Master of Science Thesis
Title: The role of AR and VR in building an engaging museum experience
SUPERVISOR: Peter Spier
Campus: Sophia Antipolis
We hereby certify that this is our own original work, that all citations are correctly identified with speech marks, that all sources are correctly referenced and that our joint master thesis is completely free of plagiarism.
Due to a decrease in government funding, museums need to find other ways to sustain themselves. They can get additional funds from private donors or increase their ticket sales. Both ways require them to prove their attractiveness by appealing to a broader target (Ober-Heilig, Bekmeir-Feuerhaha, & Sikkenga, 2014). With this shift, museums have entered the leisure and entertainment market. They need to convince customers to come and visit museums instead of choosing other leisure activities. To do so, most of them have adopted a brand management approach, notably by offering a branded experience to their users. This branded experience can be established through a number of marketing tools: positioning, visual identity… However, during the past few years, one tool in particular has known a considerable adoption rate: technology. More specifically the use of A/R and V/R to create an immersive environment that the user will attach to their perception of the brand. This area is truly booming. Case in point, on May 26th, at the VivaTech Convention, Google Arts and culture gave a keynote highlighting the importance of A/R and V/R in promoting cultural heritage sites including museums. Given those observations, it is interesting to understand how A/R (Augmented reality) and V/R (Virtual reality) can help build an engaging museum experience? At what stage of the museum experience should this technology be present and why?
Previous studies (Ober-Heilig, Bekmeir-Feuerhaha, & Sikkenga, 2014) have defined museums experiences as holistic. The experience is made of different elements (before, during and after the visit) that are all interconnected and that make sense only by reference to the big picture. Thus, if you want to impact a museum experience as a whole you need to play on its constituting elements. Most studies (Brida, Meleddu, & Pulina, 2016) have focused on modifying one specific area: the actual museum visit. Research shows that visitors have a higher engagement rate if interaction is involved in the exhibition. Consumers have thus been subjected to enhanced interaction through spatial design (Ober-Heilig, Bekmeir-Feuerhaha, & Sikkenga, 2014) and consumer re-enchantment (Mencarelli & Pulh, 2012). Pushing this reasoning forward, Langer and Newman (1987) have postulated that museums need to integrate a part of mindfulness in their experience (as cited in Goulding, 2000). They need to include entertainment in the customer journey, this phenomenon is referred to as infotainment (Goulding, 2000): adding an element of fun to an educational field. The rise of V/R and A/R is an obvious opportunity in this field. A recent study (Jung & Dieck, 2017) has even proven that new technologies (A/R, V/R and 3D) have a strong effect on the co-creation of value and can thus increase customer involvement and loyalty.
What is unknown? Museums have de-facto limitations: their environment, the nature of the exhibits and their artefacts. No studies have been conducted on the integration of new technologies in regard to the brand authenticity. The application of A/R and V/R has only been analyzed within the museums visits (Jung & Dieck, 2017). This technology has not been tested on the other components of the experience. Moreover, we do not have an optimized way of integrating A/R and V/R within the museum experience. The aim of this study is to optimize the use of A/R and V/R in the museum experience. More precisely, we aim to extend Jung’s and colleagues’ (2016) essay by testing the limitations of A/R and V/R within museums visits. We will also compare and contrast the impacts of A/R and V/R on all 3 parts of the museum brand experience.
In order to test out the aforementioned theories, we need to map out what is known on the topic. We will start by giving a definition of “experiential marketing”, we’ll then see its application within the branding strategy of art museums and finally we’ll see to which extent A/R and V/R can be integrated as branding tools.
PART 1: Experience and Experiential marketing
1. Brand experience
1.1 Why and what is experience and experiential marketing
Experience and experiential marketing are subjects that have been studied by numerous authors through the time. While considering experiential marketing, studying the works that have been done around experience in general is mandatory to have an accurate understanding of the subject. To do so, getting familiar with the article, Welcome to the experience economy by Pine and Gilmore (1998) which was followed by Pine and Gilmore (1999, 2011) is valuable. This work is considered as a pioneer work in this field. Indeed, it is one of first that is exposating the fact the economy is moving from an only good and service offer to an experience economy.
Even if experience is a topic that has been explored since 1998 this is still an important and current subject of research. Actually, in a world where consumers have a fragmented attention and multiple sources of information, experience is considered as an effective tool to grab attention and, engage with consumer in a new way. Therefore, according to Pine and Gilmore (as cited in Varshneya et al., 2017, p.339), experience is considered as a third category of offer. As well as that consideration of the experience we can note that Pine and Gilmore have defined four areas of experience which are called the experiential “four realms”. These areas are useful for marketers to understand what an experience should include and/or be about. The experiential “four realms” are: “entertainment, educational, aesthetic and escapist” (Pine & Gilmore, 1998) (cf appendix). Bernard Schmitt goes further the “four realms” explored by Pine and Gilmore by focusing on the marketing side of the experience. He consequently defines the experience from marketing point of view as all the “perceptions, feelings, and thoughts that consumers have when they encounter products and brands in the marketplace and engage (…) as well as the memory of such experience” (Schmitt, 2010). This definition of an experience is one of the multiple that were established. Therefore, to better understand what is an experience and experiential marketing it is necessary to explore what are the different types of experiences.
