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From June 2010

Hello everyone, I wanted to give you all a quick update on how things are going on the Morris Museum SEA project. First off – thank you to the many people that completed our online survey!  Your insights have gone a long way to helping us understand what people expect of a local museum or theater and why they choose to support (or not support) those that are nearby.  We used those surveys as a control group to put up against two other key pieces of our research – live, informal interviews with museum visitors, and an online survey we sent to with Morris Museum supporters, visitors, and volunteers.

A few insights that got our attention from a local museum expectation perspective were:

  • Going Local: Local is a key value proposition for most audiences when it comes to museums and theaters.  That said – while most believe that local museums and theaters can provide quality cultural experiences, there is definitely a vocal group that does not believe in this.  Finding ways to incent this group to “try us” and “rethink” their expectations will be key.
  • An Intimate Experience: Many museum visitors (notably artists, educators, students and the 20-45 type age group) enjoy the intimate experience they have at a local museum.  They believe they can truly connect to the art and performances they are participating in.
  • Discover and Explore: The need to discover and explore seems an obvious requirement of any cultural experience.  But as it relates to local museums – part of that exploration is internal; e.g. the realigning of personal expectations around what a local museum can provide and the type of experiences it can provide.

One great thing about conducting interviews at the museum is having a unique opportunity to watch people “in their natural habitat doing what they do”.  For example, we noticed that one person appeared to be wandering aimlessly from room to room, not making eye contact (which made it difficult to get her attention for an interview).  After slowly chasing her through a few rooms, she stopped and let me introduce myself (yes, you read that right, I had to “chase her” for a bit).   About 3 questions deep, much to my surprise I discovered that she was in fact a volunteer who had been working there for years. When I asked her what her role was, she simply stated, “I don’t know – I just walk around”.  And in fairness – that was exactly what she was doing.  From an experience design perspective – this was an insightful finding given it’s relation to our work around brand impact touch points (e.g. Websites, print materials, physical space, press releases, personnel, etc).  In this case, the museum may not be viewing their volunteers as brand ambassadors and equipping them with the right tools to deliver a “branded experience” to the visitors who interact with them.

Another key learning around brand awareness that has come out of our initial research is high level of awareness and presence that the Morris Museum has in the local schools.  For other target audiences (e.g. those 20-45 year olds), it is vague at best.  To help bridget this gap, we will be providing a strategic blueprint that outlines a plan to address core questions such as “how do you reach your untapped audiences?”.  We will help evolve the MM and BT brand to better engage and peak the curiosity of those who have never heard of the MM, or have not visited the museum since they were young.  In addition to the brand itself, we will look to where people interact with the brand (e.g. Train stations, local community events, and via larger museums and other artistic establishments).  To kick off this phase of our work, we have hosted a number of highly interactive branding workshops with museum and theater stakeholders (from the business side as well as the curator/ programming side).  The goal of these exercises is to truly understand the heart of what the MM and BT are  today and what their future aspirations are. With this understanding, we can begin to build a new brand promise, identify key value propositions and design the marketing messages that will appeal to the various audiences.  And of course, we’ll identify the right channels to pull them through.

As you can see, we are deep into our SEA Experience Audit (or, phase 1 of our work).  Once we establish this baseline and desired experience, our work shifts to crafting the evidence-based, actionable recommendations that get us there.  We now turn to how we will to measure our success and ultimately, provide the right governance model and change management tools we’ll need to bring the rest of the museum and theater along with us.

Stay tuned for another blog post soon!  Next week we start the community intercepts and competitive research – I am sure there will be very interesting insights to share!