By Gianna Marshall
Why do some museums band together for their marketing? Cultural institutions often band together to form a museum consortium as a way to take advantage of shared geography for marketing purposes. Instead of depending solely on individual resources to grow an audience, a consortium can draw people to more than one attraction, multiplying individual strengths for the benefit of the group.
For smaller institutions that might not be centrally located, drawing audiences from any distance can be a challenge. It’s hard to talk a family into traveling an hour for a visit that lasts an hour.
And talking people into visiting neighborhoods or cities they aren’t familiar with can also be a challenge.
Museum consortia use different tactics to overcome these barriers. By offering a broader approach to learning, they combine the culture and history of a city or town with historical landmarks and museums to create a unique visitor experience. Some consortia are centered around a general theme, while others are grouped together because of the proximity of the landmarks they showcase.
To better understand how consortia market themselves to audiences, we examined different examples throughout the United States. How they address their marketing challenges can help institutions consider a consortium option for themselves.
MILWAUKEE MUSEUM MILE
The Milwaukee Museum Mile consists of four museums and one cultural institution in downtown Milwaukee. Looking at the five institutions that make up the Mile, it’s clear that museums don’t have to share the same subject area to attract the same people. They are all different, but marketed together to attract visitors.
The five attractions in the consortium are:
- Charles Allis Art Museum
- Jewish Museum
- North Point Lighthouse
- Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum
- John’s on the Lake
Milwaukee Museum Mile markets itself under the slogan, “Five Museums. One Destination. Discover Milwaukee’s Hidden Museum Mile.”
Their marketing strategy is upfront. Their slogan tells you what they are solving for. They use the lakefront to market to the museums along it.
The Mile uses social media to market to potential visitors by showcasing how beautiful the land around it is. On Instagram, they use the hashtag #ExploreMMM on their photos to showcase all the different sites throughout the Mile, which encourages visitors to use it as well. Facebook is used to showcase events as well as sites on the Mile.
In addition, The Milwaukee Museum Mile also hosts an annual museum day where they invite local residents and tourists to explore the lighthouse, the museums, and the grounds – even at night. They offer refreshments, raffles, and activities for children. To navigate the mile easily, they offer shuttle buses that go to and from each location, solving the problem of how to easily navigate the different venues.
CHARLESTON’S MUSEUM MILE
Charleston’s Museum Mile is composed of six museums and 28 cultural institutions ranging from nationally renowned historic houses and parks to worship spaces and public buildings. Charleston is revered for its historic district and needed to showcase its breadth as a consortium to give a reason for tourists to spend more than just an afternoon in the district.
Charleston’s Museum Mile uses a variety of marketing strategies to showcase its consortium.
- They note the accessibility of 28 places to visit in a walkable mile
- They maintain a user-friendly website with an interactive map to that has all 28 places pinpointed on it
- The points of interest are divided into three different categories and color-coated by category
- They offer different ticket packages for museums based on their category. For example, in the “Best of Charleston Architecture” package, adults can pay $36 and children can pay $19 to see the Rhett House Museum, The Charleston Museum and the Old Slave Mart Museum
This approach appeals to different audiences and different interests, but solves it all with one tool. Because of the proximity of the entire Mile, they use a benign version of suggestive selling to show visitors what else they can explore. Done with houses? Great, now check out the churches.
HOUSTON MUSEUM DISTRICT
Houston Museum District offers 19 museums and cultural institutions in four walkable zones. In Houston, the cultural institutions are spread out across the city, so how do you market them? They use zones, to emphasize what sites are available to see within a certain area. They help visitors figure out what they can do and see within a reasonable distance, one zone at a time.
Here is a breakdown of the zones:
- Houston Center for Photography
- Rothko Chapel
- The Menil Collection
- Asia Society Texas Center
- Buffalo Soldiers National Museum
- Czech Center Museum Houston
- Holocaust Museum Houston
- Houston Center For Contemporary Craft Houston Museum of African-American Culture
- Lawndale Art Center
- Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
- The Jung Center
- The Museum of Fine Arts: Houston
- Children’s Museum of Houston
- Houston Museum of Natural Science
- Houston Zoo
- Rice Gallery
- The Health Museum
They market by highlighting a zone each quarter and holding a celebration there. This event attracts people because it is family-oriented and emphasizes the culture and uniqueness of each zone.
Their website is very easy to navigate and mimics the zone approach.
For each of these consortia their marketing strategies are successful because they address their audiences’ barriers. They’ve solved for the geographic challenges, found their key messages and ensured all their marketing channels consistently address both. Rather than focusing on their individual strengths, they emphasize what makes them work well together.
Have you visited a museum consortium? What did you think of it? Share it with us in the comments below!