A Modern Approach to Museum Marketing
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Museums are operating in a changing and competitive market. They have a key role to play in education, the leisure industry, regional development, community cohesion and attracting visitors to Britain. However, many have failed to fully develop and implement modern marketing strategies.
This article will give an insight into:
- the challenges facing museums
- the way a carefully developed marketing strategy can help to fulfil their aims
- the key role of branding
- the importance of understanding visitor motivations and exceeding visitor expectations.
Museums in the UK are in a state of transition and are facing a number of special challenges. Traditionally, museums have been important in gathering, preserving and studying historical objects and sites and have had a key educational role. But this is no longer sufficient to guarantee their survival. Nowadays, modern museum managers must also understand, and more importantly, fully embrace the need to attract visitors and other customers.
In addition to their audience development targets, museums are increasingly expected to participate in the wider political agenda with its focus on regeneration, social inclusion, widening access and the modernisation of public services. Evidence of the enhanced profile currently afforded to museums is contained in the Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s Sustainable Development Strategy :
'Museums belong at the very heart of people’s lives, contributing to their enjoyment and inspiration, cultural values, learning potential, economic prosperity and social equity.'
More recently, this wider role was also explicitly stated in the Museum, Libraries and Archives (MLA) Strategic Statement 2007-2010 which proclaimed that 
'Museums are reinventing themselves. Our cultural institutions are not passive repositories of the past but catalysts for a new economic and creative age.'
According to the Regional Museums Task Force Report 
, museums are expected:
- to be an important resource and champion for learning and education
- to promote access and inclusion
- to contribute to economic regeneration in the regions
- to use collections to encourage inspiration and creativity
- to ensure excellence and quality in the delivery of core services.
Alongside this higher public profile, the increasingly complex environment in which museums currently operate has led to them undergoing both organisational and status change. Furthermore, museum visitors are now more discerning, more curious and more demanding.
Acknowledgement of the degree of change increasingly impacting upon mission-led museums is succinctly provided by the former manager of a North Staffordshire industrial museum, following her appointment in 2002 .
'Museums in today’s society are required to be agents of economic regeneration through tourism, and community and social regeneration through education. It will be my role to ensure they [the branch museums] fulfil this potential and ensure they benefit the community.'
In order to prosper in this modern, competitive cultural world of leisure and tourist visitor attractions, museums must undergo a fundamental shift. They must move away from being inwardly-oriented and focus on becoming commercially proactive and responsive to external forces. In this climate, incorporating marketing into museum management has become absolutely crucial.
Museums are operating in a changing political and social environment. They have recently been affected by:
- the modernisation of the public sector
- the introduction of performance measures
- a more transparent contract culture ethos
- the accelerating pace of technological change
- an increased interest in cultural and leisure experiences
- the free admission policy for national museums and galleries.
The recommendation of the Lyons Inquiry into Local Government  that local authority managers should reflect the new well-being and place-shaping agenda, in addition to becoming ‘champions of efficiency’ will undoubtedly significantly impact upon the future direction, and hence marketing, of publicly-funded museums in the UK over the next decade.
The role of museums in relation to this new place-shaping agenda was also highlighted by the MLA Partnership’s 2007-2010 strategic statement, which confirmed that museums ‘are integral in attracting visitors to Britain and contribute to a positive promotion of the country overseas’ . This reinforces the importance of museums marketing themselves to gain sustainable competitive advantage.
Many regional and local museums have been slow to accept the need to become more marketing-oriented, as evidenced by Lewis’ declaration that ‘the museums profession has viewed this [marketing] discipline with suspicion, if not entirely ignored it’ . This viewpoint concurred with Goulding’s contention  that:
'Museums, particularly in the public sector, have been slow to catch on to the idea of customer orientation, regardless of growing pressure to become more competitive and self-reliant'
This may well have been a direct consequence of their public-funding subsidisation which partly cocooned some local authority-supported museums from the stress and commercial pressures faced by other competitor organisations. This does not imply that audience development is being completely ignored, rather, as the Director of The Campaign for Museums has commented, ‘most public funded museums are focusing on very specific audiences’ 
The commercial audience development specialists, Morris Hargreaves McIntyre have provided consultancy and market-based fieldwork research for the MLA and many national and regional museums in the UK, including Ironbridge Gorge Museums located in Shropshire. As a result of their extensive research they were able to show the evolution of museum marketing from an essentially product focused approach to a post-modern audience diversification focus as shown in Figure 1 below.
