimately what you want your end result to be.

I think a lot of times people just starting to do burlesque are excited, and they’re pretty, and they’re sparkly. But longevity takes a bit more work than that. I think maybe after the excitement has worn off, you really have to figure out what you want to do if you want to stay in the game for a while. Because burlesque performers – I hate to say it – can become not as interesting over a certain amount of time, if they don’t have a goal in mind. So I think you have to figure out specifically what it is you want people to understand about you, your act, your stage persona, your troupe, or even a show.

For example, with the FIERCE! Queer Burlesque Festival, ultimately what I want people to take away when they see the marketing materials or when they see the photos after the fact or when they see anything about it, I want it to read that it’s a party. That it’s a good time. That people are there to celebrate. So everything that I do, everything that I communicate about that, has to say, “This is a party. You’re going to have a good time.” Same thing with your burlesque persona.


For me, honesty is everything, so showing people who I really am is real important to me. Being honest sometimes to a fault is real important to me, because what I want to convey to people is that I’m not a burlesque performer first, I’m a real person first. And I know that’s not how a lot of burlesque performers operate. Some burlesque performers just want to be seen as the pretty shiny thing. And that’s fine. But then that’s what you ultimately have to convey with everything that you do.

So if you’re trying to be the next Dita Von Teese, and you’re all about the sparkle and the appearance, that’s going to be the most important thing. So don’t ever show them that you’re a real person, because the minute you start letting a different message in, you’re not accomplishing your goal. Figure out what it is that you want people to understand about you or your troupe or your festival or your show, and just be real diligent about sending that message, because it’s real easy to veer off and get a lot of different messages involved. And I think you’re more effective if you try to stay true to what your message is, what your goal is.


Repetition is key to brand recognition.

Another real easy tactic is repetitiveness. And I know that some people get tired of the same messages or the same whatever it is that you’re trying to tell them, but you would be surprised that after saying your tag line a million times, people start to remember it. Telling the same joke about your troupe, people start to anticipate it.

Things that you repeat over and over again might bother some people, but usually those aren’t the people that are as important to you and who are buying tickets anyway. It’s real irritating people anyway. (laughs) But the people who become your fans, and the people who follow you, and the people who believe in you, don’t mind the repetitiveness. They don’t mind that you’re hitting them over the head with your message, your tagline, your whatever it is.

I think that’s pretty much Marketing 101. Figure out what your message is. Be true to your brand. Repetitiveness can go a long way. I think that’s a good start.

Viva Valezz began her burlesque career in 2007, founded her Columbus troupe, The Velvet Hearts, in 2008, and was named “Columbus’ Favorite Burlesque Performer” in 2010 by Outlook Magazine. Now base in Pittsburgh, she has produced the FIERCE! Queer Burlesque Festival and tour since 2012, and has performed in many national burlesque festivals, including bringing home a coveted NYBF “Golden Pastie Award.”

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