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Marketing is a significant success factor of any organization. As a management process, marketing improves the awareness of a brand in the market and cannot only be viewed through the lens of profitability but is an exchange process of satisfying wants and needs. The marketing process is integrated and involves building strong customer relationships and the creation of value for customers (Lee, 2005, p. 297). In return, this helps the organization to capture the value of its target market and customers. In this regard, marketing must not be seen as an aspect of selling but it involves making selling superfluous, it is about knowing and understanding the customer considerably well that the services and products fit them and sells itself. Essentially, marketing management encompasses all the activities involving the calculation of the added value, product development, and innovativeness. This paper focuses on museum marketing which involves marketing visitor attraction.
Definition of a Museum
A museum can be understood as a permanent, non-profit institution which offers services for the development of the society by acquiring, conserving, researching, communicating, and exhibiting intangible and tangible heritage of the environment and humanity for the purposes of enjoyment, study, and education (Hausmann, 2007, p. 179). This implies that the value of museums is at the heart of society and people’s lives as it has a learning potential and contributes to social equity, economic prosperity, cultural values, and inspiration and enjoyment of the people. Essentially, museums offer people the rare opportunity of exploring collections for enjoyment, learning, and inspiration purposes (Harrison & Shaw, 2004, p. 27). This is embedded in the primary functions of museums as institutions which are responsible for collecting, safeguarding, and making specimens and artifacts accessible by holding them in trust for society. As institutional structures, museums play critical roles which include acting as educational tools, nation’s economic and cultural credibility, socio-cultural and aesthetic arbitrators, symbolic icons of society, and tourist venues ((Harrison & Shaw, 2004, p. 25).
In museum marketing, the primary objective is to efficiently identify, anticipate, and satisfy its users and audience. The aim of the process is to enhance audience development through a systematic and a strategic approach to help the museum meet its overall objectives and confirm its mission (Lee, 2005, p. 294). As aforementioned, museum marketing is a management process which focuses on marketing visitor attraction. This involves making a museum a place worth visiting and leaving home for (Izquierdo & Samaniego, 2007, p. 811). The authenticity of a museum is in the essence of visitor attraction and its marketing and selling point is the experience it offers its visitors. In this regard, museum marketing involves promoting the museum by increasing market awareness about the products it offers and spending on improving that visitor experience (Lee, 2005, p. 295). The experience economy where museums operate requires a continuous reinvention of the visitor attractions to create survival through repeat visits. However, it must be noted that in the experience economy, the important factors of success are choice, service, and quality- but not size.
Most importantly, the effectiveness of the experience economy is based on successful visitor attractions which sell expectations, experiences, and memories to individual customers. Museum marketing just like other forms of marketing involves the process of exchanging, delivering, communicating, and creating offerings that create value for the society, partners, clients, and customers. In the creation process, the institution must collaborate with customers and suppliers to create products that offer value to the visitors (Geissler, Rucks, & Edison, 2006, p. 73). The communication process, on the other hand, involves describing the offerings to the customers and learning from the customers. When it comes to the delivering process, the institution must ensure that the offerings are made available to the consumer in ways that optimize value (Rentschler, Hede, & White, 2007, p. 167). Finally, the process of exchanging involves trading those offerings for value. These can be referred as the primary elements which require to be addressed for a successful marketing of a product. These can also be understood through the fundamental 4Ps of marketing that helps to make marketing of a museum successful.
According to the four Ps marketing strategies, a museum must have the right products to offer, be located in the right place, offer its products on competitive prices, and promote its products through effective means. There are many different products offered in a visitor attraction such as educational resources for universities, colleges, and schools, special events, temporary exhibitions, and permanent collections (Lee, 2005, p. 295). In addition, a visitor attraction may also offer other products like corporate hire facilities, cafes, gift shops, and membership schemes. These products are all embedded with an aspect of improving the visitor attraction to the facility and play a significant role in marketing the museum for repeat visits as they improve the visitor experience and memories (Courvoisier & Courvoisier, 2007, p. 197). Place or convenience is the other important and fundamental element of marketing a museum. Essentially, place refers to the location where the output of the customer and the products are ready for use. Most importantly, the suitability of a museum is affected by its accessibility (Geissler, Rucks, & Edison, 2006, p. 73). The location of a visitor attraction or a museum must be promoted by two critical factors which include excellent transport links either by rail or road transport and the availability of easy booking facilities.
Price is the other fundamental element of museum marketing as it is a factor that impacts strongly on the competitiveness of the museum. This makes price an important element that must be considered considerably in marketing a museum. Pricing decisions are usually affected by different factors ranging from marketing and organizational objectives, channel member expectations, costs, pricing objectives, regulatory and legal issues, competition, buyer’s perceptions, and perceived value (Camarero & Garrido, 2011, p. 271). When marketing a museum, these aspects must be put into consideration when determining the price. For the price to be competitive, it must cover concession for public sector attractions, discount on admission fees, and standard admission fee. When these elements of communication have been addressed, the museum needs to address promotion which is the process of communicating with and attracting the target audience (Mottner & Ford, 2008, p. 183). Promotion may include advertising the facility and creating public awareness of its products on poster sites, radio, magazines, and newspaper, print, direct mail, brand partnership and sales promotion, and through electronic media.
