Over the past twenty years, museums have increasingly embraced branding as they fight for attention in a competitive visitor economy.
But having a strong museum brand is not only part of a marketing strategy. It underpins everything that a museum does and helps to define the visitor experience from first to the last touch.
Branding a museum can seem overwhelming, so it’s good to have an understanding of the basics before you get started. In this article, we will go through the core components, as well as the marketing tactics you need to consider when developing your museum brand.
Below, we share our eight tips for successful museum branding.
1. Set Clear Goals
A successful brand is more than just your museum’s logo.
It starts with the vision and values of your organisation. It then extends across design elements from the tone of voice to colour palette, from fonts to photographic style, from printed materials to exhibition design.
Take your time to understand what you’re trying to achieve with the brand, so you can prioritise budget and measure success.
2. Plan Ahead
Once you have a good understanding of your goals, break the project into stages and build a timeline and budget.
We would usually break a museum branding project into the following steps:
- Brand Vision
- Logo Development
- Brand Guidelines
Following the brand development, you will need to refresh your museum’s website and printed materials, and again you should plan out what will be required and put together a budget.
3. Start by defining your museums brand.
The first stage of any museum branding project should be defining the vision. In our experience, the vision stage is a great chance to get people from across a museum involved in the brand.
We use brand workshops to learn about a museum and what makes it unique. These usually include staff from across the organisation.
The insight gained through these workshops allows us to craft a brand vision for the museum. In this, we’re looking not only at what makes the museum special, but what makes it unique.
Ultimately this brand vision forms a brief for the design stages of the project. But beyond this, it’s a call to arms for the organisation to rethink how it approaches everything from exhibitions to education.
4. Define your museums target audience
One of the most significant issues that museums face when developing a brand is a lack of audience focus.
It’s impossible to be everything to everyone, but more often than not, museums want their branding to appeal equally to audiences ranging from young family to retired people.
It’s important to step back and think about which groups you want to prioritise, and what messages will work for them.
If you do have a broader target audience in mind, what do they have in common? And what messages will resonate across these groups?
5. Don’t expect your museum logo to do all the work.
Once you understand what your museum stands for it’s time to develop your logo or brand identity.
The logo should be simple, clean and uncluttered while getting across the essence of your institution. I find it helpful to look at brand vision and use this as a lens through which I judge which design works best.
Remember that your museum logo will rarely appear on its own, so it doesn’t need to illustrate everything your museum offers museum.
6. Develop your museum’s brand voice
If your museum’s logo didn’t appear with your content, could your audience identify it as coming from your institution?
If not, then your brand voice is inconsistent.
Brand voice is an essential element of a museum brand, primarily as written content plays such a key role in museum communications across everything from social media to advertising campaigns, exhibition panels to blog posts.
Having a defined brand voice is about being consistent – positioning yourself as an easily identified and authoritative source.
7. Don’t forget photography.
When refreshing your museum brand, photography can often be overlooked when drawing up a budget.
Photography plays a crucial role in delivering the personality of your museum brand. It enhances your communications and gives potential visitors a glimpse of the experience that your museum offers.
Creating a library of images is an investment in future marketing campaigns and can pay dividends for years to come.
8. Consistency is key to museum branding
With multiple audiences and a range of different events and exhibitions, it’s easy for your brand to lose its consistency.
This is a common problem in museums where different departments want to put their own stamp on their activities.
The best way to bring consistency to your museum brand is with brand guidelines. These set out the rules for using the brand from the way that the logo should be used, including colours, fonts, photography and written language.
Guidelines should also come with templates to make it easier and cheaper to develop marketing and other materials as you take your museum’s brand forwards.
In today’s media-saturated landscape, museums need to have a strong brand to stand out.
A well-developed museum brand will better position you for attracting new audiences, funding, exhibitions and staff.
By approaching your museums brand with a plan, and considering the breadth of work from logo to written language, photography to graphic style, you’ll be on the right track to successfully position your institution for more success.
Thinking about rebranding your museum, drop us a line, and we’ll be happy to share our experience from creating strong brands for more than twenty museums, galleries and heritage sites.