de Young Museum  

Project Description: Marketing strategy project focusing on the de Young Museum in San Francisco to identify unmet needs and opportunities.

Role: DMBA student design team, research, strategy, design

Project Strategies: primary and secondary research, identified key segments crucial to the museum’s future development, created a core meaning strategy and tactics approach that would offer the de Young Museum an opportunity to grow their perceived and inherent value.


The project began by asking the question: “There are many choices for customers looking for a museum or cultural experience in San Francisco; how can the de Young become the preeminent choice?"


Key Findings: 

Museums are shifting from a STATIC to an ACTIVE role. Characteristics of an active role include:


  • Visitor participation and interaction with art 

  • Engagement with art - creating “awesome” experience touch points

  • Hands-on relationship-building with museums and their communities

  • Art as an event to anticipate and look forward to


Currently, the de Young is operating in a “business as usual” state. In order to avoid becoming irrelevant in the future, the de Young must look at providing untapped emotional experiences and becoming a more essential part of people’s lives.

Key Findings:

- Many visitors cited the current high-profile exhibition as their reason for visit 

- Many visitors enjoyed the outdoor landscape

- Visitors getting lost in the museum emerged as a common theme

- Some had doubts about the value of their experience at the de Young for the price that they paid.

- Trying to see all of a museum in one visit can be exhausting.


Can you describe your experience at the deYoung to me? (in one word)

- Wonderful, uplifting, awesome, splendid, joyful, pleasing, entertaining, invigorated, emotional, tiring, overwhelming


How do you feel right now after visiting the museum?

- “It was a physical experience, the brilliance of the works alone almost knock you out.”

Key Segments:

Visitors to the de Young seeking Awe, Wonder, Comfort, & Community can be segmented in the following ways, and are differentiated by frequency of visits as well as their expectations around experiences.

Segment 1: Frequent Visitors

Includes museum members, art students, and families, who come to the de Young more than a few times a year.  They are already familiar with the museum layout, & their interests in the museum’s collection extend beyond the blockbuster shows. 

Segment 2: Infrequent Visitors

Includes vacationing tourists, & locals who are interested in seeing specific shows, and a one-time cultural experience.  They are more likely to spend an entire day in the museum or in Golden Gate park, but unlikely to return to the de Young more than twice a year.

An audit of current tactics the de Young is delivering indicate that while there are touchpoints for each segment (high profile shows, mobile application, cafe, advertising, museum grounds...), we believe that the de Young is missing a valuable opportunity to provide their customer segments with experiences of Comfort & Awe.

Positioning Statement

Marketing Strategies

1. Improve way-finding

  • Eliminates disorientation and provides visitors with a greater sense of comfort.

  • Better wayfinding and signage system


2. Co-Create customized experiences

  • Make the visitor experience more personal and relevant, contributing to their experience of comfort.

  • iPad app as interactive “tour guides”

  • Art Genealogy / 6 degrees of separation


3. Injecting more social aspects

  • Increases the sense of comfort and community through connecting to a greater community inside and outside the museum.

  • Portable, Shareable Art

  • Free Gallery


4. Deliver value beyond the physical venue Amplifies the intensity of the experience of awe, providing longer lasting value.

  • Art on the streets

  • Educational ‘Webisodes” & personality