As summer 2013 approached, heritage marketing and development specialists Tricolor worked with Firepower, the Royal Artillery Museum to develop a marketing campaign for the summer holidays. The aim was to sustainably grow school holiday audiences, generate more income for the museum while providing quantifiable results, all within a small budget.

The objective was to reach more of the museum’s target audiences in a sustainable, cost-effective manner and to build a relationship with current and potential visitors, allowing the museum to market to them directly. Historically, the museum has undertaken local press advertising backed up with posters and banners to promote school holiday activities. Tricolor proposed a digital marketing campaign that combined Native Advertising (paid search and sponsored stories, pay per click) with content-driven social media which would promote the museum’s summer holiday and October half-term offers.

The plan called for sustained YouTube, Twitter and Facebook activity to connect with more people in the right audience groups through the provision of relevant, fun and engaging content. This included designed e-flyers, photos of activities, top tips and visitor-driven content that would generate ‘likes’, ‘shares’ ‘retweets’ and ‘favourites’ to increase the online reach of the campaign.

During summer 2013, four very different themed activity weeks were offered by the museum. These were designed to appeal to younger visitors and families and to encourage repeat visits over the holidays. A trial day of activities was staged with local youngsters and the sessions were filmed – the resulting short film became the backbone of the social media activity which followed over the summer.

Zombie Week during October half term and Halloween Ghost Hunt films were also developed. Sarah Dowd, of Tricolor explains more. “At the core of the campaign were three short films hosted on YouTube which people were driven to via social media. The three films were very different – one showed the incredible range of fun activities available over the summer, one was very much like a zombie film while one was just plain scary. The common denominator however was that all of the content of the films was well tested before launch to ensure they it was engaging and encouraged click-throughs.

“Filming the Zombie week video was great fun. Museum staff and kids all took part, dressing up as zombies complete with gory make up. Once the activities had finished, we found that parents were going onto the Museum’s Facebook page saying what a fantastic time their kids had had. Their visits were inexpensive, educational and fun and perhaps most importantly of all, the museum had not established an online connection with them which could be maintained for the future.

As well as a growth in Twitter followers and Facebook likes and huge numbers of viewings of the YouTube videos, 31% of visitors said that it was as a direct result of the digital activity that they had visited the museum. Summer holiday admissions were up by 17.5% and half term admissions were up by 46%. With the growth in digital awareness amongst young people, this particular approach appealed both to children as well as parents. As well as increasing visits, paid-for activity sessions at the museum grew by 35.8% during the summer and by 101% during the October half term period.

“We were delighted with the results”, says Dowd. “On some days last summer, visitor numbers were up by 400% on the previous year. We have shown that cross-channel, audience-driven marketing can be done in a fun and engaging way and it does not have to blow the budget. Taking a commercial approach and applying it to heritage marketing has worked and our successful 2013 campaigns with Firepower makes a very convincing case study.

“We were also delighted to be Highly Commended Marketing Campaign at the Museums + Heritage Awards. We don’t think that any other museums are doing these bespoke social media campaigns. We’re very proud that this unique approach has been so effective.”

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