Chihuly in the foyer

The project in summary

The situation

The museum had implemented a wide range of improvements and, whilst visitor numbers had increased, they hadn’t done so as much as expected. They wanted to understand why, which included a better understanding of their audience and how to attract more visitors.

The work

Two segmentations were conducted. One of visitors and one of potential visitors. Analysis was conducted that showed a large number of non visitors were exactly like visitors in all respects except visitor-ship to the V&A. Three rounds of qualitative research took place: groups amongst visitors and non-visitors, and post visit interviews amongst non-visitors. Non visitor perceptions lag far behind those of visitors and post visit interviews confirmed that reality far exceeded the expectation. To the best of our knowledge this is one of the biggest single venue projects in the cultural sector in recent years.

The outcome

Some priority segments were identified to recruit non visitors from. A brand building advertising campaign ran illustrating the magnificence of the museum to the target audience.

The V&A tell us that each time the campaign runs it increases visitor numbers by 100,000.

The extremely elegant cafe

The work in a bit more detail, if you’re interested

This work has been presented at conferences across the world a number of times by us, by the V&A, and by others


The V&A had made a number of improvements in recent years but visitor numbers hadn’t increased significantly. They wanted to know why, and what could be done to rectify this.


We conducted two segmentations. One of visitors to London’s leading cultural venues, including the V&A. And another of people who go out to venues but not those in the previous segmentation.

The first identified the segments most disposed towards the V&A, whilst the second identified current non museum visitors of potential.

Qualitative research

Respondents from the relevant segments were recruited into qualitative research.

Whilst it was going to be hard to get non visitors to London’s major museums to visit for reasons the museum had limited ability to affect: transport difficulties, transport cost and so on, there were clear opportunities to attract visitors to London’s museums and galleries, who do not visit the V&A.

Visitors to the V&A believe it to be a beautiful sanctuary, full of beautiful, eclectic, things, beautifully displayed.

Museum-going non visitors expect it to be dated, poorly maintained, and containing second rate exhibits from the Victorian era!

When non visitors were sent to visit the museum they were shocked. Their perception came into line with visitors and they were determined to visit again with friends to show them what it is like. Some went so far as to be annoyed with the museum for hiding the reality!

The opinions identified in qualitative research were subsequently quantified using our culture panel.

Brand Building

The good thing for the museum was that there was nothing intrinsic about the museum that needed to be changed. The issue was only one of perception.

So the recommendation was a brand building awareness campaign, targeting museum-going non visitors. The museum ran a poster campaign showing consumers how beautiful the museum and its exhibits are.

V&A ad 48sheet garden at night 2011

V&A ad 48sheet gamble room 2011

It is the first time in a long time that a major museum has run a brand campaign rather than a revenue generative campaign promoting a paid for temporary exhibition. The campaign has run several times, and the V&A tell us that each time it runs it delivers an incremental 100,000 visitors.

Organisational alignment

To gain understanding across the organisation a series of presentations took place, including to the Trustees and the management group, and a thirty page briefing document was produced for all staff.


What is worth remembering about this project is that highly culturally engaged people, who take a keen interest in museums and galleries, read about them, talk to their friends about them, and actively seek out advertising about them, could have such an incorrect perception of the V&A. When we pointed out such high profile and controversial exhibitions at the V&A such as ‘Kylie’ their response was “but I’m not interested in Kylie.”

It is often said that you can never underestimate the sophistication of the consumer. This project reminds us that you can also never underestimate how many other things they have to distract and entertain them, never mind how much you might expect them to be interested.

Skills and services

Segmentation and Opportunity IdentificationQualitative research, Organisational Alignment 

Below: a selection of the V&A’s much loved exhibition posters.
(Click to enlarge.)

The Raphael Galleries: beautiful things in a beautiful place

More examples of our work

Click on the image to find out more

Stella Artois

Stella Artois has long been one of Britain’s most successful beer brands. But it hasn’t always been plane sailing. It has gone through several periods of decline.

We got involved during the last one. A repositioning was planned. The ad agency wasn’t sure that was right. They suggested we have a look.

Minette Walters

Our first publishing project.

Defining audience, brand, and communications plan.

Very successful.


Nestle impress us. Of the multinational FMCG businesses it is the most flexible and adaptable, maybe along with Pernod-Ricard.

We were appointed to identify portfolio priorities and define key brand propositions.