Sunday, April 3, 2011

Marketing is Not a Dirty Word

In a post last month about creating change,  I wrote that marketing was not the answer.  And marketing has continued in my thoughts.  Jasper Visser commented in response to that post,   "Marketing might be the first step, but then marketing in the sense of building tribes, keeping promises, not in the sense of more flyers and noise (which is not really marketing)."

And at another workshop here in Kyiv,  Vlad Pioro,  director of the Ukrainian Center for Museum Development commented, "Marketing is not a dirty word,"  as he introduced the Ukrainian version of Museum Strategy and Marketing : Designing Missions, Building Audiences, Generating Revenue and Resources by Neil, Philip and Wendy Kotler.   Marketing is particularly problematic in a post-Soviet society:  even the words consumers, marketing, branding,  all smack of capitalism (though of course the Soviets did a pretty good job at staying on message, in the broadest sense).   And although there's plenty of advertising everywhere here,  old habits die hard.

Vlad's comment came on the heels of my presentation about voluntary museum standards in which I referenced both AAM's Standards of Excellence and AASLH's StEPs program and asked my museum colleagues here to consider whether such standards would be useful for Ukrainian museums.    Among the questions and comments that ensured in an open discussion.
  • But we have laws on museums here in Ukraine!
  • But the laws don't work!
  • Preserving collections is our only work, the most important.
  • Why is that function (preserving collections) only one among many in these U.S. standards?
  • We have particular issues here.
  • Who would write them?  How could we agree?
  • We need to change,  to look at our museums in the way that the rest of the world looks at theirs.
So how do standards and marketing connect?  Exactly in the way that Jasper reminded me--that we need to build tribes of people (and that includes the ongoing work of building professional organizations here in Ukraine) and that we need to be responsible to our audiences.  If we're opposed to marketing, we need to think about why,  to consider what that says about the values of our organizations.  If we're marketing in terms of "flyers and noise,"  we need to think about how to change that,  how to become more responsible,  not more showy.  

It may be "the government" who is responsible for museums here in Ukraine, but in fact,  the museums, their collections, and their activities belong to the Ukrainian people,  who, as in any country or culture, have a right to access, information, and even sometimes, a little fun when they visit!
high museum

Top by Ky_Olsen on Flickr 
Bottom by Pawel Loj on Flickr

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