1.2 The types of experience
In term of marketing approach Schmitt (1999) as established a reference model called “SEMs” which means “strategic experiential modules” (as cited in Schmitt, 2010, p. 68). This model based on both the sensorial and emotional marketing is constructed on five dimensions which are “sense”, “feel”, “think” “act and relate”. The SMEs was established with the aim to help marketers delivering a higher experiential value. In its work, Sensory marketing in an outdoor out-store shopping environment – an exploratory study in Japan, Bình Nghiêm-Phú (2017) further explores the sensorial side of the experience that was established by the “SEMs” model. He explains that sensorial experiences can only happen when some conditions are gathered. Indeed, only if the consumer is in contact relevant “sensory stimuli or cues” then its “five senses as human being” can be reached. If the consumers senses are effectively reached then and only then the sensory side of the consumer experience can be impacted in term of “memory and experience”.
As Schmitt, several authors have established an experience model such as Gentile et al. (2007) (as cited in Schmitt 2010, p.63). These models are useful tools for brands who want to establish an experience. However, further dimensions and researches regarding how the experience should be delivered and achieved, are complementary and necessary for brands.
The first dimension that can be taken into consideration is the holistic one. A Holistic experience is the experience of the whole service offered: before, during and after the visit. Therefore, it is not something fixed in time but a continuous and global experience. By offering a holistic experience, brands will be able to enhance the consumer’s experience and therefore their “understanding” and “learning” (Brid, 2016). This will enable brands to create a “lasting “relationship with its customers (Ober-Heilig, Bekmeier-Feuerhahn ; Sikkenga, 2014).
The second dimension is the transformative aspect of the experience. A transformative experience is an experience that is more than memorable, authentic, user-centered and enables consumers to get personal enrichment. Delivering a transformative experience can be done by creating a state of flow and ecstasy in which consumer would ideally be in during the experience. The Flow is a state of happiness and focus situated between boredom and anxiety (Csikszentmihalyi, 2004). For consumers to be able to reach that state, they need to feel that they are “stepping into an alternative reality, temporarily suspended from the present” (Ted Talk flow the secret to happiness, 2004, 6:12). Consumers would have to feel immersed in their experience. By trying to achieve this state, brands would be able to create a transformative experience that has a high impact on the “remembering self”. Explorating further the transformative aspect of an experience Schmitt citing the work further Schouten et al. (2007) (as quoted in Schmitt 2010, p.72) defined a new type of “extraordinary experience “called the “transcendent customer experience”. These experiences, when they occur generate a transformation in the “individual sef” of the consumer living the experience. These types of experiences appear to be relevant and useful when brand wants to achieve some specific goal such as increase in loyalty. But that is not the only objective and impact that experiences can generate. Indeed, experience has two distincts impacts, one in in term of marketing for both brand and consumers and, one psychological on memory.
2. The experience Impact
2.1 Value for brand and consumers
The aftermath of an experience is the value that this is delivered and or created for both brand and consumers. This value is defined as the “experiential value”. The experiential value as part of the
experience is concept that was developed by several authors such as Mathwick et al., (2001) (as cited in Varshneya et al., 2017, p.339). The concept of experiential value lays on the fact final goal of experience is for brand to create and deliver value to consumers and brand through interactions. For brands, experiences and experiential marketing are used for their proven positive impact regarding brand equity, awareness, personality, satisfaction, willingness to pay, and loyalty. Along, experience is important for brands who want to act, at the same time, on their visibility through word of mouth and the number of repeated occurrence between the consumers and the brand (Conway ; Leighton 2012). In addition to these elements, experiences also have a positive impact according to Kao et al. (2007) (as cited in Vila?López ; Rodríguez?Molina, 2013, p.715) on “Exclusivity” which the increased the feeling that the participant belonged to something. Arnould and Price (1993) (as cited in Schmitt 2010, p.73) contribute to develop that idea by explaining that when it comes to transformative experiences, brands can not only increase the exclusivity feeling but also achieve an increase in commitment and sense of belonging to a group which they referred as “communitas”. For consumers, the delivered value by experiences can have a lot of different natures.
In their work Experiential value: a review and future research directions, by analysing numerous literature reviews on experiential value, Varshneya et al. (2017), have established a list of experiential value for consumers. Some interesting values that can be delivered to consumers are “aesthetic” and “playfulness” through the lay out and sequences of the experience. If we focus on the service or art industry we notice that brand’s experience can offer some distinctive values such as “entertaining”, “escapism” and “social” value (Varshneya et al., 2017). Those values are created through the interactions between the consumers and the employees and different kind of activities involved. All of these experiential consumer values that were just listed belong to what Holbrook (1994) calls the “intrinsic value” (as cited in Keng, et al., 2007, p.351).
2.2 On memory
Experience does not only have an impact on the brand value but also a cognitive impact on the memory. However, brands should be careful not to fall into the basic “cognitive trap” that experience and memory are not the same. The experience is about the progress, the different sequences the consumer go through and the memory which is retained as the end of the journey. This is what Kahnenam called the “experiencing self (The riddle of the experience vs. memory, 2010, February, 2:50). The “experience self” has to be distinguished from the “remember self” that is associated with the memory that consumer will have from the experience. Therefore, the way of the experience is lived can create “distortion of the importance”, or even “false memory” Anderson (1984) (as cited in Goff & Roediger, 1998, p. 21). In addition to these findings, Kahneman explains that what is important during an experience is what he qualifies as the last moment of the experience. This last moment will impact how the whole experience is remembered, either positively and negatively.
