So you have a compelling offer that you know your prospective visitors, customers, or clients will value. The task of advertising is to communicate that offer in a way that your audience will notice amidst the thousands of marketing messages that bombard them each day. Achieving this goal takes superior design and sharp copywriting, no question—but these will amount to white noise without a clear strategy that engages the viewer to find out more.

Museum Exhibition Advertising: Leading with Strategy

Along with our client, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, we're proud to have won a first prize in the American Alliance of Museums' 2016 Museum Publications Design Competition.

The story behind the campaign is worth telling because it says something about our client as an institution—one situated in a highly competitive museum market without the marketing budget to match its heavy-hitting competitors—and also something about our strategy-first approach.

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Advertising in the Facebook Age: Bronx Museum Free Campaign

We launched the Free advertising campaign for the Bronx Museum as they announced to the world, and particularly to the Bronx, that they would go free to the public. Museum advertising often speaks primarily to the converted. This was an attempt to start up a conversation with museum virgins.

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Not to Market is a Crime

If your mission, your reason for being in the world—regardless of whether you are a museum, a nonprofit, or a for-profit—is good, then you have no excuse not to market yourself.

Marketing can be the difference between your mission being known and understood, and not. From this perspective, NOT to market is a crime.

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You already have what your constituents or consumers need.

They just don’t know about it yet. This is the role of advertising and marketing—effectively letting them know what you are doing and doing this in as engaging a way as possible.

Advertising that is merely visually appealing will not cut through the noise. Carefully craft your message with an understanding of your market and test the message on a sample audience, if possible, making tweaks accordingly (or overhaul what you have and go back to the drawing board). Use images that allow your potential customers to imagine themselves in your world—employing your services, visiting your museum, using your product. Anything less will not grab their attention in our oversaturated advertising environment.

Most advertising is effectively invisible.

All advertising that does not address a real need that the target perceives they have at the moment is waste. The only exceptions are advertisements that engage with foundational human emotions like fear or pleasure and are able to tie the service or product to that emotion, or ones that capture attention through using the unexpected or “out of place,” which provides a momentary connection to make your case, which then opens a momentary window to engage according to the previous laws of contextual relevance. Barring these situations, most advertising is effectively invisible, or more precisely, categorically ignored by most people as part of an automatic, and well-developed, self-protective mental maneuver that systematically filters out nearly all irrelevant information from our normal field of perception.

Most advertising spending is waste.

Spend your marketing dollars wisely by building your advertising campaign on strategy—thorough consideration of what is of value to the target and when and where they will be primed to perceive that value—and tactics including creative tactics that are well tuned to the needs and tastes of the intended target. Advertising done well is therefore the marriage of marketing (customer understanding) with creativity (devising the best way to engage the target). In the absence of these, it is largely a huge waste of time and resources. If this is the case, why do so many brands spend so much money on advertising? Because at the end of the day, familiarity begets positivity and positivity correlates to purchase or support, in the case of a nonprofit. Brands that are not driven purely by sales need this to hold or expand market share and if you are not driving familiarity and thus, positivity, someone else will be.

So we are stuck with the need to take on the challenging work of devising and executing effective advertising campaigns. It’s an endless, voracious byproduct of our capitalist economy and its tentacles and effects reach deeply into nearly every sector, nonprofits enjoying no exception. You cannot beat them by not playing the game. The rules are set and it behooves you, if your mission is important, to use the tools that you have to make the best of it.

Strategy first.

It is rare that an effective advertising campaign can leap frog strategy, as boring as this sometimes seems to those who want to get right to the fun stuff. But we know that there is far more opportunity to succeed at the daunting challenges of getting attention from the right audience at the right time for the right reasons for the benefit of your mission if you aim well with the resources you have. Tronvig is a strategy first agency. We believe that the time and resources devoted to the strategic foundations behind a campaign go a long way toward reducing the inevitable waste that is the Achilles’ heel of all advertising. Learn more about the full process here.

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