Look Again, Think Again – Branding of a museum

Do museums have to have a brand? If, what would it ideally be like? As businesses are becoming more and more art-like, at the same time, arts are becoming more business-like as well. Status quo is that nationally owned art institutions are competing about the same visitors with commercial entertainment centers – the risk is that the cynicism that surrounds all business culture is extended to art.

Museums are not the ones one would first think of when discussing about branding, but it’s somehow relatively obvious when thinking about it: many modern art museums have their own recognizable logos, slogans and kiosks where one can purchase f.ex. badges, pencils and notepads with logos – the goods which are easily connected with arts. If the branding is thought well through, one may find logos from places which are not in that obvious relationship with arts, like on wraps of a sugar cube in museum’s cafeteria, or on custom designed parking signs next to the road to museum. Also, iconic buildings are usually perceived as a part of a museum’s brand.

This topic rose in to my mind during my recent trip to Los Angeles. When visiting a city like LA, many would think tourist attractions similar to Disney Land or Universal Studios, but I had developed one urgent need for my trip and that was to visit LACMA, Los Angeles County Museum of Art. I think the main reason behind this want lies in social media. I had seen beautiful, simplistic pictures of minimalists visiting these architecturally monumental museum surroundings and so, I wanted to belong one of those people too.


Gravity‘ in LACMA 12/2016. Photo by Anne Ruokolainen. 

Julian Stallabrass, in his article of The Branding of The Museum, is talking about Tate Modern in London, UK, but I would say one can generalize his rules to many internationally well-known museums. Branding is essentially a positive instrument. It may be edgy, or ‘alternative’, but it must be simple, solid and positive. In his article, is a quote from Margot A. Wallace, in which she offers the conventional business wisdom:

“Good branding speaks about the mission and vision to all people that a museum touches –– in a voice that is distinctive and consistent. A consistent look and attitude help people feel familiar with the museum, and comfortable in giving their loyalty.”

Wallace puts well the same thought what I was wondering during my trip, why I wanted to visit LACMA so badly? Quote reminds me of similar Kevin Keller’s theory about his Brand Equity Model’s Resonance. I had created a psychological bond with the perception of a museum, and so, created behavioral loyalty towards it, while had an active engagement to have a feeling of belonging to some larger community – the feeling was so powerful that I’ve no doubt about its correctness.

Have anyone of you ever experienced that kind of odd loyalty towards some brand you’ve never been in contact with before? What are your thoughts about my experience, can you relate?

Source: EBSCOhost Julian Stallabrass, The Branding of The Museum


About anneruok

I’m 28 years old Metropolia EBA-student originally from Eastern Finland. I’ve been living in Kallio Helsinki for over seven years now and loving it. Occasionally you can find me traveling around South-East Asia just with my backpack and flip-flops on, or wandering through urban concrete jungles in springlike Berlin. At the moment I’m heavily concentrating on my studies though - hopefully one day I’ll find myself as a Marketing/Brand Manager in a lively, trendy loft office at Friedrichshain.
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2 Responses to Look Again, Think Again – Branding of a museum

  1. meliskirmizi says:

    hi @anneruok , I had an similar issue with MoMA. There are MoMA advertising in everywhere in USA, in trains, stations, billboards etc. And it made me wonder so much that I wanted go there even though it was not in my plan. When I first saw the advertisement of it I was confused by the advertisement of a museum?! But unawares it worked so well on me. Nevertheless, even before I saw the advertisements I knew it created a famous brand as MoMA, it is seldom written out the four letters have become an embodiment of the brand.

  2. anneruok says:

    Hey, and thank you for your comment @meliskirmizi. MoMa is definitely one of those world-wide-known brands which people might be aware of even if they’re not interested in museums. Branding done effectively, I’d say! Never visited New York myself but if I had, MoMa had definitely been on my list. I hope you enjoyed your visit, I’m sure it was a great experience!

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