Besides, experience can also have a positive impact by helping people living the experience retaining and remembering the information and message that were conveyed to them. According to Bower (1970); Paivio (1969) (as cited in Goff, & Roediger, 1998, p.20) this is especially true when the experience involves symbolism and interaction that are letting the consumers creating their own experience and thus, imagining what is happening. In addition, citing the work done by researchers such as Johnson (1988); Hashtroudi, Johnson & Chrosniak, (1990) and explaining that memory have two distinct origins, it can either be generated by the surrounding environment (when something happened) or “self-generated” (coming from the imagination) (as cited in Goff & Roediger, 1998, p.20-21). It is more than relevant for brand to acknowledge this distinction. Inarguably, while delivering experience, brands that are able to create both type of memory can have an increased experience’s impact. Firstly, the non-self generated memories are memories including a high level of “contextual and perceptual informations and detail” (Goff ; Roediger 1998). Therefore, it enables the consumers to clearly remember brand’s characteristics and, create perceptual associations. Secondly, memories coming from imagination are using a what Johnson et al., (1993) call a “cognitive process” (Goff & Roediger 1998). By making consumers using this process and using imagery as tool, it will make them live the experience generating a more vivid memory. That is why reaching at the same time for both of these memories is accurate for brand. Finally, the authors point out that created memory that happened when people are asked to imagine what happened can lead to what they call “Imagination Inflation” (Goff & Roediger, 1998). Imagination Inflation is the fact that events that actually did not happened are thought as reality by the people asking to imagination the event. This type of false memories happens when people are usually asked to recall past event. So, brand using imaginary that is linked to the consumer’s past could actually enhance their experience by creating a new reality using the imaginary and therefore the consumer’s cognitive process. This type of experience would have made the overall brand experience as a unique and strong memory.
3. Why do experiences have such impact?
3.1 Humans are not rational
A key factor which explains the impact of experiential marketing is explored by Holbrook & Hirschman, (1982) in the experiential aspects of consumption: consumer fantasies, feelings, and fun. Citing the work of Bettman (1979), the authors Holbrook and Hirschman (1982) point out that for a long time in the traditional marketing while processing information, the marketers consider humans and especially consumers as rational beings. However, this is not relevant while considering how the experience is lived. Indeed, consumers are emotional. These findings represent turning point as for the the marketing literature. As a consequence, it has enabled different authors to explain why and how experiences are generating value for consumer.
Using this idea that humans are more emotional than rational in the article On the relationships among brand experience, hedonic emotions, and brand equity (2015), Ding and Tseng point out the link and reason behind the fact that brand’s experience generates brand equity and especially brand loyalty. According to Ding and Tseng (2015) the links lays in the “brand awareness/associations, perceived quality and hedonic emotions”. These three elements are identified as fundamental since they are playing a dominant role in the outcomes of the lived experience. In their work, Holbrook and Hirschman (1982) go further into the hedonic emotion analysis. They suggest that the leisure side and in particular everything which is related to consumer’s fantasies, feelings and fun within experience are important elements of the experience. These are hedonic responses that are qualified by author as “primary process thinking” (Holbrook & Hirschman, 1982). According to Hilgard (1962), primary process thinking is defined as everything which is linked to hedonic aspect of consumption and “responses” (as cited in Holbrook & Hirschman, 1982, p.135).
To be able to implement experience that has the desired impact, brand can use several elements and tools. These elements can be cognitive or more material.
As for the cognitive ones, there is the “surprise” which corresponds to the “amazement”. Indeed, according to Kao et al. (2007), event tends to be more memorable when something unexpected and out of the ordinary happens, (as cited in Vila?López & Rodríguez?Molina, 2013, p.715-721). In addition to that, Hirschman and Holbrook, (1982) recommend that companies using experiential marketing should also take into account the “hedonic and aesthetic criteria” that are used and delivered (as cited in Vila?López & Rodríguez?Molina, 2013, p.214).
On the more material side there is according to Jamal and Anastasiadou (2009), “service quality” (as cited in Ding & Tseng, 2015, p.995). Focusing on the service; that can be in the interactions with the people, the materials used, etc.. can have a positive impact on the brand equity.
Hirschman and Holbrook (1982) established a model that provides some additional tools for marketers to deliver a relevant experience. To do so, they explain that while considering experiences contrary to goods marketers should focus on elements that are not the same is for goods and services. Some of the elements that need to be taken into consideration are the “imagery and symbolism” (Hirschman & Holbrook, 1982). Furthermore, to reach out the target in a more efficient way, the communication should be “syntactic” (Hirschman & Holbrook, 1982). Finally, they point out that one of the keys lays in the fact that the experience should be “exploratory” rather than about acquiring information. Consequently, it will increase the consumer interaction, immersion and information retention.
