MIA Building

Marketing the Museum: Mia Partners with Carlson School to Raise Brand Awareness

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

There’s no shortage of activities to do in the Twin Cities. That’s good for consumers but poses a challenge for venues looking to attract visitors. To assist with marketing two recent exhibits, the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) partnered with Carlson School marketing students to drive attendance at Dressed by Nature: Textiles of Japan and Van Gogh and the Olive Groves.

Michelle Champlin Bergner
Michelle Champlin Bergner

The Carlson School’s Institute for Research in Marketing (IRM) reached out to Mia for the class project. IRM sponsored a "campaign competition" for students in the MKTG 4080: Marketing Strategy capstone course taught by Michelle Champlin Bergner, who also serves as the director for IRM. The goal of the competition was for student teams to partner with an IRM advisor board member, such as Mia, to create a marketing plan for the museum that outlines goals, opportunities, challenges, target audiences, key messages, and measures of success.

As a nonprofit with a small budget, Mia was the perfect partner for a project like this. Why? The students worked directly with the organization’s decision-makers, including Rachel Wolff, Mia’s head of data strategy and insights, and Stephanie Curry, marketing and advertising senior specialist at Mia.

The students specifically explored how the museum could attract “experience seekers,” or those who are driven by exciting opportunities and new experiences, socially motivated, and wanting to experience things with friends.

The winning team of Josh Aune, Kolbey Bormann, James Kosharian, Ellianna Radovich, Angela Singer, and Callie Swanberg, selected by Mia, pitched new opportunities for the museum to reach this demographic by utilizing different social media strategies, shifting their messaging, and partnering with social media influencers.

Mia put some of the insights from the competition to use. For instance, the students suggested Mia create spaces that were easily shared on social media. Mia then created a photo booth-like entrance where attendees could take a photo and hopefully share it with their followers.

“Something like that feels basic but it’s a reminder that we can create a whole experience for museumgoers that’s not just in the exhibit,” Wolff says. 

This is the latest project Mia has partnered with the Carlson School on. Previously, students helped the museum safely reopen with social distancing measures following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, among other projects.

The museum keeps coming back because of the high level of results they get from the students, says Wolff, who sits on the IRM advisory board.

“We’re able to get a perspective that’s not from others in our field,” she says. “It’s a shared understanding between us and the Carlson School. We learn from each other. We’re able to put these insights into action. The results, for us, are really meaningful.”