Museums are arguably in the forefront of thinking about the consumer experience. The sector has come a long way since the late 1980s when London’s Victoria & Albert Museum — the UK’s National Museum of Art and Design — sought to reposition itself with the slogan: “An ace café with quite a nice museum attached”. It didn’t really work: over a decade later, an official report noted that the sort of words used by visitors to describe the V&A included “dusty”, “dry” and “stuffy” as they got lost in a badly planned layout and gave up on overly academic exhibit information.
The new slogan didn’t go down well with the cognoscenti or the public, but, looking at what has happened in the sector since, it could be considered ahead of its time — an attempt to inject a less reverent note, create a buzz and attract a different group of visitors — younger and more diverse.
Today museums understand that they are operating in an “experience economy” and deploy all sorts of approaches to remain relevant and attract visitors. The lovingly curated art and exhibitions may even be a secondary consideration - consider the work of “starchitects” such as Frank Gehry who designed the Guggenheim in Bilbao, or, more recently, Jean Nouvel’s Louvre Abu Dhabi - a “museum city” in the sea. People are as likely to go to such locations to take a selfie to post on social media as to appreciate the contents, Laure Payen, research director of Haystack, suggested to an audience at Qual360 Europe (Berlin, February 2018).