All of these tools that are either material or cognitive are delivered through the different touch points that the consumers go through during the experience. Indeed, these touchpoints are a way to engage consumers during experience. The touch points can occur before, after or during the experience and be brand owned, customer, partners of co-owned (Lemon & Verhoef, 2016). All these elements led to an increase of brand equity and brand value are generated and created through the co-creation and interactions (Conway & Leighton 2012) which happens during the experience. Therefore, the value is not only generated by the brand but also by the people living and taking part into the experience. According to Kao et al. (2007), this participation (as cited in Vila?López & Rodríguez?Molina, 2013, p.716) can be an active participation, not a passive one.
To conclude, we can say that it is important to note that the positive effect of experiential marketing especially comes to brands having intangible offer (such as services, culture) and for sectors such as tourism, art and sports (Vila?López & Rodríguez?Molina, 2013). So, experiential marketing is not only becoming a differentiating point for companies, but more than that it is becoming the norm for companies who want to be successful and differentiate themselves. Therefore, experiential marketing and experiences can be more than useful for museums where this era of consumerism, “the art experience” has a renewed meaning. Indeed, due to a decrease in government funding, museums and galleries need to find other ways to sustain themselves. They can either get additional funds from private donors or increase their ticket sales. Both ways require them to prove their attractiveness by appealing to a broader target (Ober-Heilig, Bekmeir-Feuerhaha & Sikkenga, 2014). So, experience and experiential marketing can be a major element to bring new dimension into their offer, such as entertainment and education, increase interaction and immersion, and therefore attract new customers and compete with other kind of leisure activities (cinema, amusement park…). Therefore, by combining both experiential marketing and new managerial approaches (Baumgarth & Carsten, 2009) that are already implemented by museums, they will be able to compete and re-invent themselves. But to be to able to deliver such transformative and extraordinary experiences pulling away consumers from the reality (in a state of flow), we first need to analyse how museums currently brand themselves, connect and engage with consumers.
Part 2: Application of marketing in museum
After analyzing the characteristics of experiential marketing, we will then focus on how it may apply to museums. First, we need to understand why do museums need such marketing techniques and why marketing and art have actually a lot in common. Then we will focus on which tools are used in museums and how they brand themselves. Finally, we will look on how museums create experiences for their visitors.
1. Why museums are now applying marketing techniques
Museums have always been concerned with Preservation, Collection and Exhibition (Brida, Meleddu & Pulina, 2016) and have a major cultural position and mission. But the last decades proved that with less government funding, the need for more visitors in order to survive economically became essential. Like any other company, museums started facing the dilemma of satisfying the loyal visitors and art lovers, while implementing new strategies to attract new audiences, especially the non-frequent visitors.
More than a reduced budget, museums also face a fierce competition in the entertainment and leisure market. Even if they are now active players in this industry, potential visitors still have a limitless choice with cinemas, operas, theatres… Museums also suffered from the technology and internet arrival which, being an adaptive challenge, is also a new type of competition with virtual art. In fact, it is now possible to virtually visit art galleries for free, and through social media and interactive experiences. Without the need of moving from home, anyone can become an art “curator” (Ifeanyi, 2015).
The main challenge is to attract new customers, especially those with low involvement who don’t visit museums often (Ober-Hellig, Bekmeier-Feuerhahn ; Sikkenga, 2014). They are quite difficult to access because of prejudices regarding museums. First, they think museums are destined to an elitist audience, like Thomas P Campbell, the director of the MET Museum in New York stated: “… I watch our visitors coming in. Some of them are comfortable. They feel at home. They know what they’re looking for. Others are very uneasy … They feel that the institution is elitist. I’m working to try to and break down that sense of that elitism”. Another prejudice is that they don’t associate museums with the traditional entertainment’s values, which are interaction, participation, and comfortable surroundings (Ober-Hellig, Bekmeier-Feuerhahn ; Sikkenga, 2014).
Because of this hyper-competitive market and new technologies, museums need to stay relevant while growing their customer base. The first thing is to understand the customer’s motivation (Goulding, 2000) and adapt the offer accordingly. By creating a museum/gallery brand using branding techniques, it would permit to build recognition and lower the perceived consumer risk (Baumgarth & O’Reilly, 2014).
As Sjöholm and Pasquinelli explained (2014), art is naturally linked to emotion, and emotion is an extremely important aspect for brands to work on. Not only museums and galleries are suffering from competition but artists as well. Becoming more entrepreneurs, they need to brand themselves in order to differentiate. It means that marketing strategies are effectively used and applied in arts sectors (Pasquinelli ; Sjöholm, 2014).
Regarding museums, two techniques could be applied in order to help them create and raise a brand equity: positioning strategy and brand image. Yet, because it is related to art and creativity, it needs a new approach.
2. What are the tools used by museums
2.1 Brand positioning
First of all, brand positioning could be described as how a company manage its offer and image in the mind of consumers by targeting a specific place in it (Kotler, 2016). It is about differentiating from the others, and telling customers why it is worth coming to a certain place rather than another one.
To successfully position themselves, museums could inspire from techniques used in their industry: looking back at core values and origins is a technique that worked well in the past in several areas and could definitely be applied for museums and galleries. For example, the Guggenheim did well looking back at its foundations about “eccentric art”. They always showcased “art that is certainly risky, envelope-pushing, and trail-blazing for its time” (The Guggenheim: leveraging their brand, 2011). It permitted to have a solid positioning about innovation, reflected as well in the architecture or the exhibitions presented. Being different and attractive, new locations opened in New York, Venice, Abu Dhabi… Not anymore just a collection of artefacts or a solely structure, Guggenheim could project its essence in different locations just like a brand could have done.
