Music Studio Branding Lessons from Magnolia Market

Full disclosure: I have never seen an episode of Fixer Upper and couldn’t tell you much about Chip and Joanna Gaines beyond their names. My sister, however, is a huge fan. When she heard I would be in Waco, TX last week to speak at the Texas Music Teachers Association Convention she insisted I go to Magnolia Market.

Being the kind and generous sister I am, I complied. (Rumors of fantastic cupcakes at the bakery might have sweetened the deal. 😉 )

So on Monday morning, after a weekend full of conference-ing, I headed off to “The Silos.”

An Experience to Behold

Even with the rain, the place was teeming with people!

I got my strawberry lemonade cupcake, snapped the obligatory (and very dorky) picture under the #milestomagnolia sign (even though I still don’t know what that means), and then wandered around the grounds and shops, taking it all in.

What I discovered was an exquisite example of branding!

What’s in a Brand?

Even to a Magnolia Muggle like myself, everything about this little rustic escape in the middle of the city proclaimed the brand’s core values loud and clear: family, community, beauty, nature, simplicity, comfort, tradition.

Branding Lessons for Music Teachers

I immediately started thinking about what Magnolia branding principles I could adapt for my piano studio. I took some time on my flight home to jot down a few:

1. Set simple design rules and stick to them

Every painted surface at Magnolia Market, inside and out, is either black or white. No yellows or greens thrown in just for fun. Just black and white. Everywhere. It’s simple and effective.

You can adopt similar style rules for your studio branding by choosing one main color and using it EVERYWHERE: walls, art, teaching supplies (pens, folders, Post-It notes), recital programs, furniture, social media posts, etc.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed that my feed features a lot of turquoise. I do this because I want Insta-scrollers to know they’re seeing a Music Studio Startup post even when they’re not paying attention to the username or the content.

2. Don’t ignore the tagalongs

I would guess that 95% of the purchases made at Magnolia Market are made by women. Judging by the abundance of minivans and strollers in the parking lot…these women probably don’t have the luxury of shopping alone.

So what does Magnolia Market do? They make it a destination for the whole family.

They set up yard games and play areas outside for tagalongs. After all, the longer the kids are entertained the more time (and $$$) mom can spend shopping! Not only that, if the rest of the family has positive associations with Magnolia Market, mom gets to go back more often because she doesn’t have to work as hard to convince a partner to go or wait for a rare moment to go alone.

We may have given some thought how our physical studio serves our students in lessons, but what about the rest of the family?

If younger kids enjoy coming to their siblings’ lessons, they’re more likely to become students in the future. If a parent looks forward to 30 minutes of peaceful reading time in your studio waiting room every week, that’s one more positive things to say about your studio when they recommend it to friends!

3. Use subtle systems

I must not have been the only visitor bribed with a cupcake because the line at the Silos Baking Co. extended through the open door. Despite the line, it still only took a few minutes to get my cupcake, thanks to a simple ordering system.

A smiling bakery worker handed me a menu and pencil at the door and I quickly knew what to do from there. That little interaction told me “We’re not McDonald’s. We have a different way of doing things. We still care about efficiency, but at Magnolia you’re a person, not a number.”

Craft studio systems carefully to be consistent with your brand. Even something as simple as a sign to remind parents to pay tuition can enhance or detract from your branding. Consider two variations on such a sign:

“Tuition due today. Late fees imposed for payments not received by 8pm.”


“It’s the first of the month and tuition is due! Forgot your checkbook? No worries! Pay with PayPal to avoid a late fee!”

Both messages communicate the same information but have drastically different tones, which impact the way students and parents perceive your studio.

4. Remember joy

The Magnolia store is full of plates and towels and candles, all looking effortlessly beautiful on staged tables and in decorative bins. (The whole store looks basically exactly like my house…except not my real house, the imaginary version of my house.)

Now, we all know that the dishes and towels don’t look that way when we bring them home. We use them. They get dirty. It’s a chore to maintain them.

But when we buy a plate a Magnolia Market, we’re not just buying a plate and we’re definitely not buying a chore! We’re buying joy.

That plate, sitting on our kitchen table, ready for family or friends to gather to eat together, reminds us that, sure, there will be dishes to wash at the end of the day, but this moment? It’s a special one to enjoy.

Isn’t the same true for music lessons?

There are a lot of chore-like aspects of learning an instrument. Practicing can be lonely and frustrating. Not every lesson produces a breakthrough. But there’s also joy along the way.

That joy is what we want our students to buy into. That’s the feeling we need to tap into with our teaching and our marketing!

5. Premium is a matter of perception

The mugs at Magnolia Market probably cost the same to produce as the mugs at the dollar store, but the Magnolia mug is $24. And the shelf had to be restocked within the first hour of the store opening.

What makes people want the Magnolia mug so much that they are willing to pay 24 times the cost of an equally-functional mug from another store? (Can you imagine someone paying 6 months tuition for one piano lesson?!)

The brand.

The whole Magnolia story represents a lifestyle of beauty and simplicity. Something our busy culture is desperate for!

What’s the story of your studio? What does it represent? What does it stand for? What experience do you provide that students can’t get anywhere else?

Remember that customers are willing to pay a premium for a compelling brand. We might even be more satisfied with our investment because we paid more for it.

How are you branding your studio?

There’s so much we can learn and borrow from businesses that are branded and designed well and Magnolia Market is a great example. What are you doing to brand your studio?

If you liked this post, you’re going to LOVE my podcast interview with interior designer Wendy Racer about designing our studios for profit!

It’ll be released next week (7/4/18). You can subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play Music (or wherever you listen to podcasts) to get it as soon as it goes live!

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