National Museum of Women in the Arts

“What you have done for us is you have taken the thing that every organization needs—a brand identity—and shown that there are a lot of strategic questions that need to be worked out first in order for it to succeed. Otherwise, it’s just flash-in-the-pan stuff.”
Susan Fisher Sterling, Director, National Museum of Women in the Arts

SITUATION

The National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) was founded 30 years ago on
the visionary idea that there should be a national museum dedicated to women in the
arts. While NMWA has built up their collections, mounted important exhibitions, and
consistently created excellent programming, this 30-year period has also witnessed
profound changes in the museum world that have made the field more crowded
and competitive. NMWA came to us with the need to stay relevant and carry forward
their mission.

Before the Rebrand

Institutional Brochure Before the Rebrand

DISCOVERY

The brand was about tradition and featured their building, which while beautiful, was undermining the effect of the more forward-thinking programming and exhibitions they were doing. Working with all staff, the board, and the advisory board for the institution’s national and international committees, we clarified the museum’s Core Values to Champion (passionate and visionary leader/advocate), Open (inclusive and empathetic), and Fresh (curious and engaging) using our Brand Pyramid. We also distilled and socialized the Brand Idea: Champion Women Though the Arts. We did persona research and a cultural alignment process covering all departments—from security to management—to confirm public viability of the brand and work the brand into organizational behavior and decision-making. Our research findings and brand repositioning are used as key tools
by all organizational departments including curatorial, programs, education, and marketing; they have served to drive both operational practice and a visual rebrand intended to more fully express this new operational truth.

APPLICATION

The brand has been applied 360, from cultural alignment, to programs, to exhibition selection and marketing. The visual identity of the institution has evolved to ensure that the external perception meets the stated institutional goals. The new organizational brand was made public in October 2017.

Institutional Signage and Advertising

Institutional Brochure Covers

Institutional Brochure

Museum Map and Information Brochure

Membership Brochure

Museum Shop Bags

EXHIBITION ASSESSMENT

We were also challenged with the task of measuring the impact of our work. One of the means through which we are doing this is at the product level—special exhibitions. Previously, special-exhibition success was based on attendance figures only. This created a strong bias in favor of costly blockbuster-type exhibitions. It also had the effect of underplaying the role an exhibition has in contributing to the organization’s mission as a champion of women through the arts.

In collaboration with the core marketing team, we created a new formula for return on investment that contextualizes the attendance data, making it a component of a much more nuanced and useful assessment of success. Newly introduced factors include a qualitative assignment of mission alignment, cost per “body in the building” (so gross numbers are not seen without reference to the financial effort expended in getting them), and a newly instituted “net promoter score” survey that is now run with every exhibition, showing a side-by-side comparison of the likelihood a visitor will recommend that particular show. The new ROI score also factors in a selection of additional indicators such as store sales volume and new memberships signed during the run of an exhibition. These factors are all considered but weighted differently based on institutional priorities.

Application of this ROI assessment has shown that big-budget exhibitions are not what they seem: while the institution was able to achieve record attendance numbers with one blockbuster show, the yield has, in fact, been better from each of a number of less ambitious exhibitions. These learnings are now being applied in the planning phase for each exhibition, and now that we have measured a total of seven exhibitions, a new definition of what success looks like has emerged. This more robust, accurate, and nuanced assessment is having the intended effect of helping the organization plan better and be much more intentional in aligning its exhibitions with its mission.

Top Performers

Exhibition Advertising

The What Is Natural campaign got particular attention in the context of a generally staid DC museum-advertising landscape, drawing significant attendance despite a very modest media buy. Survey data also showed the advertising as a key factor driving attendance.

This exhibition was part of the transitional period where the use of the old logo was
still in place.

First Prize

in the American Alliance of Museums’ 2016
Museum Publications Design Competition

Gold Winner

of the Muse Creative Awards in Outdoor Advertising

This exhibition was part of the transitional period where the use of the old logo was still in place. This exhibition contributed directly to the larger project of adjusting the museum’s brand perception.

The campaign drew

182%

of special-exhibition daily attendance.

Scored a

100

on the museum’s internal ROI evaluation (the highest ever).

Rose Gold Winner

of the Muse Creative Awards in Outdoor Advertising

The new logo was made public with the launch of the Black Abstract exhibition campaign.

This exhibition drew

174%

of special-exhibition daily attendance.

Platinum Winner

of the Muse Creative Awards in Outdoor Advertising

Institutional Advertising

RESULTS

#5WomenArtists social media campaign

  • Some of the organizations that participated include: Metropolitan Museum of Art; National Gallery, London; National Museum of African American History and Culture; GallerieUffizi; and Guggenheim Bilbao.
  • Participants were from 36 countries from six continents, including Brazil, Hong Kong, Nigeria, and the United Arab Emirates.

625+

organizations and

9,000+

individuals participated this year.

17,700

tweets from 8,400+ contributors and

4,300

Instagram posts by 1,200+ contributors.

#5WomenArtists advertising campaign in the DC Metro

The National Museum of Women in the Arts has literally put itself on the map in the highly competitive museum market of Washington DC. The operational, programmatic, and visual work has been noticed by visitors, donors, and the press. Recent exhibitions have broken attendance records and our creative work has won awards. Kriston Capps, writer for the Washington City Paper, summarizes this well: “It’s been dazzling to watch the transformation of the National Museum of Women in the Arts.” The organization has also attracted the largest private donation in its history specifically to support this work. This donation was renewed in 2017 for three more years on the basis of the results of the brand transformation.

The New York Times article