In the positioning strategy of cultural institutions (Martreaux, Puhl ; Mencarelli, 2008), it is stressed that for a more effective positioning, some specific tools regarding consumer behavior could be used by art institutions. The entertainment aspect is vital, so the strategy needs to be consumer-centric.
First of all, the consumer needs to be active. This criterion can be achieved through involvement or personal experience. Regarding interaction, consumers need to connect with the artefacts. A good example would be the “Gallery One” from Cleveland museum of art, where multi-touch screens are displayed, allowing visitors to interact with the art pieces. Regarding personal experience, consumers should be able to have a certain freedom to make their own choices inside the museum. The Gallery One shows again a good example where visitors have access to an application enabling them to locate which work of art is close by within the museum. They have more choices regarding the audio comments on that art piece. Some recommendations are also made thanks to the application’s “memory”, what other people liked or scanned.
By focusing on visitors’ needs to position themselves, museums developed an “info-tainment” sector, combining entertainment and education (Mencarelli ; Pulh, 2012).
2.2 Brand Identity and Brand Orientation
After positioning themselves, museums and galleries like any other brand need to be visually recognizable by consumers: they need a brand identity.
Ghodeswar (2008) explains that a brand identity can be built on two main phases: “communicating the brand message” and delivering the brand performance”. Because museums and galleries usually communicate thanks to visual aids and campaigns, they need to be easily identifiable. Their visual identity has to reflect what they are, their origins and history, and what they stand for, their place in the modern society. So, with a logo, color, and font, everything is coherent, meaningful and identifiable. For example, the Jewish Museum (NYC) made a rebranding 4 years ago (A look inside some of the world’s greatest museum rebrands, 99 Designs, 2014). They used a hand-crafted font inspired from the geometry of the Star of David. Moreover, bright colors and “old” drawings are used to link past and present. Being a museum that prides itself to be “at the intersection of art and Jewish culture itself “, their visual identity projects their positioning. This part of the process is capital to museums and experiences, their visual identity is how the consumer will see and later on recognize them.
After the brand identity comes the “brand performance”, where the way consumers experience the museum as a brand is also part of its identity. A consumer experience should be developed around their existing structure (Pine & Gilmore, 2011). Another efficient way to play on performance could be thanks the help of “blockbuster exhibitions” as defined in Exhibitions as sub-brands (Bridson, Evans & Rentschler, 2014). The museum or gallery hosts big, modern and glamorous exhibitions attracting big audiences, which are very profitable as long as they fit with the museum or gallery’s image. It is a good way for broader audience to interact with the museum brand. For example, through the Alexander McQueen exhibition, The MET was able to attract a broader target while projecting their avant-gardism positioning.
Digging into the general marketing models, Bridson, Evans and Rentschler (2012) have put forward a brand model dedicated for museums and galleries exclusively in drivers, impediments and manifestation of brand orientation. As always, museums as brands need to establish a positioning in order to deliver a brand identity projecting their image, and deliver a brand performance fitting that image. Thanks to this, brand equity would be achieved, enabling a better recognition, fidelity, and help reluctant consumers to visit museums as they will know what to expect.
But there is still room for improvement. More than just a collection of art pieces, museums need to use the brand they created in order to connect and create a relationship with their visitors. They need to create a true experience.
3. How are museums and galleries creating an experience
3.1 Holistic experience
More than a simple visiting experience, museums and galleries need to create a holistic experience for their consumers. The holistic experience regards the service as a whole, including before the visit, during the visit, and after the visit. As explained before, the goal is to make this experience last and continue on time.
Several tools exist to help create a holistic experience, but the important point is that they all need to be coherent with the brand’s image and positioning. Communication is an important one, and has to be considered as a long-lasting tool and not as a punctual or one-time one. An example of communication made around a museum brand is the one done by the Hermitage Museum. This campaign was created for the Hermitage Museum by TBWA/UNITED. This communication strategy used print video and digital advertising tools, in order to create a fully consistent and integrated campaign. The aim of this campaign was to provide a glance of what could be the museum’s experience before actually going in, to trigger the curiosity of the potential visitors. Even if communication campaigns might be effective, museums and galleries need to understand the importance of active social media accounts (Brida, Meleddu & Pulina, 2016).
Another tool to create a holistic experience in museums and galleries is to provide other services. One of those other services is called “host spaces” and consist of rooms, cafés, restaurants inside the museum, or bookshops outside the museum (Brida, Meleddu & Pulina, 2016). It is a way to reach potential new customers before or after a visit. Those host spaces are already well used by theme parks where their consumers buy souvenirs they will bring home or give as gifts. Museums can also propose those shops with goodies and merchandising in order to extend the visitor’s experience, and bring back memories. Pictures taken are also a very efficient way to visually recall memories. By providing a holistic experience, museums are able to bring the re-enchantment into their environment (Mencarelli & Pulh, 2012).
