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 fully informed re-opening of the Freer Gallery which attracted 50,000 people over the course of two days, with 56% being first-time visitors. The strategy is also shaping the long-term direction and activities of the museum from marketing to communications to planning. Our engagement and implementation work with the Senior Management was a huge catalyst for culture change, already helping F|S diversify their audience and have a more vital role to play in cross-cultural exchange.