Activating Your Physical Space to Enhance Your Brand

September 21, 2015

Digital marketing efforts enable patrons to discover our programming and allow us, as marketers, to learn more about them through data collection and CRM management. But what do we do when these audiences have entered our physical spaces? Why do we not capitalize on the opportunity to engage with them when they are physically in our buildings?

A marketer’s job should not stop - or pause - once audiences arrive. There is tremendous opportunity to engage, delight, and retain audiences once they pass through your doors. Creating an active space leads to deeper audience engagement.

The good news is that this work doesn’t have to be particularly expensive or time-consuming. Just like we map out a content strategy for our emails and social media, we should map out a content strategy for our physical space as well.

So where can we look for inspiration?

Art museums have done tremendous work in this sphere. The Dallas Museum of Art’s Friends program allows users to sign up for free and receive badges and points as they unlock clues throughout the museum. These badges and points can be redeemed for various perks, from free parking to spending a night at the museum. It’s an excellent initiative that encourages attendees to engage with art in a digital fashion and layers in gamification.

Badges from the Dallas Museum of Art’s Friends program

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington, DC hired me to create a digital lobby engagement  over the course of three productions in 2013. Being mindful of the audience’s limited amount of time in the space, we created multiple activities that could either be done as one-offs or as a collective experience. Additionally, each of the activities involved a different technological platform and each experience was designed to be shared via social networks.

Photo Credit: The Washington Post

What can you learn from these examples?

  1. Use technology that is already familiar to audiences. Fancy equipment can alienate audiences and reduce the likelihood of sharing. Plus, there is a lot you can do with just iPads and laptops!
  2. Create digital content that is deeply aligned with the art itself. The more closely aligned the content is with the core question the art is asking of its audiences, the more likely audiences are to be delighted by and share their experience.
  3. People love to see themselves. Either their photos or their words on display.
  4. Never underestimate the power of human connection. The best in-person digital work I’ve seen always has a person in the physical space to help orient audiences to the activity and to collect data.
  5. Create something worth sharing. Audiences are most inspired to share content when they experience an emotional trigger. For example, there is a big difference between asking audiences to “Let us know about your experience at XYZ museum” and “Tell us which piece of art inspired you.” And don’t forget - just plain fun can be an emotional trigger too!

Digital marketing doesn’t have to exist solely outside of your physical space. After all, the excitement and anticipation of attending the live event is what draws audiences to us in the first place. Let’s capitalize on that heightened emotion and reimagine our physical spaces as another platform to engage with our audiences and give them the tools to spread the word about our work, which will elevate our brands and increase revenue.

Are you going to Digital Marketing Boot Camp for the Arts October 29-30 in NYC? Check out Alli’s Boot Camp session—Turning Patrons into Digital Evangelists.

Social Media Strategy


Alli Houseworth

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