In the branding and marketing world, there’s a surprising amount of cross-over among industries in terms of what techniques work, in particular when it comes to re-positioning an existing brand, introducing a new product or launching an entirely new corporate entity.  

Surprisingly, one of the niche marketing avenues from which many brand launches can take cues from is branding techniques that museums use to promote their overall name or a specific exhibit. If you think of an exhibit promotion as promoting any other product or event, or reinforcing a distinct identity for a museum as being the same as empowering an identity for a new retail business, service provider, restaurant…anything. The similarities are remarkable. 

Find Your Voice and Style 

Of course, a company’s overall image has to have a distinctive presence in the marketplace, but just as importantly, any new product line, service or event has to be equally stand-out, while also dovetailing with the umbrella brand positioning. Regional restaurant groups, for example that may include different “sub-brands” among their eight, 10, 12 or more locations, typically carry through some common thread theme among each restaurant name’s individual identity. Cross-cultural fusion cuisine, nostalgic Americana, comfort food, what have you. There’s always some hint of similarity among the “family of brands,” sometimes to the point that the most popular menu items may carry across their line of offerings. And the thing is, consumers recognize it if they understand all the different restaurants are part of one corporation, but they don’t see it as lazy. They appreciate the chance to get their same favorite appetizer, signature cocktail or specialty dessert whether they visit the company’s steakhouse or seafood shack. 

Tell a Visual Story 

Museums have long understood that within their specialization, new exhibits have to have their own (slightly) separate visual identity. The Louvre probably won’t push a late 20th century photography exhibit, but MoMA in New York City would. Likewise, The Getty Museum in LA most likely won’t host and promote a showing of Jackson Pollack canvasses against their near-endless collection of millennia-old antiquities, but the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida very well might. Content, context and tone must be the first considerations, followed in close succession by how those factors fit the over-arching brand image. 

Who’s Been There and Done That – and What Did They Do Right or Wrong

Are you trying to build on your existing brand personality with a new product or service, or are you trying to break out of the box? And who among the competition has tried the same approaches, and what were their successes and failures? Again, it comes down to the context of the brand, the place it occupies in its industry sphere (getting back to that logic, say. of Cubist abstract paintings not being a successful exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. Ladies church groups and fourth-grade school trips? No, not the right context. 

All in all, while it may seem like a stretch, many good (and bad) examples can be taken from the museum sector when a company in almost any industry is launching a new product or sub-brand. For absolute proof, just look at National Geographic. The subject matters of their physical museum exhibits, magazine articles and TV content couldn’t be more varied, but they all fit under the brand roof of global knowledge about nature, history and social interactions. The Discovery Channel is the same way:  Rain forest conservation efforts, or Shark Week? Take your pick. Yet somehow, because someone has put thought into making those content subjects not feel so oddly far apart at a core level, it works.