| ||Product focus||Selling focus||Marketing science focus||Post-modern focus|
|Product||Object-centred||Need effort to sell||Enhance with services||Differentiate audience segments|
|Marketing function||Data gathering||Sell benefits; build brand identity||Promote as means of communication||Shared service philosophy across the museum and with its people|
|Marketing position||Low resources; low status||Increased resources||Management status||Strategic integration|
|Market knowledge||Irrelevant||Need to locate||Profile||Needs, wants, attitudes and behaviours|
|Segmentation||General, socio-demographic||Visitor studies||Geo-demographic||Attitudinal and behavioural change|
Sources: Rentshcler, 2007; Morris Hargreaves McIntyre, 2002
It is still common for museum managers to adopt a narrow view of what constitutes marketing. Some managers also misinterpret marketing as being communications-led. For instance, the marketing activities undertaken by the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery and the Gladstone Pottery Museum, both located in Stoke-on-Trent, are predominantly aimed at informing potential visitors about current or future exhibitions. This is typical of the relatively expensive promotional-centric marketing which focuses on increasing visitor numbers that was previously the norm throughout the broader cultural tourism industry.
Whereas many visitor attractions have implemented more sophisticated strategic marketing initiatives underpinned by consumer-needs analysis, museums have often failed to fully embrace this concept. It may be argued that many museums remain too product-oriented when they should be adopting the differentiated marketing approach advocated by Morris Hargreaves McIntyre above.
What seems to be increasingly and undoubtedly clear is that ‘museums need marketing … in order to be competitive in the future and achieve their mission’ . In other words, museums should cease to think of themselves in terms of producing products, which traditionally meant designing how best to communicate historical, collections-related information. Rather, they should focus on ‘buying customers’ to effectively and efficiently deliver the MLA’s commitment to ensuring that ‘museums … deliver quality services that people want and need’ .
Morris Hargreaves McIntyre’s seven pillars evidence-based model proposes a set of distinguishing features that all arts organisations – museums included – could usefully employ to significantly enhance their audience engagement and diversification whilst simultaneously achieving a broader mission such as economic and social regeneration.
The pillars approach requires museums to be as follows.
This framework sets out a comprehensive series of statements and questions under each of the seven pillar headings that, if addressed, should lead towards a stronger audience-focused marketing culture throughout the entire museum organisation as shown in Figure 2.
|Values||We are unequivocally artistically-led, and relentlessly audience focused. The audience is as important as the art.||We believe that a brand is the best way to codify and apply our essence (vision), values and personality.||We believe that art improves the quality of life for individuals and the health and well-being of society.||We believe that it is the job of everybody in the organisation to understand, think about and respond to the audience.||We believe that audience research is the lifeblood of the organisation. Audience research as important as art research.||We believe that the audience is as intelligent, creative and challenging to us as we want to be to them.||We want to help each individual member of the audience to fully engage and respond socially, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually.|
|Features||Leadership champions art and audience equally.||Brand informs all aspects of operation.||Organisation measures its success by outcomes and impacts.||Inter-disciplinary teams plan audience development.||Deep insight, segmentation, needs widely disseminated.||Continuous two-way exchange with audience.||Processes are optimised to meet individuals’ needs.|
|Practice||Is there a clear artistic vision that everyone in the organisation understands?||Have you got a written document defining your brand (essence, values, personality, etc.)?||Has the organization articulated very clear outcomes for audiences?||Is knowledge about audiences widely disseminated inside your organisation?||Do you have a regular programme of audience research, consultation and evaluation?||Do you deliver your service to/for people or do you do it WITH them?||Do you understand the different needs of different types of visitor?|
|Is the commitment to audiences genuine, warm and deeply philosophical rather than just financial or political?||Does everyone have a copy of this brand document to hand and do they use it?||For each project do you name the visitor segment(s) you’re aiming at and what outcomes you want them to get?||Does everyone in the organisation see understanding audiences as part of their job?||Do you have a dedicated budget for this?||Do audiences have an input into your services and have you got good ideas from them?||Have you adapted your programming and presentation to meet these different needs?|
