How to market museums is something of a curiosity to me. While it’s perfectly possible to be creative and generate an exciting marketing campaign – how do you ensure that this will be effective? How do you identify where to place advertisements and marketing material? And how can you be sure it will connect with its intended audience?

This started to become clear to me following a lecture from Imperial War Museum North’s (IWMN) Director Graham Boxer, who explained that at IWMN they use something called Audience Segmentation to identify and group individuals possessing similar interests and viewing habits. In essence these groups are derived from examining a range of social, cultural and economic factors such as – age, gender, class, occupation, ethnic origin, locality, special interests, etc.. (Black, 2005: 11). This process is by no means exclusive to IWMN and national organisations, such as Arts Council England, have undertaken extensive research enabling them to break down the general public into recognised groups, for the benefit of Museums and heritage sites across the UK. In actuality, audience segmentation is now commonplace throughout the cultural sector and is a key tool when attempting to develop, implement or analyse a marketing strategy (among other things).

Since this lecture I have been given an assignment to deliver a presentation on developing a hypothetical marketing and audience development plan for a current exhibition in Manchester. I chose Manchester Museum’s new temporary offering Siberia: at the edge of the world (the exact opposite of the exhibition’s convenient location to my lecture theatre). The aim of this exhibition is to show the ‘diverse and changing character’ of ‘this huge region’ (2014) through examining its people, nature and culture. Dispensing with the jargon, this exhibition covers some really interesting topics such as Siberia’s difficult past as a place for exiles and the astounding and jaw dropping statistic surrounding its natural beauty (my personal favourite being that Lake Baikal could ‘provide [fresh] water for everyone on Earth for 40 years’ (2014)). But who does this exhibition appeal to? How do you market it to them? And how can you incentivise them to visit?

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To answer these three questions I started by looking at Audience Segmentation, in particular Art Council England’s model which identifies 13 segments of the general public. After reflecting on this, there were two clear groups that would be particularly interested in this exhibition: ‘Traditional Culture Vulture’ and ‘Urban Arts Eclectic’. Traditional Culture Vulture’s are identified as one of the key audiences for the arts; they regularly attend museums and galleries, meaning they are interested in the changing temporary exhibits. Two-thirds of this group are aged 45-74 and nearly two-thirds are women (however if you wanted to see what a cultured vulture actually looks like, check out Time Out Manchester’s new marketing campaign! https://twitter.com/TimeOutManc). Similarly Urban Arts Eclectic are highly engaged in the arts, seeing it as fun and exciting; in contrast they are typically young – around a quarter being aged under 24 (Arts Council England, 2011: 7-15). That’s the first question answered. But to answer the next two I’ll focus specifically on the Traditional Culture Vulture’s.

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So how can you market the Siberia exhibition to Traditional Culture Vulture’s? Again the audience segmentation profile has the answer. This group is already a core audience of the arts, meaning in-venue marketing would be very effective in increasing awareness about upcoming exhibitions. Also, as a regular visitor, it is quite possible that an individual in this group will have signed up to a friend group or mailing list, enabling the Museum to keep them updated about exhibitions through an e-newsletter. Thirdly Traditional Culture Vulture’s posses a strong interest in local news – therefore local media is essential in promoting this exhibition.

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Finally how can you incentivise this group to visit? One way identified is through an exciting events and activities programme. This audience possesses a preference for learning, using exhibitions to enhance their understanding and appreciation of a subject. Therefore it can be suggested that a seminar series exploring the key themes of the exhibition in more detail would be a good starting point when creating a programme of events of relevance to this audience.

So, returning to my earlier confusion about museums and marketing, it would appear that the way to ensure success is to have a thorough understanding of the intended audience. While this conclusion isn’t exactly groundbreaking – it has emphasised to me the importance of identifying and defining a clear audience when devising any kind of event/activity/exhibition in the cultural sector.

References:

Arts Council England, 2011. Arts Audiences: Insight. London: Arts Council England.

Black, G., 2005. The Engaging Museum: Developing Museums for Visitor Involvement. Oxon: Routledge.

Siberia: at the edge of the world. Manchester Museum, 4 October 2014 – 1 March 2015

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