Behind the voice: KOKO.

Bringing the spirit of live music to a new kind of global, digital experience. 

KOKO has been an iconic venue since opening in 1900, with a list of heavyweight headliners ranging from Siouxsie Sioux to Skrillex. After a fire damaged the venue in 2020, they began a revitalisation process much deeper than simply restoring the landmark theatre. CEO and Founder Olly Bengough set out to turn KOKO from a renowned local venue, into a digitally-enabled global media brand.

KOKO came to us for a rebrand that would reintroduce them to the world. The new identity needed to embody KOKO’s legendary heritage and revolutionary future in perfect harmony. It also needed to help them create a digitally-enabled 360° experience that would make audience members feel like they were in the front row, no matter where they were in the world.

*An emotive film from the early phases of our brand exploration. Made using found footage.

Creating a voice for fans and artists everywhere.

To do that successfully, KOKO needed to be able to communicate with all the spirit and energy of live events. So we set out to create a tone of voice that would cut through the noise of the music industry. The new personality had to leverage decades of expertise while amplifying the voices of artists and fans alike. KOKO has always had character; we needed to distil their attitude so that they could be consistently and unapologetically themselves.

We started by exploring copy that resonated with them and inspired them, and then translated it into a set of language principles that meant they could apply a consistent KOKO personality to every part of their new 360° experience. We worked on everything, from how to turn promoter-supplied artist bios into bespoke pieces of content, to what automated texts and queue signage should sound like.

Rebels with a cause. 

KOKO’s spirit is one of purposeful rebellion. Now more than ever, they’re out to change the music industry for the better by making gigs more accessible, promoting up-and-coming artists, and bringing fans and artists closer together. The new tone of voice needed to help KOKO forge a better music culture by doing four things:

1. Make everywhere feel like the front row.

KOKO’s personality needed to make audience members feel as close to live music events as possible. Whether they’re scrolling through twitter on their commute, live-streaming a performance in their living room, or grabbing a coffee at Cafe KOKO, every interaction with the KOKO brand needed to give fans the same anticipation and buzz that characterise live music.

We imbued the KOKO personality with unmistakable energy by making their approach to language an active one. It’s immersive with a focus on sharing backstage moments and easter-egg references rather than loading copy up with adjectives. Whenever possible, KOKO shows rather than tells.

2. Share KOKO’s expertise with the world.

KOKO have been a leading influence in the music scene for decades, and with a renewed focus on spotlighting unknown talent and amplifying the voices of fans and artists, they needed to be able to share their perspective confidently and clearly. As the home of new music, it was important that KOKO’s messaging felt fresh in comparison with the rest of their industry.

KOKO lead with knowledge. They’re generous with what they know, sharing it in a way everyone can understand. Their transparency and accessibility make them an engaging guide to the best the music industry has to offer.

3. Challenge the norm and spark positive change.

As a cultural launchpad, KOKO needed to be daring - to embody the positive side of rebellion with an intensity and offbeat attitude that would make people want to follow their lead. They needed to be a brand people would want to interact with, and that desirability would come from no-holds-barred authenticity.

The KOKO voice is provocative. They say things that prompt thought, action, feeling and dialogue. They have a daring wit that’s balanced with just enough playfulness to take the edge off. Bold but never combative, the rebel side of their personality dials up and down depending on context.

4. Feel timeless and refined in premium moments.

KOKO couldn’t be full mosh-pit all the time. With an incredible members’ offering and foundation launching as part of their reopening, the brand needed to flex to premium applications. But it couldn’t feel inaccessible; even the most luxurious moments needed to retain the genuine passion and craft at the heart of KOKO.

Detail oriented and timeless, the KOKO voice is as refined as it is rebellious. It’s exclusive without feeling exclusionary. Always in plain English and curated to resonate with whoever its audience may be, from members to artists.

From Camden to the world.

We distilled KOKO’s voice using the same strategic principles as the rest of the brand. By using a single engine of insight to guide both the visual and written creative development, we were able to build a brand system that feels cohesive, immersive and clear. The tone of voice we defined for KOKO gave them the ability to make every touchpoint in their 360° experience feel unmistakably live, bringing the front row to fans around the world.

“It takes a lot of courage to do something truly different. To look at the way other brands in your industry behave and say ‘yeah, we don’t want to be like that.’ Working with KOKO was a dream because they have such a maverick attitude, they were open to their brand walking and talking in a deliberately different way. It was a huge part of what would help them create a new, globally-recognisable brand, and bring the front-row feeling that KOKO is famous for to fans all around the world.”

Eva Munday, senior copywriter

Take a deeper look at the design here.