|Is there an audience champion at the top of the organisation?||Have all staff/departments reviewed their activities to see if they are ‘on-brand’?||Have you defined measures of these outcomes and impacts?||Do you have cross disciplinary teams that meet often?||Have you segmented your audience by their different needs?||How have they inspired your creativity?||To what extent do you help different types of users to develop their skills, confidence and knowledge?|
|Does this leader consistently focus the staff on improving the audience experience and on delivering audience outcomes?||Have you acted on issues identified by this brand review?||Have you set targets for these outcomes and impacts?||Do these teams include staff that have direct audience contact?||Is this insight driving the development of your work, your programming or your presentation?||How have you facilitated their creativity?||To what extent do you meet the needs of specialists and experts?|
|Is the commitment to audiences embedded in your vision, mission and high-level business plan objectives?||Is your brand consistently communicated (visually, in copy and in choice of promotions)?||Do you have a reliable way to collect data on these outcomes?||Do they discuss how to meet the needs of different audiences?||Is someone responsible for collating, curating and managing this collective knowledge?||Do you have real ongoing two-way dialogue or just occasional input?||How well trained are your staff to interact with visitors on a personal level?|
|How much effort do you make to widen access for all through education, explanation and interpretation?||Is your brand consistently delivered?||Have you defined your wider ‘societal’ responsibilities and are you committed to widening participation?||Does this influence the work or the way it is presented, explained or supported?||Would you describe yourselves as a learning organisation?||What partnerships have you created with other bodies?||Are your marketing and communications personalised?|
Source: Morris Hargreaves McIntyre www.lateralthinkers.com
At this point it is necessary to redefine marketing from a museum perspective. The above discussion clearly suggests that marketing should be seen as an essential museum activity that reinforces and serves the mission and agenda of all museums. The following market-led, mission-relevant definition is proposed by the author as being ‘fit for purpose’, given the operating environment and competitive challenges faced by museums in today’s contemporary society.
In order to further their strategic goals, museums are strongly encouraged to view marketing as being a societal and managerial process which authenticates a museum’s mission and is then responsible for the effective, efficient and sustainable identification, anticipation and satisfaction of the requirements of its users and other stakeholders.
As with all aspects of marketing management this definition clearly emphasises the importance of the marketing concept in creating and sustaining long-term competitive advantage. In simple terms, for museums this means the achievement of their corporate goals, or mission, through meeting and exceeding visitor, or other ‘customer’ needs better than the competition.
To apply this concept effectively and efficiently – which is even more of a priority given the budget reduction pressures and audience diversification identified above – it is important that three key conditions are met.
- All of the museum’s activities should focus upon customer satisfaction or exceeding visitor expectations.
- This will require a concerted and integrated team effort by all of the museum’s staff. If a newly-defined museum marketing orientation is to succeed it is not enough for a mission-led strategic marketing plan to be in place – museum employees at all levels and across all of the museum’s functions must have a sense of ownership of marketing. Moreover, they must believe that they can influence the delivery of quality services that museum stakeholders want and need.
- Finally, in order to achieve this integrated effort, it is imperative that museum managers firmly believe that their mission can only be achieved through visitor and customer satisfaction. This clearly requires more than a custodial mindset. 
The branch manager of North Staffordshire heritage museums describes how a marketing concept approach has been applied in the formulation of a marketing plan for the three industrial branch museums which, along with The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, are managed by the Stoke-on-Trent Museums Service.
'Developing a marketing mindset requires us to look at our audiences as customers, to see our museums through their eyes, and to adapt our facilities and programmes to meet their needs and wants. This will mean all three museums have to become more outward looking and incorporate the views, needs and expectations of the general public into all aspects of the services offered.'
An excellent example of this type of mission-led marketing is the 2006-08 ‘Developing communication friendly museums’
project. This joint initiative was co-ordinated by The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery
, and included input from Peterborough Museum & Art Gallery, Worcester Museum & Art Gallery and Walsall’s New Art Gallery. It investigated how the combined collections and their interpretations could be utilised more effectively from a wider marketing perspective.
