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The Art of: Pushing the Boundaries of Museum Marketing

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ESSEC’s Master of Science in Marketing Management and Digital (MMD) brought their A-game to the business school’s first collaboration with the Asian Civilisations Museum, boldly pushing the boundaries to create an immersive exhibition experience.

Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube are all the usual suspects for a brand to establish its presence. But who would have thought about using the dating app Tinder and, no less, an idea pitched to market an exhibition at the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) — Singapore’s national museum of Asian antiquities and decorative art.

Unusual though it may be, the MMD students pushed ahead with this idea to promote the ACM’s Life in Edo x Russel Wong in Kyoto exhibition.

In the first collaboration between ESSEC and ACM, this contest saw ten teams of MMD students compete to design a strategy that would draw audiences interested in the luxury, lifestyle, fashion, and design field — to convert online visitor numbers to physical footfall.

Swiping Right on Creativity

“The point of the collaboration was to try and come up with ideas that would be out of the box and change the perception of people who are not culture connoisseurs,” Sonja Prokopec shares. She is the LVMH Chaired Professor of Luxury Brand Management.

Echoing these sentiments, Kennie Ting, Director of ACM, adds: “It was my personal goal to find something unexpected and a little bit subversive, that is not something we deal with naturally.” 

Therefore, the Tinder idea was met with awe, amusement, and, finally, approval from the judges — the group stood out from the other three teams and emerged victorious.

Bringing the Essence of Japan Into a Singapore Museum

It was nonetheless a difficult decision for the judges to make with the outpouring of innovative ideas. 

Some zoomed in on the romantic feel of the exhibition and recommended turning the lawn outside of it into a dating spot. In contrast, others suggested increasing the appeal of the museum retail shop with more unique merchandising offer that could include collaborations with fashion and luxury brands, DIY Asian delicacy kits and thermal activated masks that changed color, matching the exhibition theme. 

Many groups focused on amping up the feel of Japan, proposing a multi-sensorial experience targeting the visitor’s sense of sight, smell, sound, and even taste by throwing in dining options at renowned Japanese restaurants. 

While some of these ideas were fresh, others built on what ACM already has in the works but added a new dimension to how these strategies can be executed, Ting shares. 

This is what made the collaboration worthwhile for Ting: “The students bring with them fairly different perspectives, and through that diversity of perspectives, you see the creativity and wealth of ideas shine.”

Sealing the Deal With Rigor

“The most challenging part of this project was to find creative ideas that stood out because ACM is already doing an amazing job,” winning team member Laura Steyaert muses. 

Her team went through rounds of focus groups and interviews to develop an ACM visitor persona their marketing plan would focus on. 

This rigor no doubt struck a chord, and even with their Tinder idea, Prokopec says: “What I really liked was that they showed how this would work, and had prototypes of the ads, so it wasn’t just an abstract idea.” 

While the MMD students may not have seen a museum as a typical luxury brand, she believes the exercise has achieved exactly her goal: demonstrating that the approaches luxury brands take can be applied to any premium brand when used correctly.

Read the three-part coverage of ESSEC Asia-Pacific’s collaboration with the Asian Civilisations Museum to find out.

Life in Edo x Russel Wong in Kyoto is exhibited at the Asian Civilisations Museum and runs till 19 September 2021.

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