Not really Marketing at all – Arts Marketing Association 2010 (AMA10)

Who knew Leeds had such beautiful canals or that the Royal Armories was such a cool place where the pay-per-ride shoot ‘em up games were built with old machine guns? Now I know why their work with us on Caboodle was so great.

I arrived here for this years AMA conference in time to catch Shelly Bernstein’s keynote about her long-term innovations and leading edge thinking at the Brooklyn Museum. She is someone whose work I have followed for years but never met so it was a real pleasure to spend some time with her and find her as fresh in person as her work.

She was talking about Brooklyn’s use of community and the freedom she has had under a very open Director to pursue a vision of how online technologies could transform the museums relationship to its community. Also to help them with their number one problem, their proximity to Manhattan and the long psychological journey New Yorkers have to make over the Brooklyn Bridge (SATC fans know this well from Carries relation to Miranda’s moves there).

One of their solutions is to work with Four Square to offer an ‘Art’ Badge to those intrepid travelers who make it across the Bridge. Very clever as anyone can get the badge and it’s a fun way to reward that doesn’t interfere with the competition to be Mayor. She’s also banned all staff form checking into the Brooklyn Museum’s own Four Square account in order to ensure the community ‘own’ the mayorship but matched this with staff offering tips about local restaurants to exploit all their good local knowledge.

This latest partnership with Four Square is just another example of thinking outside the institution and taking their knowledge and stories into existing online communities. You can see other examples of this in their various iPhone apps, work with Flick Commons etc. They also reverse that logic and bring stuff from these communities back onto their own website by incorporating visitor comments from Facebook and the like onto their own website live – be they good or bad.

For me, its not really helpful or accurate to call any of the stuff she talked about ‘marketing’ It is more in the vein of what used to be called ‘outreach’ or community work as at its core is the respect for the visitors and their own stories, opinions and views.
The Brooklyn Museum is not pushing its own ‘Brand’ here. The visitors tell how they think it is and the Museum curates, hosts, plays home to these interactions and their course. It’s the opposite to the kind of Brand development thinking that you se now in the commercial sector with big companies trying to use their brands to tell stories but lacking the substance that comes from the cultural assets (the art, the stuff).

If only we could find the business models for capturing some financial successes and sustainability from Brooklyn’s model? Perhaps the key lies in their grass roots, bottom up approach, the one that sets their visitor at the core and the one that puts their own brand behind?

Great to meet you Shelly and Go Brooklyn!

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