Each partner undertook baseline studies, focus group research and extensive visitor observations, designed to identify barriers to communications amongst difficult to reach groups and to inform marketing planning. As a direct result museum and gallery improvements were piloted, installed, evaluated and refined. These changes helped the museums to become more welcoming places for families with young children, particularly those who were infrequent visitors.
This refreshing approach to museum marketing needs to be extended across the sector if museums are to fully satisfy their broader community place-shaping role.
Museum marketing should not be about ‘hard selling’. For instance, rather than trying to promote a custodian-designed exhibition, marketing should be viewed as a catalyst for shaping, communicating, and distributing quality experiences and programmes and reaching the broadest possible audiences. Quite simply, to be effective, marketing must be a museum-wide philosophy in which managers seek to define their customers’ needs within the museum’s mission, values and resource capability. This information is then utilised in the formulation of products and services.
The definition of marketing proposed above should not only ‘inspire creativity and celebrate identity’  but also lead to the following.
- Identification of leisure-time recreation requirements of potential museum visitors and other audiences or users.
- Evaluation of relevant offerings and experiences consistent with these requirements.
- Consideration of additional or augmented offerings and experiences that are compatible with the museum’s mission and resource capability.
- The creative design of an appropriate and integrated series of communications to inform potential users about, and attract them to, the museum’s offerings.
- Evaluation of whether newly acquired or repeat visitors and other users are receiving an experience that exceeds their expectations.
Who are museum customers? In highlighting the importance of understanding customers, Bloch, in the September 1997 Tourism Insights article Museums, concluded that the museum’s mission should not be defined in isolation from its target market or intended customers . Yet, there is much evidence to suggest that museums do not really know who their visitors are.
Museum users or customers are obviously visitors – real or virtual, but other potential customers include donors, members, students, community leaders, funding bodies and other grant agencies, as well as other internal or external museum departments. The focus for this article is the museum visitor or audience.
Approaching the right target market with the right museum product should be the ultimate goal for successful museums. Unless managers know who is visiting the museum already, and what they think of it, it will not be possible to evaluate and improve the product or expand the visitor experience. However, many museums have little knowledge about their visitors’ motivations.
There is evidence to suggest that although museum managers have become better at ‘collecting numbers’, they still fail to use this statistical data effectively. This viewpoint was recently acknowledged in the September 2009 Tourism Insights article Museums – Impact of Free Admissions.
'…although there is much data collected on museums, this does not measure how long visitors stay in free museums, what they do when they are there or whether they have had an engagement with the artefacts on show’.'
A greater understanding and knowledge of why people choose to visit a museum is fundamentally important, particularly as the diverse nature of museums often means that they are perceived as different entities, by different visitors, at different times. To some, museums are heritage or cultural sites, to others educational institutions, or increasingly nowadays, leisure or entertainment facilities, all of which suggests that museums find themselves in competition with a proliferation of new heritage centres, leisure and tourist attractions.
Yet this is not a new phenomenon. In the 1980s, London’s Victoria & Albert Museum – now rebranded as the V&A – launched a ground-breaking, albeit much criticised, Saatchi & Saatchi-inspired campaign which promoted the V&A as ‘an ace caff with quite a nice museum attached’. Accused of pampering to commercial and leisure interests, this motivational campaign did, however, enable the V&A to achieve its primary objective. This was to make the museum more attractive to a wider audience seeking an enhanced experience where they could enjoy ‘£100,000,000 worth of objets d’art free with every egg salad’.
Although there has been some innovative consultancy-led work on visitor motivations and audience development, this remains very much at the infancy stage and requires further empirical testing. For example, a 2007 multi-agency sponsored market study of 21 West Midlands museums (on behalf of the West Midlands Regional Designated Challenge Fund, Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, Thinktank and Renaissance West Midlands Hub) classified the different motivations for visiting each of the museums into four key drivers as shown in Figure 3. These drivers relate to the fundamental benefits that visitors expected from visiting one of the museums.
