Marketing the V&A

Marketing a museum is the process of identifying the needs and wants of the visitor and delivering benefits that will satisfy or enhance their  experience.  Marketing also helps maximize the performance of the museum. It is a complex activity requiring extensive creativity, planning, organisation and problem solving.  The following is a short introduction to the way marketing is carried out at the V&A.

At V&A South Kensington, the process is mostly handled by the Marketing Department and  Press Office working in tandem, led by the Director of Public Affairs. They act as a public voice for the V&A, communicating with many different audiences, including tourists, colleges, schools, families, adults (individuals and groups), diverse communities,  the creative industries, members, journalists and press, sponsors, opinion formers and MPs. Together, they promote, or advise on the promotion of, the V&A's permanent collections and galleries, major exhibitions, contemporary programme and a wide range of displays, events, activities and courses. A separate department based at the V&A Museum of Childhood handles marketing for their site. The V&A's trading arm, V&A Enterprises, manages the marketing of V&A publications and products.

Marketing objectives

The V&A has several key marketing objectives:

  • To increase visitor numbers

  • To build the V&A's brand (the values that the V&A wants to be known for)

  • To increase public awareness of services and events

  • To increase revenue through temporary exhibitions

  • To attract new audiences

The Museum also has commercial objectives to increase revenue through a variety of different sources, including the museum shops, publications, events and catering.

Marketing campaigns

The Marketing Department develops a series of general strategies and specific marketing campaigns to fulfil these objectives. Each campaign supports a different product or is targeted at different audiences. Recent campaigns have included:

  • Exhibition campaigns

  • Family campaign

  • Generic corporate campaign

  • Overseas campaign

  • Corporate identity campaign

Each campaign has a separate marketing strategy (which is developed in conjunction with the press strategy where appropriate).

Marketing strategies

The campaign strategies follow the same process. Each strategy will:

  • Identify campaign objectives

  • Identify the most appropriate target audiences for the product

  • Ensure the right message is conveyed through the right channels to the right audience

  • Determine how to utilise the marketing mix to the best effect

  • Enable maximum return on minimal resources and contain costs through effective project management

The marketing mix

Also known as the 'Four Ps', this term describes the four key elements that the V&A uses to implement its marketing strategy: Product, Place, Price and Promotion. The Marketing Department advises or makes direct decisions about each variable.

Product

The V&A has many different products on offer which the Press and Marketing Departments work with other V&A departments to develop. These products include the permanent collection, temporary exhibitions, special events such as Black History Month and family activities, and educational resources for schools, colleges and universities. In addition to this, there are products that help the V&A generate more income, such as the membership schemes, gift shops, cafes and corporate hire facilities.

Place

The V&A is situated in South Kensington, to the west of central London. There are two key factors that the Museum promotes with regards to its location:

  • Excellent transport links by bus and tube to London and Heathrow Airport

  • Stunning Victorian architecture close to other world-class museums

Price

Entrance to the V&A is free. However, there is a charge for exhibitions which needs to remain competitive, represent good value and allow access to people on low incomes. Goods and services, such as the shops and café, adopt their own pricing strategy based on the above principles, but also need to produce a net profit that is re-invested in the V&A's income stream.

Promotion

This aspect of the marketing mix represents the possible tools used to communicate with and attract the target audiences. The Marketing Department makes decisions about which channels would be most appropriate and effective in attracting the target audience within the budget available (the specific campaign strategy). These can include:

  • Advertising - paying for adverts in newspapers, magazines and radio, and on poster sites such as London Underground and buses. There is a limited budget for marketing campaigns, which restricts the ability to advertise on television and cinema.

  • Print - producing banners, posters, leaflets and other items, and arranging distribution. Leaflets are sent to places such as libraries, tourist information offices, cafes and other places likely to be visited by the campaign's target audience.

  • Direct mail - sending leaflets or other print with a letter to named individuals, using in-house data bases or external lists of names which are either researched or bought.

  • Sales promotion and brand partnerships - promotions include offering prizes or discounts on tickets in collaboration with other parties, from newspapers and magazines to rail networks and coffee shops. Partnerships could involve window displays in shops, or branded giveaways.

  • New media - enewsletters and website features

  • Public relations (covered by the Press Office)

Market research

Ongoing market research informs all the Marketing Department's activities, as well as those of other visitor-facing departments. The V&A works with MORI (Market Opinion and Research International), one of the country's leading market research agencies, to carry out regular market research amongst its visitors. Questions are asked to find out who the V&A's visitors are and discover how they behave. These include what has motivated them to visit (e.g. advertising, press articles, web site), how aware they are of various V&A services (e.g. membership, talks and tours), what newspapers they read and what other venues they go to, how much they enjoyed their visit and whether they would recommend the Museum to others.  This data enables the Marketing Department to deliver highly targeted, strategic campaigns which will attract visitors in the most cost effective way.

The V&A brand

Branding is a very important part of the marketing process, and one that the V&A is currently making a major priority.

Brand is a shorthand term for the process of examining;

  • What the V&A does

  • What the V&A stands for

  •  What the V&A means to different people, with a view to establishing and communicating clear goals, both internally and externally.

The V&A has recently refreshed its visual and verbal identity (tone of voice) to create a clear brand identity which evokes a feeling about what the museum stands for and the way it behaves (the values it promotes). Everything that the visitor experiences is also a manifestation of the brand - from the exhibitions they attend, to the members of staff that they speak to, to the sandwiches they eat. Brand development and management is an ongoing process, but one of the most important of all.

To see examples of how V&A has marketed exhibitions over the years, and also discover  how the brand was refreshed in autumn 2002, make an appointment with the V&A Archive to see past posters and leaflets - call them on +44 (0)20 7602 8832.

A gift in your will

You may not have thought of including a gift to a museum in your will, but the V&A is a charity and legacies form an important source of funding for our work. It is not just the great collectors and the wealthy who leave legacies to the V&A. Legacies of all sizes, large and small, make a real difference to what we can do and your support can help ensure that future generations enjoy the V&A as much as you have.

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