A Cheetos Museum? Yes, Cheetos, and a number of other popular products and companies, are creating elaborate "museums" to promote their brands.
But are these really museums, or just cleverly-packaged pitches? As this article in Adweek makes clear, marketers see the immersive appeal of museum exhibits as a way to get consumers to pay more attention to their marketing messages for sustained periods of time.
From the article: "If you can make consumers walk through a museum, that's more time than these brands have ever been able to engage their customers over the course of time," said Nicole Ferry, partner and executive director of strategy at brand engagement firm Sullivan. "All of a sudden, they're able to tell their story in a way that isn't so transactional, and it builds a perception of that brand in a more specific way beyond product attributes."
Of course, before we, as museum professionals, say "how dare they?!?!" let's remember the many opportunities that a wide range of Art Museums haven taken to shill for fashion or automotive brands in exhibitions that many viewed as elaborate advertisements.
Of course a number of Children's Museums have appropriated nearly every available PBS or Nickolodeon cartoon character for traveling exhibitions (isn't it funny how book characters like Curious George or Clifford the Big Red Dog have been around for decades, but didn't become valuable exhibit commodities until they had their own TV shows?)
And many Science Museums (as highlighted by the folks at The Natural History Museum project) have even bigger issues with crossing the advertising/scholarship line when creating exhibitions on topics like climate change that are sponsored by energy companies or influenced by board members with ties to energy industries.
I'd like to think that there are firewalls and clear boundaries between the marketing messages and content messages inside museum exhibitions and programs, but sometimes I really wonder: Who's Pitching Who?
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