What it means

A brand is the way an organization or product is perceived by the person who experiences it. Your brand is not static. It is the accumulation of feelings, thoughts, and perceptions that a person has about your organization. A museum’s brand is derived from every touchpoint a person has with the museum, from advertising to the greeting at the front desk. Brands are represented or summarized in marketing tools such as logos or taglines and they are reinforced by your advertising and promotional imagery, as well as day-to-day employee behavior and operational decisions, such as whether security guards are briefed on exhibition details.

How it’s used

A strong brand idea is expressed through clear, trusted, and unique offerings. What makes your museum different from the one down the road? The written articulation of a brand is its brand strategy, which typically answers the questions “what,” “how,” and “why,” and states core values and the expression of the brand in a simple, easily graspable idea. It includes the ways the brand is created and reinforced with a museum’s audiences. With a brand strategy in place, you can assess whether your brand offers a unique value proposition and ensure you keep the voice of the brand consistent. Brands are most powerful when they are reflected in the culture of the organization and benefit from continued reexamination and reflection.

Why it matters

People are emotional, intuitive beings and make decisions largely based on gut feelings. Brands help museums cut through the chatter, allowing audiences to more easily make a connection. When an organization expresses its core beliefs and identity clearly, it inspires loyalty and excitement, creating brand equity. Each time the public interacts with your museum is an opportunity to build the brand you desire. It’s a useful lens to view decision-making in an organization (i.e., is this “on brand”?).

If the organization does not actively cultivate a singular idea, the public will arrive at one by itself—often erroneously and in a manner that is less aligned with the organization’s mission. A brand, when implemented in support of the business strategy, serves to coordinate and accelerate organizational performance. Strong brand equity and a strong brand has a chance to create more dedicated audiences who feel an affinity to your museum, which then leads to higher attendance, a stronger pool for fundraising, and more.


It’s good to be better but it’s better to be different. Being better at something than your peers is easy to see internally, much harder to be seen from the outside. Finding the simplicity that brings power to a brand, without resorting to something that can easily be claimed by others is not easy.


Can we just not bother? See: Is the Museum Brand God Dead?

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