Toolkit: Museums, emotions and brand

Toolkit: Museums, emotions and brand

By Art Fund


A practical toolkit that supports museums to use emotional branding to grow support and connect in meaningful ways with their visitors. An Art Fund resource.

Art Fund commissioned two big pieces of research in 2020 and 2022. They found that:

  1. Museums should make more use of emotion to grow support – to give people an emotional reason to visit, use, give to and speak up for them.
  2. The techniques of branding can help turn positive emotions into long-term commitment.
  3. There are three levels of emotion that museums should try to appeal to.
  4. There’s sometimes a gap between the emotions that motivate the public, and those that motivate people in the sector: this means that museums may need to think and act differently.
  5. For many members of the public, the barriers to making more use of museums are practical, rather than cultural – but museums do need to break down three big barriers.

They made 4 recommendations:

1. Burst the bubble

  • Get outside usual museum thinking, and challenge the museum stereotypes.
  • Talk to some of the people you don’t already reach.
  • Find what excites them, what troubles them, what you could do with them

2. Find your emotional big idea

  • Start with what makes you distinctive and relevant – why you matter, your wow. This is your brand
  • Commit to a long-term plan to build it: not necessarily an expensive campaign, but rather a lot of small but consistent actions

3. Communicate the emotional benefits

  • Use ordinary language
  • Work up the pyramid: communicate pleasure first, purpose later
  • Counter the barriers by showing that you’re nearby, affordable and always changing

4. Evolve what you offer, and how you work

  • Create programming that maximises the sense of pleasure, connection and purpose
  • Shift the power balance, so that you’re doing things with people, not for them
  • Develop an outward-looking culture, working with partners from outside the sector
  • Develop a producer mindset, aim to create shows quickly, experimenting and learning

Go to The WOW Toolkit PDF


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Brand Museums
Resource type: Guide/tools | Published: 2024