3.2 Transformative experience
Because of the fierce competition, museums have to propose more than a simple experience, but a transformative one. With a transformative experience, the visitors gains personal enrichment. Therefore, it should be customizable. That way, the memory will last longer being able to apply his own choices rather than just follow the museum’s commodity. But as it deals with memory and personal feelings, the museum can’t have control on how the visitor might perceive the experience.
As we explained before, when conveying a transformative experience, the experience itself and the memory generated are two different elements. The experience concerns the present, the visit’s progress. This experience will impact the memory, how the visitors perceived the visit. This is why the story surrounding the museum visit is very important. Museums could play on the memory by playing on the experience, with a changing one, not linear in order to create added memories and moments in the visitor’s mind. Yet, the memory of one’s mind can’t be controlled.
Another interesting element for a transformative experience is the state of flow. If museums succeed in creating that state during consumers’ visits, it will have a high impact on the visitor’s experience. But it is a difficult process that needs additional features such as spatial ones.
3.3 Spatial features
Spatial features can include background music and equipment (Pasquinelli & Sjöholm, 2014). As the environment where the visit takes place is an important part of the experience, all these interactions have to be analyzed all-together and not individually, as Goulding (2000) postulates. Museums are collection of artefacts from different artists, genres, periods, and host also temporary exhibitions. Space management becomes an extremely important aspect, how is everything organized to make the visit interesting. If not, the visitor might feel lost and it will deeply damage the enjoyment of the experience. Goulding (2000) identifies three enablers that are: “scene setting; routing mapping; and crowding density” (p.12). All of those elements have an impact of the way the experience is perceived. For example, if the way the museum and the collections are displayed is confusing, consumers will tend to spend less time in the museum and associate a relatively bad memory with their experience.
Even if design and architecture of a museum play an important role, the spatial management should not be neglected.
3.4 Multisensory techniques
Another way to provide a transformative experience is the use of the senses. A visit to the museum should not be limited to the sight of paintings and the sound of boring comments. Touch could be considered, and regarding sound, music could become a useful tool. It could help reach new or low involvement visitors because of the “signaling cue.” For the museums to truly use the potential of music, they should avoid any “(mis)fits”: music should not be in conflict with the general atmosphere of the space (Ai Ching Lim et al., 2006). But as it concerns again perception and it is personal, if a visitor thinks the music is not appropriate with the museum’s image, it might leave a negative impact on his experience. Because it is linked with memory, a specific music might be linked with a specific memory. But if the experience is well received, the memory attached to the music might become positive. Finally, while implementing music as a tool that aims to provide a better experience, museums should also consider when not to put music, in fact, wrongly used the lack of music can be a source of discomfort (Oakes, Oakes & Patterson, 2013).
The global experience that museums plan to offer should be based on their brand image, positioning and therefore their brand orientation in order to be consistent. To do so, they have several tools at their disposal. Those tools should be both psychologically and physically oriented. The psychological ones should always take into account the existing knowledge,” expectation”, “assumption”, “interest”, and “values” of the consumers (Ober-Heilig, Bekmeier-Feuerhahn & Sikkenga, 2014). The sense of touch as a part of a multisensory experience can be used to enable consumer creation and interaction with the artefacts. While all of those “psychological orientation” and environmental factors are important tools (Goulding, 2000), other ones exist.
3.5 Cognitive factors
Cognitive factors such as interaction, involvement and storytelling are also tools that museums can use to deliver the desired experience.
Interaction can take place in several ways: it can be interaction with employees, or interaction with art. We usually have a prejudice against interaction with the art itself that sounds impossible. Some museums go further by proposing co-creation, thanks to new technologies such as augmented and virtual reality. By enabling consumers to co-create their own experience, it can enhance their experience by offering a “rich and memorable experience (as said by Binkhorst, 2006; Neuhofer et al., 2012, p. 36; Prebensen, 2013 cited in Jung ; Dieck, 2017). Virtual reality is already used in terms of experience, but not as much in terms of co-creation.
Visitors usually interact with employees while asking for information. As the employees are the first visible representatives of the museum brand, it is part of the experience and should not be neglected.
The museum can implement the use of storytelling, but it has to fit its image and integrate well through the visit. Also, as each piece of art already has its own story, the storytelling must not interfere or confuse the visitors.
Where a museum or a gallery is located can have an important impact in attracting new visitors. If it is hardly accessible by transport or in a regional city, fewer consumers may want to come. But a museum could take advantage from its surrounding environment, with workshops, events, expanding to other countries. For example, a museum can implement workshops in a highly touristic place to raise awareness. Moreover, while expanding to other countries museums truly need to select location that are able to attract all type of visitors.
In conclusion, museums have now started to apply marketing techniques in order to ensure a financial stability by attracting new consumers. To do so, memorable experiences should be created by using different tools. While giving museums new images, those experiences and tools should stay coherent with the museum’s core mission and not alter its authenticity. New technologies already started arriving in different entertainment areas, including museums, but it is still limited. However, since technology is becoming an integral part of the user experience, museums need to jump on board and learn to use the tools at their service (Jung & Dieck, 2017).
Part 3: A/R , V/R : sustainable tools to create a museum experience ?
After analysing the characteristics of experiential marketing and showing how it can be part of a museum’s branding strategy, this part of the literature review will focus on the role of AR and VR as an experiential marketing tool within art museums. More specifically, we’ll define AR and AR, discuss their potential as a long-term marketing tool and finish by identifying their current use and limitations in museums.