- I’m drawn to interesting buildings
- To go to a major attraction
- An enjoyable way to pass the time
- Nice place to spend time with friends/family
- To visit the shop/café
- Encourage children’s interest in art/history/culture
- Improve my own knowledge
- Personal interest in the subject
- Academic/professional interest in the subject
- Get a better understanding of people/culture, etc.
- Reminded what life was like when I was younger
- Experience what the past was like
- A strong sense of personal connection or identity
- To have an emotionally moving experience
- See fascinating, awe-inspiring things
- See beautiful things in an attractive setting
- Stimulate my own creativity
- For peaceful, quiet contemplation
Source: Morris Hargreaves McIntyre www.lateralthinkers.com
Whilst the appeal of any museum lies in its distinctiveness and individuality, Bloch advocates that museums seek to differentiate themselves by focusing on their ‘educational mission and collections, their most unique assets’ in order to communicate their service product or offering . However, it must also be emphasised that the ‘offering’ or experience is an interrelated package of tangible, intangible and service elements which are consumed under the brand name of the museum. As an essentially service-dominant product, the museum offering is delivered in a ‘service-scape’ :
'[a] physical environment or site which encompasses the land or building area, shape, lighting, means of orienting the visitor, queues, waiting, crowding, and methods of stimulating interest and engagement.'
This ‘service-scape’ dimension was pivotal in the design of the newly acclaimed ‘best British museum’. The recently opened Wedgwood Museum
was awarded the country’s most prestigious £100,000 Art Fund Prize in June 2009 in recognition of its imaginative and original design.
The concept behind the museum’s design was the creation of an industrial environment which could provide a diverse range of visitors with an authentic working factory experience. The museum ‘environment’ tells the Wedgwood story via original ceramics, manuscripts, factory equipment and models. The chair of the Art Fund’s judging panel commented that ‘the museum is an apotheosis of commerce, design manufacturing and creativity’.
The complete museum offer is uniquely assembled by each visitor from the variety of services and, more importantly, experiences available. The service encounter, which occurs any time the visitor interacts with a museum staff member, is just one of the factors that can be critical in determining overall visitor satisfaction, and hence, loyalty. The typical museum visit incorporates such a diverse range of components that it is sometimes more useful to see the whole experience as a psychological bundle of value satisfactions.
This makes it difficult for managers to have direct control over the visitors’ experience of the museum offering. At the same time, the need to fully understand the precise nature of the museum experience or encounter has, arguably, never been greater.
Branding is regarded as one of the canons of contemporary marketing to differentiate and add value. A brand is the result of a coherent marketing strategy that integrates all elements of the marketing mix and above all, is developed with a clear statement of intent. When applied specifically to museums, branding’s essential advantage is that it creates a favourable position for the museum and its integral service products and experiences, enabling visitors to distinguish it from competing leisure and tourism attractions.
It is vitally important for museums to develop an identifiable, distinct and coherent brand with a single brand image that is capable of communicating several key attributes to several different markets simultaneously.
- If a museum brand is to achieve a long-term sustainable differential advantage, by establishing it in the potential or repeat visitor’s mind, it is imperative that the market is first segmented and targeted.
- Most museums already possess a rich and varied history, image and legacy which must be taken into consideration when developing a brand.
- The service-dominant nature of the museum experience means that the ‘human element’ is a key differentiator, as this is often difficult for competitors to imitate.
- Emotional or psychological value is added through innovative use of the extended marketing mix to develop a distinctive position in the marketplace.
- Branding museums is relatively expensive. However, if museum managers adopt a judicious branding approach then it is possible to position a museum in such a way that it acquires a unique image and identity. This will make it more successful in achieving its marketing, socio-cultural, and wider regeneration objectives.
In many museums there is uncertainty about how the concept of branding can translate into practical museum marketing activity. This is largely because museum managers, in the main, lack control over the interdependent and integrated elements of the extended marketing mix, have only limited marketing budgets and must also contend with a range of political considerations and agenda.
Evidence collated whilst researching this article revealed that branding is an undervalued and little-used strategic tool in the developing world of museum marketing. Whilst there was clear recognition of the museum’s ‘brand’, it was interesting to note that other than describing the actual brand logo, few managers were able to articulate their museum’s brand values or proposition, and how it was perceived by visitors. Yet branding offers museums great potential for developing an identifiable, distinctive and reliable offer capable of meeting agreed objectives.
