It's not uncommon for museums to be active across a number of different mediums - especially on social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram. The content shared on each of these mediums may differ - 140 characters on twitter and a (traditionally) square image on Instagram along with some witty hashtags - but one thing does remain consistent: the Museum branding.
Not only does having a consistent brand play a role in helping visitors to identify with the 'personality' of your Museum but also adds context to the message that is being communicated. It's the distinguishing colour, text or even combination of words that evokes curiosity in new visitors and familiarity in returning visitors.
Having a clear and consistent Museum brand is key to building trust, loyalty and authentic relationships that visitors feel personally invested in. In this post, we break down some of the main elements of effective branding and how they translate in both the physical and digital worlds - particularly mobile apps.
1. Be intentional with brand colours + logos
Where budgets are concerned, complex branding can be costly and inefficient. In fact, many Museums choose white-label apps because they want to focus their resources and efforts on curating engaging content, not on the design decisions required when developing an app from scratch.
If visitors have downloaded your app, they've already moved into the stage where engaging and relevant content takes precedence over branding.
Maintaining a consistent brand across platforms does not necessarily translate into a mobile application that is effectively just a mobile responsive version of your website.
Websites have the flexibility to use a range of colours, fonts and designs but on smartphone devices, you're competing for visitor attention when there's only so much that be presented on a much smaller screen space. Opt for 1-2 primary colours that are easily recognisable but don't distract visitors from the rest of the content. If visitors have downloaded your app, they've already moved into the stage where engaging and relevant content takes precedence over branding.
For example, the branding for Sydney Open includes a single, distinct brand colour used across their website, social media posts and throughout their mobile app, as can be seen below.
Museum logos can be more difficult to adapt, but they should also translate well across different mediums and platforms. If it fits in your brand guidelines, sometimes a subtle colour change, like inverting the logo (suitable for solid colour logos), can be all that's needed to achieve a simpler, streamlined look.
Here are some more examples of how Museums have updated their logo and branding, and how it's extended across different mediums (via Brand New):
Nemo Science Museum
Metropolitan Museum of Art aka The Met
National Gallery of Victoria
2. More than just an image
Not only are quality images great for building a strong brand image, but consistent use across mediums allow visitors to navigate a familiar structure.
Images can present information in a way that's more relevant and captivating than text or icons alone. Use great images in your app to spark interest and encourage visitors to stay longer at your museum.
Museums usually have an abundance of assets available from their digitised collections, flyers and promotional materials that can easily be adapted for an app. It's simply a matter of choosing the images that best reflect the Museum's brand and message: it should communicate information that is relevant and meaningful.
Last but not least, the actual communicated message, of course, plays a key role in achieving brand consistency and building loyal, lasting relationships with visitors.
3. Adapt the message
Promotional materials, blog posts, social media posts etc. don't all communicate the same information that is on a website — your mobile application is no different.
Apps are meant to provide a better browsing experience as an 'on-the-go'/onsite/portable/accessible guide. They are not meant to have everything, so instead of overloading users with the same, repeated information, present digestible snippets. And nearly all websites are mobile responsive, which means it's even easier to link to a specific link if visitors want to find out more (without leaving the app!).
The hard part is understanding and catering to the different expectations and motivations behind downloading an app. This comes from a Museum's customer surveys, feedback and analytics. But making the app overall a smooth, reliable experience is the first step towards tailoring content to visitor needs, and is something that is often overlooked.
4. Your content is a reflection of your brand
No matter how you're communicating your brand to visitors, the end goal should be to connect with your visitors in a positive and authentic way. The brand has to be clear to visitors and it should make sense. Consistency is the key to communicating your brand, regardless of the medium that is used.
The more that visitors identify with a brand, the more likely their expectations will increase. Your visitors will expect, and demand, a certain level of quality from a museum if the brand is strong. That means that content that is shared, is a reflection of the museum and an answer to the expectations of your visitors — are they expecting to be entertained? or inspired? or to have the facts?
That depends on the museum, and how its brand is communicated to its visitors.