Marketing plan – National maritime museum

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Marketing plan – national maritime museum


Marketing is frequently related to the highly competitive World of commercial business to enable competitive advantage in an increasingly aggressive World. Heritage sites as the National Maritime Museum were till some time back considered far removed from the concept of marketing. These were supported by government and local funds and hence no need was felt for branding, differentiation and focus to enhance their visitor base. At the same time with limited avenues available for leisure and educational activities to people at large, heritage sites continued to attract a large audience.

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Heritage sites are thus facing competition for number of visitors as well as for funds for self sustenance for growth The role played by museums in educational, social and cultural development of a wide range of society, from the children to students of higher classes to the economically and socially diverse people, who can be brought into the main stream of society by exposure to the heritage and wealth of yester years has also led to greater focus on marketing.

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Heritage sites are now frequently facing competition not only from other sites but also in other forms of leisure activity such as theme parks, entertainment malls and audio visual shows. Thus the survival of some of the museums and other sites is dependent on marketing the location. (Nicholls. Vogt. Et Al, 2006).  The concept of marketing of heritage sites is frequently associated with flashy brochures and travel catalogues, experience has shown that these documents per se are not converted into visits unless a special effort at attracting tourists is undertaken by museum and site authorities. (Veverka, 2001). Thus the need for a marketing plan of heritage sites is well established. This is being covered in depth by analyzing the marketing plan of National Maritime Museum to provide an insight into the issues involved.

National Maritime Museum

The National Maritime Museum (NMM), London is located in Cornwall at Falmouth and was established in 1934 by an Act of Parliament and opened for public in April 1937. (History, 2006). The NMM also comprises of the 17th Century Queens House and the Royal Observatory, Greenwich.  It has a total collection of 2.48 million items quite a few of which have been loaned to museums all over Britain. The main small boat collection of the museum is on display at the NMM Museum, Cornwall while the public galleries at Greenwich exhibit selections which have been arranged as per prevalent themes. (History, 2006). Greenwich was developed as a destination for the cultural visitor after completion of Sir James Thornhill’s Painted Hall (1707 – 26) which has now been renamed as the Old Royal Naval College, originally founded as the Royal Hospital for Seamen. Since 1823, the National Gallery of Naval Art has been located here which now includes 300 portraits, paintings and artifacts in the Painted Hall. (History, 2006). There is a separate museum in the Hospital Buildings when it became the Royal Naval College.

The Museum has a rich history. The Society for Nautical Research was founded in 1910, there after it sought the aim of founding a national naval and nautical museum which was  established in 1927-28 after a public appeal by the Society, when Sir James Caird one of the wealthy members purchased the AGH McPherson Collection of maritime prints. These were a large number approximately, 11,000. The models of ships were also purchased from the training ship Mercury and placed along with other items bought by him or donated. The Trustee Board was established to take care of all these items from 1927 to 1934 and thereafter the NMM Trustees under the 1934 Act took charge of the affairs of the Museum. Collections in the Painted Hall were added by a separate agreement in 1936.

The initial impetus to the Museum was provided by its first director, Professor (Sir) Geoffrey Callender, a professor of history at the Royal Naval College who was the main organizational force behind its establishment. (History, 2006). When the Royal Hospital School moved from Greenwich to Suffolk, it also vacated the Queen’s House. The House was restored and refurbished in 1951. All the buildings have been gradually upgraded over the years and the main galleries have been redesigned based on the Neptune Court which was completed in 1999.

The Museum has the most important holdings on the history of Britain at sea in the world and includes the maritime art of the British as well as the Dutch, cartography, manuscripts including official public records, models of ships and plans, scientific and navigational instruments. There are time keeping and astronomy instruments apart from many other categories. All these collections have conveniently displayed for visual delight of the public. The details are also available for preview on the Collections Online website and the Maritime Art Greenwich website.