National museums such as the www.nhm.ac.uk, the Science Museum and the V&A, are at the forefront of museum branding in the UK. Working with commercial brand consultants they have each successfully brought together a diverse range of activities to create an extremely powerful visual and verbal identity that represents their respective values. These are promoted so that everything the visitor experiences is a manifestation of the brand, from the first visit to the museum or its website, through every stage of the physical visitor experience journey and beyond.
At a regional level, Ironbridge Gorge Museums, the largest independent museum in the UK, provides an excellent example of good practice in museum branding with ‘ten amazing museums, one beautiful valley’, celebrating 300 years of industry in the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. Its brand development has consistently focused on ensuring that ‘every visitor to Ironbridge takes away something of value – material, intellectual or spiritual’. In delivering the Ironbridge brand promise, the museum is also committed to becoming ‘an exemplar in the sector for the quality of our customer service and our visitor experience’.
Whilst museums must continue to augment and differentiate their product by emphasising their uniqueness, it is becoming increasingly clear that improving levels of customer service and internal marketing is rapidly becoming a key differentiator in crowded leisure and culture markets.
As highlighted earlier, a key branding consideration is employees. Museum managers should, therefore, focus on the significant impact created by their internal recruitment and training policies, as well as decisions in areas such as customer service. Good practice will ensure that value is added to core collections or object-based products.
An effective customer service strategy has the potential to improve visitor relations to such an extent that it should lead to better visitor retention and loyalty, improvements in the museum’s reputation and image, and more opportunities for growth through enhanced visitor and user satisfaction. Satisfaction in this sense may be defined as the visitor’s quality of experience – the psychological or emotional outcomes which result from participation in the museum’s activities and interaction with staff.
Furthermore, a service excellence approach that stresses the needs of the ‘consumer’ should be the aim of all museums. This essentially means utilising an evidence-based framework to identify precisely what each visitor group values, and then clearly articulating this to all frontline employees. Museum marketing must encompass exhibition planning, activity sessions, educational visits and, increasingly, the extended service encounter which includes interaction with all museum staff.
Managers responsible for the museum brand must act as the brand champion, competing not only externally for market position, but also internally for resources. A well-documented case in which a service excellence and brand champion ethos pervades an entire museum organisation is The Bowes Museum. In addition to playing an important part in the North East Regional Museums Hub and participating in a number of joint projects across the region, the museum’s trustees, management, staff, friends and supporters are fully committed to the museum’s role in economic regeneration, the advancement of local tourism and raising service standards. These are essential if The Bowes Museum is to achieve its mission to become a world-class visitor attraction.
It is increasingly recognised that marketing to visitors is only part of the job. Museums’ service marketing must also incorporate internal marketing, network marketing and relationship marketing. For instance, resources should be allocated to communicating the museum’s mission and values to all members of staff to ensure they share the philosophy of service excellence and visitor satisfaction.
For national and the more successful regional museums, in particular, developing longer-term relationships has become the key focus for marketing. Relationship marketing programmes are increasingly being used by museums to diversify from their traditional audiences. They are employing audience development and product diversification, building volunteer and supporters’ databases, offering loyalty incentives and demonstrating their relevance to their communities through wider cultural, social and economic initiatives.
Internal and relationship marketing often overlap when museums, particularly in the public sector form collaborative partnerships or contract out some of their ancillary services. In establishing and, more importantly, maintaining relationships, all staff, participants and collaborative partners involved in delivering the museum’s brand must buy into the mission and values. From the museum’s perspective this integrated and holistic marketing strategy approach should ensure that the museum brand maintains its qualities, image and reputation; the museum is best placed to achieve its mission, and above all, visitors receive a quality experience. A win-win situation for all.
The importance of museums adopting a relationship marketing approach to achieve service excellence was clearly outlined in the Renaissance in the Regions  report almost a decade ago which stated:
'To perform their role effectively …. museums have to be revitalised to become focal points for excellence within the areas they serve, co-operating with other local and community museums, and forging creative and dynamic relationships.'
