4

A new framework for museum marketing

Hugh Bradford

Are marketing concepts and techniques developed in the commercial world appropriate to the non-profit making museum environment? Hugh Bradford's research offers a persuasive critique of the unquestioning application of commercial marketing in museums, and outlines a museum-specific theory of marketing.

In this chapter, I outline a new framework for museum marketing in the light of doctoral research carried out in Scotland. The theoretical background of marketing in general and museum marketing in particular is drawn on, and I examine the choices facing researchers within this field. The problems to be found in the existing concepts of marketing and the difficulties of applying general marketing theory direct to museums are considered. The documentation of existing good practice and the fieldwork and analysis employed to investigate more fully the marketing of Scottish museums are discussed.

The findings of the research undertaken have led to proposals for a framework for the marketing of museums. This largely arose from an interpretative model of how successful curators actually operate. It identified three important, often shared areas: the management of the museum; the management of the museum's reputation; and the management of the relationship with the museum's patron groups.

I conclude with a discussion of some of the identifiable characteristics of successful curators, and observations on the implications of the research findings.


MARKETING THEORY; CONTENT, CONTEXT AND CRITICISM

The images and ideals of marketing are relatively recent in origin. The principal components of general marketing theory are contained in a range of literature dating from the 1960s (for example, Ansoff 1965; Borden 1965; Levitt 1960, 1965; Sheth and Garrett 1986). A significant proportion of marketing theory appears to have been deductively derived and based on speculation rather than observation. Where empirical testing has taken place, it has usually occurred in specific environments: for example, in North America rather than Europe; within large corporations rather than small businesses; centring on goods rather than services; profit-making rather than non-profit companies; and concerned with homogeneous rather than heterogeneous markets. Certain areas of marketing theories, if subjected to empirical testing, are supported only at the point where they become tautologous, or where selective hindsight is used. Alternatively, they cease to be theories at all. They may be useful as definitional schemata, but cannot be used to explain or predict (for example, Borden 1965).

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