The depth and attraction of the collection can be seen by the fact that its British portraits collection is the second largest after the National Portrait Gallery. The holdings of particular interest are those on Nelson and Cook. The largest maritime reference library containing over 100,000 volumes including books dating back to the 15 Century are available in the Museum. (History, 2006). Another main source of attraction is the main buildings; the Queen’s House has unique architectural importance being the keystone of the historic park and palace landscape of Maritime Greenwich and has been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. (History, 2006). Flamsteed House was built in 1675-76 and the original part of the Observatory was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and is said to be the first scientific research facility in Britain.

Thus it would be observed that NMM has excellent potential for development as a heritage site cum museum based on the following strengths:-

(a)  Old and historical buildings including the Queen’s House which is a World Heritage Site. This provides it what marketing experts call as brand identity and value.

(b) Maritime artifacts, old documents, maps and other items of maritime interest.

(c)   Portraits and Paintings.

(c)  National Maritime Library.

(d)  Old models of ships.

The museum is government funded and also has additional income derived from trading activity and sponsorship. Entry to the Greenwich Museum is free, however there are charges for special exhibitions. (History, 2006). Thus the Museum needs to have two separate marketing plans, one to develop awareness of the culture and maritime heritage through the free entry programme and secondly, generating income for the establishment and running of the Museum through exhibitions, trading activity and sponsorships. Brand building will be central to all these activities as it will contribute to overall development of the NMM’s heritage value, thereby generating greater visits and revenues.


The Marketing Plan of NMM – 2005-06


The NMM has devised a marketing Plan for 2005-06. This is not a current document hence can be examined freely and without any bias. The Plan is attached separately as a PDF file as an Annexure to the Paper. (Marketing 2005-06. pdf). The Marketing Plan 2005-06 of the NMM comprises of a number of facets. (Marketing, 2006). The first aspect highlighted is the objectives. The key objectives of the Museum have been identified as follows (Marketing, 2006):-


(a) To develop a strategy to launch the Museum in the premier league position in the national museums and ensure that the key advertising messages reach the target audience effectively.

(b) To broaden the profile of visitors, including children, seniors,

socio economic groups C2DE, ethnic audiences and those with disabilities coming to the museum.

(c) To leverage the benefits of free admission, nomination as a World Heritage Site and the programme of exhibitions.

(d) To highlight the themes of the Museum’s mission statement: Sea, ships, time and the stars.

(e) To achieve the target of 1.05million visitors across all three sites, NMM, ROG, QH.

(f) To achieve the target of 300,000 child visits across all three sites

(g) To achieve 189,000 C2DE visitors across all three sites


Campaign Objectives


The objectives for various campaigns have also been identified in the main

Marketing Plan as given below:-


(a) Nelson & Napoleon exhibition should be successfully launched with a target of 100,000 visitors.

(b) Increase awareness and number of visitors to the existing exhibitions

at the NMM, ROG and QH.

(c) To provide greater opportunities for participation amongst local families in free family events and activities at the NMM by more awareness.

(d) The refurbished Time Galleries at the Royal Observatory should be successfully exhibited for the benefit of local people, tourists and astronomy enthusiasts.

(e) Promote The Coast Exposed exhibition throughout 2005 after a successful launch in March 2005.


Targets For Visitors

A total targets for visitors has been identified as 1.05 million and is proposed to be achieved as follows (Marketing, 2006):-

(a) Domestic Market - Target Market. The domestic market is the target market in England and the short distance of travel of 90 minutes from London is proposed to be exploited.

(b) Families, socio-economic groups C2DE and ethnic minorities, schools and local community have been identified as the key groups to be targeted within the domestic market.

(c) Secondary market would be UK visitors to London, and foreign

tourists in the UK

Campaign Messages

The focus of the campaign messages is said to be four fold as follows:-

(a) Nelson & Napoleon

(b)  Families

(c)  ROG Time galleries

(d) Other exhibition and displays of the NMM, ROG and QH

The Other messages/themes to be included were said to be as follows:-

(a) Good day out for the whole family

(b) Free entry

(c) Easy to reach.

(d)  Ease of Access for people with disabilities. (Marketing, 2006).


