One of the most important parts of marketing is expressing the value of the product/service that you are endorsing. Pantene Pro V makes your hair luxurious. Gillette Mach 4 razors provide the closest shave possible. Timex watches can take a lickin’. If you want shiny hair, smooth skin, or durable watches these are the products for you.
As I’ve been writing the IMA’s 2010 marketing campaign, I’ve been trying to find ways to communicate the value of the museum experience. The IMA has a tremendous amount to offer the public: educational programs that range from films to horticulture classes, collections and exhibitions that span the scope of art history, 2 historic house museums (Lilly House and Miller House), ArtBabble and a bunch of other cool online initiatives,152 acres of gardens and grounds…The list is long, and well, that’s the blessing and the curse of marketing the IMA. It’s the breadth of offerings that makes it hard to distill the IMA experience into a sound bite or tag line for radio, tv, billboards and various other media channels.
I don’t think this is an IMA problem. In general, museums struggle to define the value of what they do to the average community member. Why would someone who has never been to an art museum before and who has no experience with art suddenly choose to visit? What can the museum provide to them? The benefits of a museum experience are complicated and personal. They depend on a myriad of factors, including expectations of visitor, fulfillment of expectations in previous museum trips, personal history, context, mood, etc. What one person may love about the museum, another may hate. What one visitor thinks or feels in front of a work of art, another may never know.
Often I wish I could put my personal reasons for loving museums on a billboard. I’d love to be able to tell folks about the time I walked into a gallery in the British Museum, saw the Parthenon Sculptures, and was moved to sobbing tears. I would like to tell them about a piece in the Denver Art Museum by an artist named Sean Landers that taught me about becoming an adult. I’d love to tell visitors that I don’t understand a lot of contemporary art, and that it’s ok that I’m confused by it. I’d also like to share that sometimes I go into the IMA’s American Galleries, sit in front of a portrait and make up a story about the life of the person in the painting. All of these things create my personal value of the museum experience.
While I know I’m not alone in some of my feelings, I’m certain that the “Meg-tested, Meg-approved” campaign I often dream about is NOT going to work. (Though my mom may think otherwise.) So, as I continue to work on the 2010 marketing campaign, I’d like to throw a bit of the thinking out to the group. Why do you visit museums? What is the value of the IMA? I have my answers, but I’d love to hear yours…
By the way, I just wanted to thank Nina Simon and her recent blog on Museum2.0. I found it helpful as part of this process. You may as well.