From its establishment in April 2000, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) consistently advocated greater collaboration amongst museums on a regional basis. They suggest that ‘collectively museums have a more powerful presence and a stronger voice than they do individually’. As well as the obvious merits of sharing good practice and brand alignment, the other benefits of greater collaboration include:
- enhanced learning and widening access
- developing the potential of information communication technology (ICT)
- reaching new and diversified audiences
- improved access to funding
- less fragmentation and duplication of effort
- improved workforce and skills development.
All of these have considerable impact on the overall quality of visitor experience and the ability of museums to meet their objectives.
Contemporary museums are going through a process of change to respond to a new public policy and audience development agenda. The underlying driving force shaping this agenda has predominantly been marketing-oriented. This has coincided with an acknowledgement that museums have to compete as third millennium theme parks in a fast-moving, and rapidly-expanding leisure and cultural tourism marketplace.
Some museums have accepted the need to formulate and implement marketing-led programmes to achieve their expanded missions, but many others could benefit from:
- recognising and embracing their broader role
- becoming customer-focused rather than communications-focused
- committing sufficient resources to support strategic marketing
- setting long-term objectives
- acknowledging the critical importance of delivering a quality service experience
- encouraging managers to undertake formal marketing training.
Services marketing research overwhelmingly supports the view that strategic marketing is the best approach for creating, promoting and delivering the composite service experience that is increasingly demanded by curious and discerning museum visitors.
Looking to the future, it is fundamental that museum managers implement a marketing framework that is capable of achieving their museum’s mission in its broadest sense.
Consequently, it is recommended that a museum marketing framework should be capable of the following:
- audience development that seeks to improve existing services for regular visitors whilst anticipating the needs of potential new visitors
- meeting the conflicting demands of increasing visitor numbers, revenue sources and volunteer activity (where applicable), whilst retaining a degree of accountability and community relevance
- satisfying the educational, cultural and social criteria laid down by funding agencies and donors
- demonstrating positive quality-of-life benefits
- ensuring ‘buy-in’ and a sense of ownership from all stakeholders
- changing external, and internal, perceptions of museums.
In summary, museums that continue to focus solely on the custodial, preservation or educational functions will remain product-led institutions with an uncertain longer-term future.
- Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Sustainable Development Strategy. DCMS Strategy, Policy and Delivery Division. February 2004. London.
- Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. Inspiring creativity, celebrating identity. MLA Partnership Strategic Statement 2007-2010. www.mla.gov.uk
- Regional Museums Task Force. 2001. CMLA.
- The Sentinel. Museum appoints new manager. 18th December 2002.
- Lyons Inquiry 2007, www.lyonsinquiry.org.uk
- Lewis, P. ‘Museum Marketing’ in Moore K. Museum Management. 2000. Routledge, London.
- Goulding, C. ‘The Museum Environment and the Visitor Experience’. European Journal of Marketing. 2000, Vol. 34 No. 3/4
- French, Y. ‘Museums need to broaden their horizons’. Tourism: The Journal for the Tourism Industry. The Tourism Society, Quarter 1, Issue 131, Spring 2007.
- Rentschler, R. ‘Museum Marketing: Understanding different types of audiences’, in Kerrigan et al, Arts Marketing. 2007. Elsevier.
- Jobber, D. Marketing Principles and Practice. 2001. McGraw Hill. London.
- Bloch, S. ‘Museums’, Tourism Insights, British Tourist Authority/English Tourist Board. September 1997. www.insights.org.uk/articlesOld.aspx
- Museums, Archives and Libraries Council. Renaissance in the Regions: A New Vision for England’s Museums, 2001.www.mla.gov.uk
Paul Williams is a Programme Area Manager at Staffordshire University where he manages and leads the development of undergraduate, postgraduate and professional courses in business, management, tourism and events within the Business School. He is the current Senior Examiner for the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s tourism marketing diploma and a member of the Tourism Management Institute’s CPD group.
As well as advising Edexcel, QCA and City & Guilds on aspects of curriculum development, he is also an active member of the Higher Education Academy’s internationalisation group. Paul also has done extensive external examining work in the UK and overseas. His research interests include sustainable tourism, place marketing and destination branding, tourism-led regeneration, and special interest tourism.