Smithsonian’s Freer|Sackler

Generating empathy across cultures

Where did we start?

The Smithsonian Institution is the world’s largest museum and research complex including 19 museums and galleries. The Smithsonian’s Freer|Sackler, based on the National Mall in Washington DC preserves a peerless collection of Asian Art, displayed in separate galleries in one adjoining building. We were appointed in 2015 to work with the Director, the Senior Management and staff to develop a brand strategy that would help deliver their new strategy with three clear goals: to define and communicate their mission; to enhance the visitor experience and to diversify their audience.  

What did we do?

We started with a thorough and rigorous review of their current brand both through qualitative and quantitative research working in collaboration with Cooper Roberts, a specialist marketing research agency based in the US. We asked key audiences about their awareness of the Freer|Sackler brand and the appeal of their offer and current messages. We also conducted interviews and workshops with the team to explore opportunities for the future. We developed a new brand strategy around a central idea of ‘generating empathy across cultures’ and a new set of values to help them be more strategic and focused in order to help create a more vibrant visitor experience and a more collaborative internal culture.

What's the impact?

The new brand strategy is already helping shape the direction and activities of the museum from marketing and communications to planning. There is more clarity about the relationship between the two galleries and consistency of their messages. We are now working with the Senior Management and key departments to explore what the brand strategy looks like in practice with a particular focus on how the brand can inform the re-opening of their Freer Gallery in 2017. We’re confident that the engagement and implementation work will be a huge catalyst for change and will help Freer|Sackler diversify their audience and have a more vital role to play in cross-cultural exchange.