1. Defining AR and VR
1.1 AR and VR potential
AR and VR have been defined as tools with high potential. According to Goldman Sachs’ equity research (AR and VR: understanding the race for the next computing platform, 2016) the projected AR and VR revenue (in terms of software and hardware) for 2025 amounts to $80 billion. This puts AR and VR at the forefront of profitable technology platforms. Research also indicates that this technology will be disruptive in several fields with an emphasis given to the video game industry and education. This is especially relevant to our study as museums must now combine both educational and entertainment purposes (Mencarelli, R., ; Pulh, M., 2012).
1.2 Defining AR and VR
However, despite being a growing trend, they are often terms that are thrown around without any specific definition. First of all, we often tend to merge the two terms as one and while they share common points, they remain distinct technologies. Secondly, given that both technologies are applicable to a multitude of fields, definitions may vary from one field to another. In this research, we are going to define AR and VR in technical terms and we will then highlight their similarities in terms of marketing utility. Not a lot of academic research has been published on the matter, we thus took a look at alternative sources in order to define AR and VR within our framework.
We are all familiar with the technical definitions of AR and VR. As Forbes magazine suggests (War of AR/VR/MR/XR Words, 2017), VR is about creating a new reality altogether. It usually manifests itself through the form of hardware (VR headset) that the consumer uses to enter another world. On the other hand, AR is about enhancing the current reality, it is about extending our present, re-imagining it. As a lot of companies tend to consider these two distinct entities as one and the same, the Consumer Technology Association (as cited in VR, AR, MR defined, finally, 2016) issued official definitions to categorize them more efficiently. Technology wise, AR and VR are thus different, however they both have common attributes in terms of what makes them a good marketing tool.
1.3 AR and VR: marketing attributes
Based on academic research (Batra ; Keller, 2016), it can be inferred that AR and VR are a new type of modern medium. Meaning that like social media and others, they allow brands to communicate with their consumers at different touch-points. By combing through different type of sources, we have established four common characteristics that make AR and VR a unique type of medium. AR and VR are thus modern media that are: built for story-telling, intrinsically immersive, interactive and based on raw emotions.
– Immersion: the technology that AR and VR are built on are based on the principle of immersion (VR, AR and MR, what does immersion actually mean, 2017). This principle is based on two actions; consumers can no longer distinguish their reality from the virtual or heightened reality that is being presented them and they are active participants in those alternate realities.
– Storytelling: AR and VR are a great storytelling tool. Unlike other media like TV or social networks who can only “show” you a story, the immersive content of AR and VR allows the users to live the story. Numerous storytellers have compared it to the likes of magic as they enable users to live realities that are beyond imagination (Using tech to enable dreaming, 2011 ; Augmented reality, techno-magic, 2011)
– Interaction: Interaction is a direct consequence of the immersive and storytelling aspects of both AR and VR. According to Chris Milk (The birth of virtual reality as an art form, 2016), virtual reality bridges the gap between our own interpretation of a story and a direct connection to a story. By having a direct interaction, the user has a direct interaction with the story that he is being told. His research is mainly based on VR but given the common attributes, it can also be extended to AR.
– Raw emotions: Chris Milk also emphasises on VR being an empathy machine (How virtual reality can create the ultimate empathy machine, 2015). VR and by extension AR trap their user an alternate reality. So much so that the user cannot make the difference between what is real and what is not. “You feel present in the world that you’re inside and you feel present with the people that you’re inside of it with” (How virtual reality can create the ultimate empathy machine, 2015). In other words, these tools have an unlimited and unhindered access to all the 5 senses thus having an unprecedented impact on emotions.
Even though we purposely did not mention the word, these four characteristics are what makes up an experience. By nature, AR and VR are experiential tools, through immersion, interactivity, emotions and storytelling they allow users to create and live an unique transformative experience. Those tools have a “unique raw experiential power” (the birth of virtual reality as an art form, 2016).
2. Applications of AR and VR in experiential marketing
After establishing what is considered to be AR and VR, the literature review will cover their application as experiential marketing tools. We will first discuss the sustainability of these new technologies as a marketing tool and we will then see how they are being used in the field of education and entertainment in order to create a branded experience. We have chosen to focus on education and entertainment as they are both closely related to a museum’s purpose.
2.1 A new type of medium
Being a new kind of technology, AR and VR are types of media that are still hard to apprehend (Bulerca & Tamarjan, 2010). Indeed, as they are in the early stages of their development, they still have “a shiny object” appeal to them. They intrigue users by their novelty, as consumers we are natural curious about things that are not familiar to us. However, this is only a short-term approach. Once the novelty wears off, VR and AR need to be integrated in the branding strategy like any other media and be used as an experiential tool to trigger customer satisfaction and thus positively impacting repetitive visits and word of mouth. Bulerca and Tamarjan postulate that like any experiential tool, if properly used AR and VR will generate experiential value. As seen before (Varshneya et al., 2017), experiential value can have several aspects that can be synthesized in two groups: enhancing enjoyment and influencing brand attitude.