Key Campaign Elements 2005/06

Key Campaign Elements 2005/6 have also been identified and discussed to include the Nelson and Napoleon Exhibition for which objective, target audience, key messages and strategy have been given out. Other campaign elements include family advertising , Royal Observatory Time Galleries, the Coast Exposed, an exhibition and Museum galleries. Each of these have a planned time frame, objectives, target market to be focused and key messages to be conveyed. To attract new audiences there is the program New Visions – In particular, Beth Derbyshire: Message and Jini Rawlings ‘Mariners and Migrants: in search of home’ which is targeted at encouraging visits by fresh audiences.  (Marketing, 2006).


Analysis of Marketing Plan NMM Through Marketing Strategies Comparison


Marketing has been defined as the process of planning and executing the entire range of activities for creating an exchange to satisfy the individual and organizational objectives to include the conception, pricing, promotion, and distribution of ideas, goods, and services.(Cooper. Madden. 2001). In relation to marketing of heritage tourism, it is defined as the successful communication and convincing of a potential visitor that the museum or site has something that will benefit him and the gain from which cannot be provided by any other means. (Veverka, 2001).  Thus marketing of heritage sites and museums is related to providing a unique experience and the marketing plan could be said to be related to experiential promotion.


Frequently marketing of museums and heritage sites is undertaken by agencies other than those responsible for their maintenance and preservation. These agencies could be as diverse as Tourism Boards, ministries of tourism even air lines and travel agencies. The incorporation of parent bodies for promotion and marketing in such institutions is a prime measure which needs consideration.(Auditor General Malta, 2001). The marketing strategy for museums and heritage sites is not only in terms of revenue but also in terms of the number of visitors which come there and also its popularity amongst the local, national and foreign visitors. These determinants also need to be added to the normally specified ones.

If we view the key objectives defined in the marketing plan of the NMM against these considerations it would be evident that these are sound. It has focused on attaining the premier position amongst Museums which is an admirable objective. Broadening the profile of customers is also a key area identified for which it is proposed to leverage free admissions and nomination as a World Heritage site. Themes have also been highlighted in the objectives. Quantitative targets are another key area which ensures clear definition of the objectives in the marketing plan. There is however apparently no specific strategy drawn for achieving each of the objectives. In a marketing plan it is not sufficient to nominate objectives and quantitative targets, there is also a necessity to identify strategies to achieve these targets which is seen as a notable weakness in the marketing plan of the NMM. The possible strategies are discussed as given below.


Broadly there are a large number of marketing strategies which are available based on which a review of the Marketing plan of NMM can be carried out. The Generic strategies discussed by Michael Porter are considered the most suitable as these are well known, discuss basic issues and can be effectively applied to a heritage site or a museum. The generic strategies identified by Porter include the following (Porter, 1980):-

(a)  Overall cost leadership

(b)  Differentiation

(c)  Focus

Cost leadership is an important marketing strategy particularly for institutions as museums which have to offer services to the public at minimal costs to attract a large variety and range of visitors. While the admission to NMM is free, there are other issues which need to be considered in fixing costs for programs and events which need to be lower than other museums will make the NMM attractive. In addition the high degree of historical value that the NMM is able to provide, cost controls and relatively large body of existing experience will provide it a substantial advantage of overall benefit as a part of the cost advantage. In this area, NMM strategy is considered weak and there are numerous options that can be considered such as free bus trips on holidays from principal locations in London, discounts to large groups for events and so on. This will provide the additional benefits to visitors making NMM the preferred choice given the large number of heritage sites in and around London available for visits.


Differentiation is another means to achieve market leadership. While NMM has identified market leadership as one of its objectives, the means to achieve the same are restricted. Differentiation implies creating a unique product for the visitors. The NMM has a number of exclusive products in its portfolio which can be leveraged to advantage. The aim should be to practice a number of methods simultaneously such as technology, features and create a unique brand image and then exploit it. NMM should have a differentiation strategy which can create customer value which will be difficult for other museums to copy. (Aaker, 1995). There is only one new programme planned during the year, which is the New Visions. There is ample scope to introduce a number of other new programmes which can be dove tailed with key events such as the famous battles of history, to include the Battle of Trafalgar, the Battle of Britain and so on, highlighting the role of the Royal Navy, its principal commanders and how the battles were fought.  A light and sound show could also be developed to place these activities in perspective and provide a focused view of the subject. There may be a need for greater diversification to gain maximum advantage from its large assets and brand image as a nominated World Heritage Site.


