Experiences and Marketing

A couple months ago, Know Your Own Bone shared a report from IMPACTS Research & Development that said that visitors’ favorite part of a museum is going with people they care about, and that a museum ought to sell the personal and socially oriented experience it offers.

While no study can be taken as gospel, and I’m not seeing a whole lot of backup online for free to examine in more depth, the point seems like a logical one to me. And so, I’d like to ask and at least ruminate upon a question based off of it: How could the marketing for a museum sell this concept?

I use “could” because I’m not so interested in the obvious–targeting families with ads that show happy parents and kids and their incredibly enriched lives from a day at the museum. That or something like it is probably the right place to start, but I’m more intrigued by going beyond it. What loved-one-centric experiences can a museum create that are themselves promotion for the museum?

I’ve written about museum games before, and I think that’s would qualify. Scavenger hunt or mission-based games lend themselves well to group work within a family or friend unit, and a game can be designed to encourage museum attendance as well as museum engagement.

Gathering and sharing community stories/artifacts/creations might well serve this function. That’s perhaps a trickier proposition–details about a family’s history in a city, for example, are more likely to be held by the parents than the kids. So the museum’s goal is to create a framework under which all members of a family or group can contribute. In the hypothetical about collecting family histories, perhaps its as simple as an explicit recognition that current family events, even from the youngest children’s perspectives, are the family histories of tomorrow.

Events outside the museum certainly can apply. Appearing at street fairs (if your city is like Chicago and has dozens) or similar gatherings could create the family experience, if the museum prepares that experience to be had by bringing the appropriate activity or discussion or whatever. Some kind of community project might as well, giving the museum an opportunity to be viewed as the facilitator of something that makes the community better in a tangible way.

The content that a museum shares online might also qualify. The museum would need to craft its stories, activities, or artifact presentation in such a way as to encourage group interaction, perhaps by prompting comment, contribution, or discussion.

This list is not intended to be exhaustive; rather, it’s a collection of preliminary thoughts. I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments.

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One Response to Experiences and Marketing

  1. In our work with teachers and students at the Saint Louis Art Museum, we have crafted some really successful multi-layered collaborative learning experiences that I always think would be amazing for families. For example, doing a series of looking, drawing, writing, and moving exercises with a selected artwork or exhibition (in family teams or small groups) can build an experience where everyone is creating personal meaning, and where everyone is having fun. I recently led a workshop with a mural in Santa Barbara, CA, and we ended with small group street performances (and we all learned so much about each other through the process). I wrote up some of these experiences, and have them posted at ArtMuseumTeaching.com.

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