From project plan on paper to 35 houses open to the public
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 into that interest with a target group that is not yet familiar with what you have 'in house'? During our market and target group analysis, we came across an article about the positioning of the Netherlands Open Air Museum, where Branddoctors was mentioned.
We then made an appointment with the marketing and communication department of the Netherlands Open Air Museum. It was an open and honest conversation about the process. There seemed to be a lot of kinship. There personas hung on the wall and told how they used them in services and communication. We wanted that too! There we saw the answer about how sharp and concrete we wanted it. Then we called in Branddoctors.
Join us on a journey of discovery through 400 years of living history
Because there was already so much information, 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 to opening up and that is public-oriented and creates potential tension.
Branddoctors really challenged us 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. Enforcing what may or may not fit under a route has also helped us to really choose something. By constantly asking questions and eventually converging to what really matters, we have come to our brand essence: Go on a journey of discovery through 500 years of living history.
Once we got that together, we entered the process to explore personas and validate them with the potential target groups. Here too 'less is more' applied: Filtering in particular, making choices, and consistently building on that. It has been an exercise with the orientation facing outwards, at the same time you also look very closely inside because what will these new personas mean for your organization, presentation and houses? Branddoctors has really helped us to align the outside and inside world.
A compass in our pocket
The tangible result of the positioning and personas has become the Brand Compass. A beautiful booklet in which the essence of the Museumhuizen brand is recorded and in which the personas are explained. After that, we mapped out a future customer journey per persona and we looked at the consequences of services and communication per persona. But also the consequences for the interior of the houses. One persona has a completely different need than the other, while you both want to experience the same experience.
We now literally have a compass in our pocket on which we act. Sometimes these are presentation tools or just the right communication tone. We ourselves 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 to steer and fall back on it.
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 of other museums and houses come to look with interest. Because we treat our houses in our own way, we expect that this will affect the museum world. An example is dealing with collection items: furniture can be used with us, visitors are not necessarily used to it, so we encourage visitors to mainly sit down and open drawers.
That is something that is not yet happening everywhere, but at the same time it not only affects the visitor's experience, but also how people in the museum world deal with collection items. It is very much with gloves on. The pieces are on deposit or in a room with a cord around it. We have thought very hard about how you can experience the houses and specific spaces. Not just sending, but involving the visitors and teaching them about the meaning of a specific house and what that means for your own living in the here and now.
"With us furniture may be used, visitors are not necessarily used to it"
We create a different experience: The checkout moment, for example, you want to pass that as soon as possible, so we do not have large checkout counters. 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 doorbell. This also has consequences because you have to communicate it in a certain way. That's a bold decision.
We have also redesigned the role of volunteers. They stimulate visitors by, for example, sitting on a chair or grabbing 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 a seat. With that you feel the space, maybe the cold, let the light come in, look at the garden. We try to offer a layered experience. The visitor 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 presentation and communication to reach other target groups. On the website you see, for example, 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 photo at all, were always empty rooms, where all attention went to the wall, or the special ceiling.
We read on TripAdvisor or Google reviews that the children also liked it so much, or that it seems as if they were guests of a family. Then that is the confirmation of what we are trying to achieve that it is the feeling of a house.
Brand doctors brought focus
Branddoctors has brought a pattern that we can focus on. They also managed to instill the confidence to determine the most important within all target groups that you can think of and to come up with scenarios. That has given us peace of mind to further focus on the substantive stratification to reach and touch those target groups. Out of the box and at the same time thorough.
Guiding the process was also very inspiring. We took 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.
“We would initially only do brand positioning and develop personas. But during the process we found out that we did need the proposed future customer journeys. We then made the choice to develop it after all. ”
What is also very pleasant about working with Branddoctors is the involvement during the entire process, but also afterwards. We would only do brand positioning and develop personas at first. But during the process we found out that we definitely needed the proposed future customer journeys. We then made the choice to develop it after all. Because otherwise you have your different target groups on the radar, but not what drives them, what they rely on and what they drop out at the different moments that matter when it comes to going to a museum with your family or day out with your partner. Fortunately, the association was willing to finish it.
Now we have completed it and it has become a very valuable process. The Hendrick de Keyser Association manages and maintains the most beautiful houses in the Netherlands for more than 100 years. Together, these houses cover more than 500 years of living history. Since last year, the Hendrick de Keyser Association has started permanently opening certain houses to the general public. The objective is to open 35 properties in the coming years. All these houses together are called Museum houses, here you get a picture of how people lived in the Netherlands from 1550 to the present. In addition to stories about architecture, history and residents, you will experience the houses for yourself. No whispers or cords in the Museum houses. Sit on the chairs, look in the cupboard or bake cookies in the kitchen. You can arrive anywhere and experience history.
Interview with: Cindy Moorman, Coordinator of Museum Houses project.
Valentijn Carbo, Researcher and responsible for the design of Museumhuizen.
Not present, but present from the first hour: Julie Meesterburrie, employee presentation and public support.