Museumhuizen was first a project plan on paper with the request to give it substance and to bring it to life. 35 open houses to the public, with which we return part of the association's property to the public, and appeal to a wider target group. We already had a good look at the current member, but how do you expand that, and as a second step, what does that mean for the offer? We had collected a lot of information about who that broad audience could be. But the challenge was to get that clear.
There is a lot of passion for our houses from the Association and members, but how do you tap that interest into a target group that is not yet familiar with what you have 'at home'? During our market and target group analysis we came across an article about the positioning of the Dutch Open Air Museum and Branddoctors was mentioned there. We then made an appointment with the marketing and communication department of the Dutch Open Air Museum. It was an open and honest conversation about the process. There seemed a lot of kinship. There were personas hanging on the wall and they told how they used it in services and communication. We wanted that too! There we saw the answer about how sharp and concrete we wanted it to be. Then we called in Branddoctors.
Join us on a journey of discovery through 400 years of living history
Because so much information was already there, it was the task of Branddoctors to reduce that to the essence of what the DNA of HdK is. This was a very important process for doing this with all stakeholders. With the Museumhuizen team but also with the current management of the association. Because the association stands for conservation and management, and we are just hooked up for opening up and that is public-oriented and brings potential tension with it. Branddoctors challenged us very much in those first sessions. During the exploration of the positioning routes, for example, they came up with out of the box ideas such as yoga in a house. The enforcement of what does or does not fit under a route has also helped us to really choose something. By continually asking and eventually converging to what really matters, we have come to our brand essence: Join us on a journey of discovery through 500 years of living history. Once we had a clear focus, we went into the process of exploring personas and validating them with the potential target groups. Here too, 'less is more' applied: Filtering, making choices, and consistently building on that. It has been an exercise with the orientation towards the outside, at the same time you also look very closely inside because what will those new personas mean for your organization, presentation and houses? Branddoctors has really helped us to bring the outer and inner world in line.
A compass in our pocket
The tangible result of the positioning and personas has become the Brand Compass. A nice booklet in which the essence of the Museumhuizen brand is recorded and where the personas are explained. After that we started mapping a future customer journey per persona and we looked at the consequences in terms of service and communication per persona. But also the consequences for the design of the houses. One persona has a completely different need than the other, while you want them both to experience the same experience. We now literally have a compass in our pocket on which we act. Sometimes that means of presentation or just the right communication tone. We have written a manifesto that is very guiding: what is a house, what is the layout, what role does presentation have, what are the stories. That package together makes clear what you should and should not do and when it comes to a decision you have that to steer and fall back on.
4 of the 35 houses are currently open and we want to add 4 houses every year. The quality of the collection of houses is such that we can show the development of the Dutch home over the centuries. We want to deliver on this promise. That is why we open houses with geographic spread throughout the centuries. We always choose a house that occupies an important place, so that we can make our network visible at an early stage.
With us, a house is first and foremost a home, then a museum
Many representatives from other museums and houses come to see with interest. Because we deal with our houses in our own unique way, we do expect that this will affect the museum world. An example is dealing with collection items: Furniture may be used with us, visitors are not necessarily used to it, so we encourage visitors to sit down and open drawers. That is something that is not yet happening everywhere, but at the same time it not only influences the visitor's experience, but also how people in the museum world deal with collection items. It is very bad with gloves on. The pieces are on deposit or in a hall with a cord around it. We have thought very hard about how you can make houses and specific spaces experience. Not just sending, but engaging the visitors and teaching them something about the meaning of a specific house and what that means for your own living in the here and now.
"Furniture can be used with us, visitors are not necessarily used to it"
We put down a different experience: for example, the cashier moment, you want to pass that by as quickly as possible, so we have no large cashier furniture. Or a large wardrobe. The front doors of Museum Houses are also closed. You expect these to be open, but you go from a public space to a private space. In principle, it remains just a house. That already gives a completely different feeling that you have to ring the bell. This also has consequences because you have to communicate it in a certain way. That is a bold decision. We have also redesigned the role of volunteers. They encourage visitors, for example, to sit in a chair themselves or to grab a cup of coffee. In the presentation we always look for means to stop people for a moment. To play a game, to make a dance, to fold a napkin. That you sit down at a table and take the place. With that the room feels, the cold perhaps, lets the light come in, looks at the garden. We try to offer a layered experience. The visitor himself has a very important role in this.
Thanks to the developed personas, we are already reaching more families with children. We mainly make choices in terms of presentation and communication to reach other target groups. On the website, for example, you see images with parents with children who are discovering. That is already a huge change for the association. The fact that you see people in a photograph at all is always empty rooms, where all attention was paid to the wall, or the special ceiling. We read on Tripadvisor or Google reviews that the children enjoyed it so much, or that it just seems like they were a guest of a family. Then that is the confirmation of what we are trying to achieve that it is about the feeling of a house.
Branddoctors has brought a pattern that we can focus on. They also managed to create the confidence to identify the most important and target scenarios within all target groups that you can think of. This has brought us peace of mind to further focus on the substantive stratification to reach and touch those target groups. Out of the box and sound at the same time. Guiding the process was also very inspiring. We have taken a lot of time for that and that was quite an investment for us, but it was very important to take that time with the management. They have been there for so long, have so much knowledge and then come to a joint, supported vision with the new team.
What is also very nice about working with Branddoctors is the involvement during the entire process but also afterwards. We would first only do brand positioning and develop personas. But during the process we discovered that we definitely needed the proposed future customer journeys. We then made the choice to develop it. Because otherwise you have different target groups on the radar, but not what drives them, what they catch on and what they drop out of at the different moments that matter when it comes to going to a museum with your family or going on a day out with your partner. Fortunately, the willingness of the association was there to finish it. Now we have it all and it has become a very valuable process.