The third facet in a generic marketing strategy is that of focus. By focusing on a well identified and defined line of products or a segment, a museum is able to provide a edge to its target base. NMM has evolved such a strategy to serve a particular target base which is closer to its area, related to the family and a socio economic group. This however has placed inherent restrictions on the museum to go beyond the targeted focus group, which is a major affliction noticed in the NMM strategy. It is following the strategy of focus in marketing by focusing on four of the key areas, that is Nelson and Napoleon, Families, ROG Time galleries and other exhibition and displays. While NMM is focusing on its key strengths to build up its visitor base, this includes the Nelson and Napoleon exhibition which is to draw 100,000 visitors but this by itself may not be sufficient in generating the total target envisaged for the year. There is a need to increase the quantum of visitors by better event management to include contests, promotional events and other marketing strategies. These will also fulfill the requirement of generating the number of visitors planned by it. The key issue in marketing of cultural and heritage sites is identification of the target audience. (PR, 2006).  The promotional material and plan is then made to suit the same.  This will achieve considerable economy and prevent distributed effort being undertaken. This is one of the principal aspects related to focus discussed above.

Identification and creation of  a brand is another critical activity which should be ensured. Branding provides the distinct identity and can also be co related to creation of diversification and distinction of the brand. Every heritage site and museum needs to create a distinct brand for itself which is an essential facet of its marketing strategy. (PR, 2006). This facet is lacking in the NMM strategy. It has adequate potential to build its brand image based on its being a World Heritage site, the primacy of its naval artefacts, the large number of pieces in its picture gallery, the antiquity and heritage value of its architecture and so on. However adequate efforts at exploiting this brand are not observed in the marketing plan.

A successful marketing strategy for a heritage site was demonstrated by Shell which worked with a natural conservation park in Syechelles, Valee de mai, a World Heritage Site. Shell provided the managerial expertise to the management of Valee, who had considerable conservation experience. This blending of the conservation with managerial experience has proved one of the success stories in modern heritage management. In this programme, not only marketing but other facets of management such as strategic execution, project planning and financial management inputs were provided to train the conservationists to produce excellent results in marketing as well as in conservation of the site. There may be a need to include such programs for NMM as well so that its potential can be exploited further. The key benefits provided by such programs is said to be to ensure that the higher level managers of museums and sites focus on strategic issues and divest themselves from day to day management of the site, thereby providing it the much needed impetus of future growth and lateral development. (Shell, 2006).

The use of technology is an important facet of marketing as with the availability of on line and off line marketing tools, the potential has vastly enhanced. (Tip Sheets, 2006). Even while developing an on line marketing plan, there is a need to ensure that the marketing mix is correctly designed to include the correct proportion of on line and off line strategies. NMM has sought to focus on a target audience drawn from its immediate neighborhood. In such a case also there is scope for soliciting visits on the internet as more and more people are drawing their information for all needs including culture and tourism from the web. Cross promotion is said to be the ideal means of increasing awareness and visibility of the product. In addition other means of traditional publicity such as public awareness through the issue of press releases continues to be a good tool for communicating the message. (Tip Sheets, 2006). Traditional means of advertising such as events, promotions and contests are ideal for heritage sites, which can develop an educational cum marketing content. While the Museum has a presence on the web, it is not considered adequate to generate interest or create a marketing impact on the target audience. This aspect could be specifically addressed in the Marketing Plan in the future.
Another important tool which can be easily used by heritage sites and museums is that of merchandising which will not only add value to the product but also generate revenue. (Tip Sheets, 2006). NMM has considerable potential for the same as its unique products, ships and smaller crafts from the bygone era giving a feel of the old battles of Trafalgar and personalities as Napoleon can provide an ideal theme for merchandising its products.  This will also be in line with its overall theme.
A large number of on line marketing strategies and tactics can also be successfully exploited to enhance the experience and invite physical visits to the Museum. These visits include such simple techniques as Search Engine Optimization which implies the content is so organized that search engines are able to locate it in the first few pages of the results displayed thereby providing greater visibility to the product. Other techniques include on line promotion and contests, on line advertising both on the web page of the heritage site as well as of the heritage site on other sites on the web which could be considered. There is a whole body of knowledge which exists on web promotion and marketing which needs to be examined by NMM managers, for marketing its products fruitfully. (Tip Sheets, 2006).