2.2 Sustainability on the long term
So, on the long term, how exactly can AR and VR be used as sustainable tools? For this part, it is important to understand that AR and VR are a type of medium. Like any medium such TV or social media, they interact with the consumers at different touchpoints and can thus influence the brand perception. They are tools to build the brand experience. According to Batra and Keller (2016), in order to create an effective brand experience, companies need to have an IMC (integrated marketing communications) strategy. It means that they need to articulate traditional media (TV, print ads…) with new media (social media, search…) to reach the consumer at each step of their consumption path. Each media is best suited for a particular touchpoint, for example, at the stage where the consumer is looking for a solution to solve an unmet need, a combination of targeted ads and location based search would be ideal). On the long-term AR and VR will need to be part of this strategy, we will need to figure out where they fit in the consumer journey and how they will influence consumers at this step? Furthermore, according to Forbes magazine (Virtual reality and augmented reality will change experiences, 2017), AR and VR will not only be part of the brand experience but they will revolutionize the definition of brand experience through new possibilities: heightened visual prowess, a new type of content and a greater engagement.
2.3 Applications in education and leisure
To understand how AR and VR have been used concretely as a marketing tool, we will take a look at two industries that are closely related to museums: education and entertainment. Those 2 fields have deployed the most advanced form of AR and VR in marketing terms and will allow us to understand at what step and in which way those tools can be used optimally.
In terms of application in education (Janssen, Tummel & Isenhardt, 2016), AR and VR create engaging and immersive content. The question is what kind of experience do they create? By providing an engaging and immersive tool, AR and VR provide both a technical and a mental experience. The technical experience refers to the fact that the user is cut from reality and projected into an augmented or digital one: this causes an increase of focus and concentration. In Pine and Gilmore’s (2011) terminology this corresponds to the “educational” realm of an experience. On the other hand, the mental or user experience indicates the level of flow (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: Ted Talk flow the secret to happiness) and presence of a user during the immersion. The higher the immersion factor is the more positively flow and presence are impacted, this in turn create a more memorable experience.
In regard to the leisure industry, we have chosen to focus on the mobile gaming industry and how it can attract people to touristic locations (Aluri, 2017). In other words, it is about using AR and VR as an experiential tool (in this case a mobile application: Pokemon Go) at different steps of the consumer journey (in a holistic sense) in order to boost attractiveness of one leisure activity. According to this research, people started using the app due to a “shiny new object effect” (Bulearca ; Tamarjan, 2010) but kept using it for its experiential value. The app fit the 4 realms of an experience: educational, aesthetic, escapist, entertainment (Pine ; Gilmore as cited in Aluri, 1998 p.102). Seeing as the app created an engaging and memorable experience, many touristic places took it as an opportunity to list their sites on the application. This is clearly a branding move: the brand has activated a highly engaging touchpoint in order to reach the consumer efficiently. This touchpoint is multi-faceted as it is applicable pre-visit, during the visit and post-visit.
3. Using AR and VR as an experiential tool to build a museum brand
During the course of this literature review, we have established the main findings about experiential marketing, discussed the use of marketing in museums and took a look at AR and VR as sustainable marketing tools to enhance a brand experience. In this final part, we will see whether the application of AR and VR within a museum experience has already been studied. We will also highlight the limitations of any previous research and expose the aim of our study.
3.1 AR and VR in a museum’s experience
Let us quickly recap what we understand by museum experience. We are all familiar with the theory of the experience economy (Pine & Gilmore, 2011). It postulates that in order to attract and engage consumers, brands need to create an experience, just selling goods and services is not relevant anymore. Consumers will be loyal if you provide them with an intangible connection. A museum experience is a construct that a cultural establishment (for example The Guggenheim) puts in place in order to create a recognisable brand. This experience is holistic (Lemon & Verhoef, 2016): before, during and after the visit and to build one you need to use the appropriate experiential tool at each specific step. If set up appropriately, the museum experience can enhance customer loyalty by being transformative and thus highly memorable to the customer (Schmitt, 2011). Seeing as AR and VR have interesting characteristics (immersion, interaction, raw emotions, story-telling) that are highly experiential, they could be used as a tool to enhance the museum’s experience and by extension its brand.
As the application of AR and VR in a marketing context is a new field of research, not a lot of academic papers have been published on the matter. If you zoom in on the subject and add the museum experience to the mix, even less options are available. The most relevant research on the topic (Jung ; Dieck, 2017) proves that using experiential tools such as AR, VR and 3D printing during the visit, enables co-creation at cultural heritage spaces (museums included). In not so complicated terms, it means that if a museum uses AR or VR during the visit, consumers will have the impression that they are participating in creating an experience. By doing so, this experience will be memorable and even transformative and will lead to customer satisfaction.
However, a lot of areas remain uncovered. Indeed, the aim of our research is to understand how to use AR and VR optimally in museum experiences. While we know that AR and VR can create experiential value, we do not know at which step of the museum experience they would produce the most value (before, during, after) nor what form they should take (entertainment based or educational). Furthermore, we need to keep in mind the limitations of the museum itself. A museum, and it is especially the case for art museums, already has pieces, exhibitions and artefacts that represent the core of their brand experience. By adding AR and VR to the equation, do we risk losing the authenticity of the experience? Is there a degree to which AR and VR should be included?
ALL SOURCES IN APA STYLE
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