Every Brand’s Burning Question: Are You Significant In Users’ Lives?

Every Brand’s Burning Question: Are You Significant In Users’ Lives?

The senior vice president for marketing and external relations at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Cynthia Round, said she’s learned a few lessons from the “great brands” in the relaunch of the iconic museum in the past few years.

Hannah Edensor
Posted by Hannah Edensor

Faced with the challenge of making museums irresistible, Round explained to the audience yesterday at the ADMA Global Forum that brands like Apple and Coca-Cola provided a good starting point with lessons in marketing.

“We started with Coca-Cola, which for three decades was reigning number one in the list of top 100 brands,” she said.

“They know it’s not the value of the company but the value of the brand and its ability to draw revenue from it that’s important.”

“A couple of years ago it was replaced by Apple who is now in the number one position. We admire Apple for creating things we didn’t know we couldn’t live without.

Cynthia Round

Cynthia Round

“But what these great brands know is that a brand is more than a logo or trademark or slogan. Brand status has to be earned. They know they don’t really own their brands, they co-own them with users because it’s the users who give them value.

“But if we as marketers can create a cult following around a jacket or coffee, we can employ those same tactics as a museum.

“The burning question any brand has to ask and answer is, ‘How is this brand significant in the lives of its users?’ It’s that question I set out to answer three years ago to see if I could help The Met with this challenge.

“The Metropolitan Museum of Art is a 145-year old institution, and looking at the trends in the world we saw it has to work hard to be relevant. We have to think about what this means for the next generation of museumgoers.”

“We spend a lot of time in the virtual world but we also crave real life experiences,” Round explained, before saying that in the lead up to the brand relaunch, they did a “lot of listening” to find out the role the museum played in people’s lives.

“There was a notion of being alive and exhilarated associated with The Met,” she said. “But the core of art is not just creative expression but an artist’s humanity and what we all have in common.”

“We had this simple idea of ‘one Met, iconic Met, open Met’, that would drive our strategy. It would be all-connected, authentic and who we really are, and with the idea of being more open.”

Detailing the journey of The Met’s relaunch, Round said, “The previous logo used DaVinci Renaissance ‘clip-art’ lettering, as I like to call it.,” Round said of the older Met logo, adding it wasn’t cohesive, and “desperately needed” style guidelines. So they did an overhaul of the logo:

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“We heard from people that they felt overwhelmed and under informed at The Met. A lot hadn’t visited in a long time or ever before, so we created a new living map, or digital map, to create a new flow of communication and signage, better ticketing system, etc.

“We created a brand management site, which is unusual in the museum world, to let people feel empowered to have their own unique experience.

“We invited instagrammers into an empty Met to take photos and share, and realised we could monetise this, so now you can pay us for the privilege of an empty Met.

“We learned a lot from Netflix and released six seasons of artists doing two to three minute videos on some piece of art or gallery that inspired them, called The Artist Collection.

“We saw that attendance was 50 per cent New Yorker on Friday nights, coming in and taking their museum back, so we invented Met Fridays, and started driving regular attendance, with attendance going up 40 per cent. And it became date night, to come see an exhibition, have glass of wine on the balcony or rooftop and still go out for dinner after.

“Three times we’ve brought in teenagers from all over the city, not just Manhattan, to introduce the next generation of museum goers to experience the museum.

“And last week we announced a record high for the year to June 2016 to 6.7 million,” Round finished.

The museum has also seen 32.5 million website visitors, and a growth of New York visitors from 25 to 29 per cent,

“37 per cent of the visitors are also 18-35,” Round added, “Which bodes very well for the future of bringing millennials into the museum, and there’s a great deal of cultivation of that next generation.”

Round said she has now finished her brand strategy and her time with The Met, and now advises other museums on relaunches of similar style.