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Marketing at MoMA: aim at the young professionals

Elizabeth Addison, head of marketing and communications, uses weekly surveys and focus groups to build brand awareness

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Marketing—it is the buzz word of the Nineties, and its glitz and glamour are well mastered by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Elizabeth Addison, deputy director for marketing and communications, who manages six departments and a staff of fifty, including Marketing, Communications, Writing Services, Graphics, Visitors Services and New Media/E-Commerce, spoke to The Art Newspaper.

For her, the job is like leading a mini-publishing empire, part ad agency, special events enterprise and PR office.

Before coming to MoMA she was at the Art Gallery of Ontario where she was director of external affairs. The test of her strategy was the marketing of the Barnes exhibition which resulted in a $3 million net profit and 600,000 visitors

Ms Addison says: “marketing is truly profit driven, it aims to generate a large and diverse audience while generating related revenues.” How responsive is she? Since taking on the position in February 1996, she has nurtured attendance up from 1.3 million to 1.6 million. More importantly, admission revenue has jumped from $5.5 million to $8 million, while press coverage of museum events has tripled. “Those figures mean that we prove a return on the investment in marketing.”

Who is her target audience? Ms Addison sees two groups: visitors and members. For visitors, while the income spread is enormous, there is one constant—education. More than 80% have college degrees while 44% hold graduate degrees.

The membership is very different. It is a predominantly Manhattan audience, but the age bracket is in the high fifties and the income steep. Close to 37% declare an income of over $200,000.

“Yet the biggest potential growth area is the young professionals. They spend more time looking at contemporary art and that interest overlaps with the performing arts. So, we’re looking at ways to partner with performing arts institutions to attract them here,” notes Ms Addison.

But how does she identify these segments and what is the critical marketing tool in measuring audiences? “Surveys,” replies Ms. Addison, “to profile audiences and better understand how to target and serve them as well as what programmes and services we need to fine tune.”

This is what distinguishes MoMA’s marketing efforts—they are analytical and data-driven as part of a finely tuned comprehensive marketing plan. At MoMA surveys are raised to a high level and not limited to the occasional dry questionnaire. Ongoing weekly surveys track a variety of responses from tourists, visitors and members. Buying patterns in the museum store are tracked and focus groups are conducted to test approaches to ad campaigns. A recent membership survey is detailed down to the frequency and time of visit, magazines and newspapers read, radio stations listened to, other cultural institutions visited—all tabulated by a statistician.

With such statistical information in hand, advertising can then be tailored to site and audience. For example, an ad for the Chelsea Piers bears the very hip Rauschenberg, perfectly targeted to the young professional audience which frequents the piers for riding, rock climbing and ice skating. An ad for the Bonnard show in Museums New York, an upscale gallery guide, is a very special pull-out section, part editorial , part advertising, the perfect way to grab the reader’s attention. It bears the publication title, but the copy is all MoMA: exhibition highlights, other MoMA shows, information on membership, then three pages on the MoMA Design Store offerings. All printed material sticks to a detailed corporate identity programme. “It’s about consistency and continuity to build brand awareness,” she says.

While MoMA advertises in an enormous range of media—publications from national to local to tourist and even radio—unlike many museums, all advertising and print material is produced in house. The reasoning is simple. “It’s for economies of scale,” explains Ms Addison.

Another marketing tool is Art Safari, a cunning children’s introduction to MoMA. “Our director, Agnes Gund, provides funding so every school child on a school outing to the museum receives one. Research shows that kids who visit museums will do so later as adults.”

The MoMA website is also an effective marketing tool. It gets 7 million hits monthly and was rated the top site world-wide in a recent international contest. The site will be developed commercially to sell MoMA products, making it one of the few museums websites to do so.

The current Bonnard show (until 13 October) is a classic example of MoMA marketing. It is being sold to the public with highly-touted exhibition packages, which Ms Addison refers to “as one-stop shopping.” There are nine separate packages beginning with the “Bonnard Bonanza”: a lunch at the museum restaurant, a catalogue audio tour and 10% museum store discount. There are wine tasting packages, Broadway shows, Lincoln Center tours, hotel, Amtrak, and more. While the packages begin at $27 for Bonnard admission, Lincoln Center tour, desert and coffee, the hotel packages are not for those with lean budgets. The New York Hilton is $229 a night; the St Regis, $465 a night for two.

What do all these marketing efforts cost? Well, 1.6% of the MoMA total budget is allocated for such expenditures. But while the dollar amount may not be significant, those dollars are stretched through corporate partnerships.

What’s the return on such packaging? The 1992/3 Matisse show meant annual visitor attendance jumped to 1.9 million from the usual 1.3 million.

But how far will marketing go? Bonnard bumper stickers and key chains? Not quite yet, but some museums will surely go that route.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Aiming at the young professionals'

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