Two museums are planning a joint marketing campaign around the theme of “exploration.” Both museums promote exploration as part of their mission; one has an upcoming exhibit on the theme of space exploration. The campaign will include a brochure, joint ticketing, and a social media campaign.
Early on in this collaboration, the museums need to decide what the brochure looks like. As the museums’ staff sit together to discuss the brochure, two visions are put forth:
Option 1: The brochure includes a section for each museum, with selected programs that exemplify the idea of exploration. The brochure is focused specifically on museum visitation, and includes incentives such as gift shop coupons.
Option 2: The brochure includes a section for each museum, with selected programs that exemplify the idea of exploration. It also includes a panel on the broader topic of exploration, and suggestions for other sites to explore around the region. It is focused on the larger idea of exploration, and encouraging people to become explorers.
One museum argues for Option 1, putting forth a compelling, clear argument: The goal of the marketing campaign is to get visitors to the two collaborating museums, and so the brochure should focus on these museums and that goal. By “exploration” we mean exploration of the two museums, and there is plenty to explore inside both places.Including other sites around the region complicates the marketing message. In addition, the brochure costs money, and these marketing dollars should directly benefit the two museums putting forth the money.
Another museum argues for Option 2, suggesting a different rationale: If the museums are to promote exploration, than the brochure should offer a larger picture of exploration, what it is, and how readers can explore. In the bigger picture of this campaign, success will mean that visitors become explorers – meaning that they are interested in learning more about the world around them, including visiting new places and learning new things, and that they have ideas of how to transfer these behaviors beyond the two museums. This success is best achieved with materials that support the larger picture. Ultimately, visitors will embrace the museums because they feel that the museums stand for something larger than a museum visit. They will visit, and become members, and even support the museum in other ways if and only if they understand the museum as offering something of value to their lives beyond a fun place to go. The idea of exploration is a wonderful way to promote something of larger value.
Over the past week, I have spoken to a number of people about this, and read articles on both marketing and museums and value. Although I began as a proponent of Option 2, I am finding that marketing professionals, as well as potential visitors, are clearly advocates for Option 1.
I am realizing that Option 2 is less of a marketing piece, and more of an educational piece. But this leaves me wondering – would the educational brochure ultimately be more effective than the marketing brochure? It is more mission focused and more useful, and equally branded. An education piece could be put out in all the same brochure racks as the marketing piece.
So, what is the line between education materials and marketing? When is the better option straightforward marketing, and when is it mission-focused education materials?
How do marketing materials convey value without being complicated? How do you ensure that an idea like “exploration” is a true value, and that the museums deliver on this value, rather than just using it as a marketing tool? What is the role of the marketing piece in the constellation of museum value?
I’m still trying to figure this one out, and hope readers will weigh in!