The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve in Mexico has provided another bench mark of marketing experience which can be implemented at the grass roots level. It involves training and improving the quality of guides and tours through a systematic study of the experience of a number of tour groups. (Activities in Sian Ka'an, 2006). Experiments have been undertaken with the Board of Trustees, employees of a local Corporation and students from the Georgetown University, MBA Program. The experience from these programs is being utilized to promote the location in a systematic manner. (Activities in Sian Ka'an, 2006). NMM could also undertake such a marketing exercise in association with an educational institution, a non profit organization or a private company as Shell.

Avoiding the Perils of Marketing for Heritage Sites

Commodification of heritage sites has been bane which has accompanied marketing which has been analysed in detail in some of the major research works. (Rowan. Baram, 2004).  Moab, Utah, is one example where reproduction of rock art panels has been placed on parking lots of motels and public garbage cans. (Rowan. Baram, 2004). This branding of the archeological sites can be carried to the extreme thereby diluting the cultural and historical content, which needs to be avoided. This commodification is seen in much of the developing world, where tourist experiences are sold especially where tourism has become the basis of the economy. (Rowan. Baram, 2004). There are grave cultural implications as well, as savvy marketers who have entered the tourist trade are manipulating the current sentiment in the market including the war on terror effects to reframe history hyped up by the agents to suit their own purpose. Such a trend in marketing of a museum site needs to be scrupulously avoided as these can for no reason become vulnerable targets of attacks by terrorist who are intimidated by their hyped up importance. There are also reports of creating illegal markets for antiquities. (Rowan. Baram, 2004). Such a danger has to be avoided by NMM.

Some of the other issues involved include commodification and authenticity of the site which would not be in the larger interest of the Museum as well as the community. Another issue is that of legitimacy, as to what degree the museum represents the true state of the past and how much alteration has taken place. This may cause some consternation amongst those who are genuinely concerned and care for history and museumology. (Nicholls. Vogt. Et Al, 2006). The exposure of the museum to a large number of visitors who are not concerned about preservation as contrasted with what is known as a, “curatorial approach” is another problem faced by those attempting to market heritage sites and museums. There is a need to ensure balance so that the curatorial approach is avoided while at the same time the dignity, decorum and long term preservation of the site is ensured through proper regulation and management of the visitors to the site rather than going for a crass commercial approach. (Nicholls. Vogt. Et Al, 2006).


While the NMM has prepared a Marketing Plan for 2006-06, it is observed that there is considerable scope for improvement to achieve the aim of increase in the number of visitors to the Museum as well as contribute to revenue. The key issue is following up the objectives with a well defined marketing strategy and employing modern marketing techniques such as branding, on line marketing and joint consultancy. The perils of modern marketing related to heritage sites of commodification and culture dilution also need to be perilously avoided.





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13.    Veverka, John. 2001. Marketing Basics for Interpretive  and Heritage Sites and Attractions – It’s all about the visitors. (13 July 2006).

















Aaker, David, (1996), Building Strong Brands, The Free Press
Cooper, Marjorie J. and Charles Madden.1993. Introduction to Marketing. Harper Perennial, NY.
Porter, Michael, E., (1980), Competitive strategy, The Free Press
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Web Sites

















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