Development of Museum Marketing
Although museum marketing has previously been viewed from a tactical perspective, it must be appreciated that in the current dispensation, marketing of museums is a strategic issue. Museum marketing is a form of heritage marketing which has shifted from the functional approach in which museums were focused on exhibition, communication, conservation, and acquisition of art which is object-based (Boorsma & Chiaravalloti, 2010, p. 305). The current museum should be approached from the purposive definition because museums have deviated from being object-based to being people-based which offer the potential for learning, inspiration, and enjoyment (Rentschler, 2002, p. 11). In the classical sense, museums have for a long time been viewed as an aspect of culture. However, the marketing management action of the recent times has helped us to appreciate museums through their relationships with visitors.
Most importantly, we must appreciate museums as unique and distinctive service organizations which provide and offer their visitors unique experiences. This paradigm shift of heritage to experiences and services has been instrumental to museum marketing as museums compete with other heritage facilities for financial returns and visitor attractions. Museums now compete for family outings with aquariums and for art appreciations with educational TV and books, and as social places with restaurants and movies (Alcaraz, Hume, & Mort, 2009, p. 223). Due to this increased scope of operation and competition with different sectors, attracting the interest and attention of the modern day consumer has become increasingly important. The modern-day consumers have become increasingly dynamic, discerning, and demanding (Geissler, Rucks, & Edison, 2006, p. 74). Their interests have subsequently shifted from the traditional interests of excellent services and goods and mutually beneficial relationships to having positive and unique experiences (Rentschler, 2002, p. 11). As a required response to this need, museums are required to shift towards offering intelligent entertainment by providing tools, products, and services that make visits worthwhile and more of a unique experience.
Due to this shift in the objective of the museums, marketing of museums has become important and must address some of the fundamental issues of quality, experience, and service (Rentschler, 2002, p. 12). Importantly, museums attract an elitist audience but also have a social responsibility of spreading its tentacles to a wider market by broadening their target audience. This underlines the importance of museum marketing as a strategic approach of reaching out and attracting a wider audience (Nandan, 2005, p. 267). As such, museum marketing involves focusing on communicating a consistent message to the audience through advertising. Alternatively, museums market themselves by making their products easily available to the target audience by distributing them through interactive exhibits, traveling exhibits, and satellite branches. Collectively, museum marketing is an essential survival factor of museum due to the increased competition and museums use standard marketing tools to reach their customers.
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Targeting the Customer
It is beyond doubt that the primary objective of marketing is to comprehensively communicate with the target audience with the aim of promoting the activities, products, and services of the museum. These activities include public programs, facilities, exhibits, and collections. To be effective in this sense, the success of the marketing strategy used by the museum depends on identifying the target audience (Caldwell, 2000, p. 29). Traditionally, museum visitors have been characterised as middle-aged individuals with above average level of income and education and a tourist. This kind of visitor was more likely to be in search of social interaction, community participation activities, and learning experiences (Rentschler, Hede, & White, 2007, p. 167). However, the modern-day visitor of a museum is local and seeking a unique experience and memories. Museum marketing, therefore, requires effective identification of the target audience to strategically identify the best communication strategy to use when reaching them.
Museums are often affected by negative perceptions held by the public that museums are places where boring and old stuffs are stored. These perceptions have reduced the number of people who visit the museums considerably and marketing is important to increase visitor numbers. However, the success of the marking used by the museum depends on successfully identifying the audience and target customers. This involves benchmarking the visitor profile to establish the interests of visitors (Conway & Leighton, 2012, p. 34). It also helps to profile the people not reached by the museums, establish what hinders them from visiting museums, and their attitudes towards visitor attractions and museums. Informing the public about programmes offered by museums is the basic aim of museum marketing and helps to reach the target audience as well customers who are not reached by the museums. This helps to appeal their interest by promising to offer them visitor’s satisfaction.
As a management process, museum marketing plays an important role in efficiently identifying, anticipating, and satisfying visitors’ appeal to the products offered by the museum. In this regard, museums are bestowed with the responsibility of identifying the needs and interests of its potential and current visitors and providing appropriate market offerings to match those needs. Most importantly, the shift of museum operations from the object-based, non-profit orientation to the people-based, market-oriented thinking has increased the need for marketing museums to increase their appeal to their target market and increase the number of visits. Essentially, long gone are the days when museums were viewed as placed where boring and old stuffs are stored. In the modern day, museums offer inspiration, memories, and unique experiences to visitors thus competing with other educational, entertainment, family outing sites, and social interaction sites. Therefore, they require marketing to maintain their competitive edge and to communicate with their target audience about their products and programmes.
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