When I first visited the exhibition named ‘Cotton Couture’ at Manchester Art Gallery, something came to my mind suddenly, ‘oh, the beautiful things would never be out of fashion’. I chose this costume display to illustrate the theme of marketing in museums and also to interpret it from four dimensions: target audiences, publicity, activity programmes and the evaluation of marketing plans.

From Thursday 19 June 2014 to Sunday 14 June 2015, the ‘Cotton Couture’ is exhibited at Manchester Art Gallery. This show displays a glorious and representative group of 20 cotton outfits which were donated by the Cotton Board, a Manchester based organization in the cotton textile industry.

Back to 1940, cotton, viewed as a utilitarian fabric, is hard-wearing and washable. Cotton was the ideal material for manufacturing work-wear and underwear. While, for cocktail wear or evening dress, generally, people invariably would think of silk or wool. Therefore, for promoting the use of cotton in fashion and expanding the export trade, the Cotton Board invited those leading London and Paris couturiers to design tailored suits for the catwalk, which also demonstrate the immense versatility of cotton.

Marketing is defined by Moore (1994) as a management process for fulfilling the mission of museum or gallery, and further meeting users’ needs. The notion of marketing of museums derived from the general meaning of market. Although they are different, the basic elements are same – target audience, publicity, activity and evaluation.

In terms of target audiences, Blattberg and Broderick (1991) purpose, for art museums or galleries, because art needs people to spend time and effort to appreciate it, the main target audience is the group of potential donors who “often becomes members and are more likely to become heavily involved in museum activities” (p331). While the second type of audience is the general public which encompasses family members, senior citizens and those disadvantaged or on a low-income. In consequence, for this costume exhibition, I consider the upper class and high-income people who may be private collectors, or working in the fashion industry as the target audience.

After confirming the target audience, publicity should be concentrated in the following marketing plan. For this display,  electronic media and print media would be implemented. By 2014, the top three media types adults use are watching TV, using a mobile phone and going online (via PC). Since TV is an expensive approach to advertise, I would not take TV into consideration. As a result, I chose portable smart devices, phones, ipads with diverse APPs, such as, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on. Besides, radio and emails also could be used for advertising. On the other hand, fashion magazines and top UK national newspapers mainly appeal to the target audience, like Vogue and The Daily Mail. In terms of posters and leaflets, they will be concentrated distribution in schools, fashion organizations and other museums or galleries. Lastly, bus advertising is an effective way to attract those general visitors.

In the next step, a group of activities were designed to engage the target individual and group audience. First of all, I planned a wine ball to attract the donors and people who are working in the fashion industry. The only rule is that guests need to wear special costumes, such as cotton evening dresses or dresses with special material. While for the general public, I designed a workshop for children, lectures for students, and books about fashion in the gift shop. In the workshop, children can design dress and jewellery by using diverse materials, paper, rag and color pens. The lecture could be about fashion history or the management of the exhibition.

Last but not least, it is essential to evaluate the success of a marketing plan. In my opinion, to conduct a semi-structured interview plays an effective role in gaining visitors’ views. There is one thing that need to be considered. In practice, the ball is difficult to carry out, because I would need to seek for sponsors who will provide space, drink and food.


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