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Smithsonian's New Brand Positioning: "Seriously Amazing"

Posted by Mark J. Miller on December 21, 2011 10:01 AM

The Smithsonian Institute is 165 years old and isn’t hurting for visitors: 30 million people come calling annually.

Even so, the organization's executive team was dismayed to learn that that “its recognition had dropped to 77 percent for 18-to-24-year-olds, and that 25 percent of respondents think that the Smithsonian is ‘elitist,’” the Washington Post reports. Too many people were thinking of the place as America’s attic, and a confusing one at that. As its Twitter bio reads, "We're not a museum. We're 19 of them! Plus 9 research centers & the National Zoo."

Time for a brand refresh. The Smithsonian set aside $1 million to come up with a branding campaign that G. Wayne Clough, the Secretary of the Smithsonian, hopes will show that the Institute's diverse programming and educational activities represents a “conversation, not a lecture,” the Post notes.

An in-house document reports that the Smithsonian was aiming to “place more emphasis on what we do instead of on what we have,” according to the Post.

Smithsonian museum directors were part of the planning process. What they come up with was the tagline, “Seriously Amazing.” 

“What we wanted to get across, and this is a shift we have been doing, is show the Smithsonian is listening to the world, not only talking to the world,” said Cristian Samper, the director of the National Museum of Natural History, to the Post.

And, of course, another hope for the new tagline is that it will inspire more donors and partners, the Post notes — even if the wags at Washington City Paper dismiss the new slogan as off-brand and (in its "dude"-like desperation to appeal to youths) "perfect for stoners." What do you think?


Amanda United States says:

I get the attempt to appeal to a youthful audience and losing "elitist" perceptions but "Seriously Amazing" doesn't seem to do it... it doesn't even flow off the tounge well so I don't think it's for stoners, either. Personally, I'd rather see more interesting stuff that appeals to the youth and "non-elitist" versus a marketing ploy. Sometimes brands miss that it's about content, not taglines.

December 21, 2011 11:08 AM #

R Kelleher United States says:

I really like the new tagline. It might be because I am at the top end of their marketing appeal or it might be because I just watched the Night at the Smithsonian again, but I feel that the tagline could definitely work. However, I also don't find museums to be elitist because I was required to visit so many during my studies in college. The way to see if it will be truly successful is if they start getting more attendees of the younger age range. One extra idea they might try is giving college students discounts through their schools so that teachers would require field trips. That's what got me over my feeling of intimidation.

December 22, 2011 12:13 PM #

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