5 Ways to Make Your Interactive Exhibit a Brand Touchpoint

BY Jeff Peden

Most museum exhibit teams are comprised of curators and educators whose primary focus lies on the originality of interpretation–not on highlighting an organization’s brand. Though not at the forefront of the team’s objectives, every interactive exhibit experience should be considered a brand touchpoint for your organization.

By effectively integrating branding into your interactive exhibits, exhibit teams can help foster brand equity while facilitating long-term differentiation in the minds of patrons, members, and donors. The best part about combining branding and interpretation? A conceptual overhaul of your exhibits is far from needed — one only needs to keep a few simple marketing rules in mind to help your exhibit team think like brand stewards.

1. Integrate your mission into the exhibit

Poor or inconsistent connections between the interpretive story and the organization’s larger mission can lead to cognitive dissonance between the short-term exhibit experience and the long-term goals of your organization. As you view concepts for your exhibit, ask yourself if your organization is the only group that could tell the interpretive story at hand. Ensure that your mission is effectively woven into the story to communicate and reinforce what makes your organization unique.

2. Use your brand assets

Brand assets are visual elements that make your organization recognizable and distinct. A brand asset might be a typeface (tight tracking at the Tenement Museum), a logo (the medallion symbol at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum), an architectural feature (building design of the Guggenheim Museum) or colors (black and white for MoMA). While you generally want each exhibit to have a unique theme, finding opportunities to integrate your brand assets into relevant areas will reinforce your museum’s larger brand.

3. Let your personality shine

You may not realize it, but your visitors mentally assign a set of human characteristics to your brand. This brand personality should inform the tone of your exhibit. Does your museum brand scream rugged or read refined? Do visitors expect your messages to be formal or irreverent? If the visual and copy elements in your exhibit do not reflect your brand personality, you are missing an opportunity to strengthen your organization’s brand personality throughout the visitor experience.

4. Make it a journey

Your marketing and communications team knows that it is important to understand how the visitor moves through all the key interactions with your organization. They consider the visitor’s feelings, motivations, and questions that lead them to the next brand touchpoint. As you develop your interactive exhibit, think like a brand manager by leading with one, clear idea that establishes the contextual starting point for a visitor’s journey. From there, be a helpful guide to your visitors. Allow them to be the hero of their journey by putting them in control to explore the information and ideas that are most interesting or relevant to them.

5. Consistency, consistency, consistency

Consistency is one of the hardest tasks for marketers and exhibit designers alike. Marketers are tempted to start over with a new campaign at every chance they get. Exhibit designers have a similar temptation when planning temporary or rotating exhibit areas. While it is important to keep things fresh, a coherent treatment across all platforms will accrue brand equity over time.

As one can see, integrating branding efforts into your interactive exhibit is not only essential, but also relatively painless. The key to applying these concepts is to recognize that the exhibit experience is integral to your museum’s overarching brand experience. This link means that museum curators and marketers must learn to partner together to develop exhibits that cover all of your organization’s educational and interpretive goals while strengthening your brand for long-term sustainability.

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