Target Audience

What it means

A target audience is a group of people with shared demographic and/or psychographic characteristics that the museum has identified for a particular purpose, such as exhibition or program attendance or participation in a survey. Target audiences are often represented by a persona (see Audience Persona) with a name and detailed description, highlighting specific characteristics that are representative of a member of this group.

How it’s used

Consider a marketing campaign for an upcoming project; a broad message targeted to the general public might be seen, but is at risk of being overlooked, whereas a much more focused message that keys in on the needs and interests of a particular audience is likely to be more effective. Well-defined target audiences and research-based knowledge of what these audiences value enhance the museum’s project team’s ability to work together in a more focused manner as they seek to achieve the project’s audience-based goals.

A product, such as an exhibition, is best developed with a target audience in mind. Not doing this means that the target audience defaults to those within the museum instead of an identified external audience. Nothing is truly for everyone, but specific targeting, when done well, can have the effect of energizing the audience most likely to benefit from the program or exhibition. This, in turn, can spark word-of-mouth and thus significantly extend the reach of the museum’s marketing and communication efforts and expand the realized audience beyond the original target.

It should be noted that, in general, new audiences are far more difficult to attract than existing ones and any new target audience will require persistent and sustained effort to develop and maintain.

Why it matters

Target audiences allow the organization and its staff to focus their resources and efforts on an agreed-upon audience or community. This helps to clarify where to advertise, for example, and what aspects of the offer to highlight in the museum’s communications. Deepening a relationship with a target audience requires both focus and consistency, so having too many target audiences can diminish the museum’s ability to deliver its message.


See also Audience Persona


Narrowing your target audience will consistently have greater yield than expanding the target. This is a discipline because it is so easy to want things to be for “everyone.”


For examples of highly specific targeting and its positive effects, see: You Need a Target: What Makes a Marketing Plan Strategic?


For a deeper look at the difference between audience-centric product design and internally focused product design, see: Curatorial vs. Marketing

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