University of Cambridge Museums

Projects, events and news from the University of Cambridge Museums

AMA Conference 2015 – Stay Curious

The 21st annual Arts Marketing Association Conference came along quite early in my time at the University of Cambridge Museums, so I was a little hesitant about running off just when I was starting to warm my seat in the office. But after four keynotes, four seminars, taking a pick of networking opportunities from an arts marketing audience of 650 people (yes, finding key contacts was tricky) and having my eyes opened to a host of new ideas, it was more than worth my time.


Before I pull out the marketing highlights reel, I feel the need to share the result of an early ‘getting to know you’ workshop. It was a portrait class led by Paul Bartlett, whose work is shown in a number of prestigious galleries. He also happens to be a tutor of the highest order. After a quick ‘how to’ he had us drawing for the next hour, from life. I draw a fair bit, but from photos and images found on the web. Drawing from life is a different proposition… here is the result.

Back to the conference, the first keynote by Russell Willis Taylor, a Consultant and former President and CEO of National Arts Strategies, was a great opener. She spoke about organisations whose curiosity about audiences led them to develop new ways of building relationships with them. There were many good lines: ‘Empathy is the only thing that can save us,’ and ‘You can’t create value for people without knowing what they want,’ and ‘price is what you pay, value is what you get,’ reminding us that we can’t create value for people without knowing what they want; to be curious and find out what they care about.

Russell encouraged us to be curious about flexible business models, to commit to creating value outside of the organisation and improving community creation skills – something I think the University of Cambridge Museums are particularly good at. Another important aspect Russell commented on was ‘People want to play as well as pay,’ pointing out how organisations and exhibitions such as Grayson Perry’s ‘Who Are You’ at the National Portrait Gallery and the Toledo Museum of Art’s Play Time exhibition allows audiences to connect and play within a multi-sensory environment.

Keeping in mind this is a blog post, not an essay, I’ll touch upon my favourite seminar, titled Games: Can They Change Audience Behaviour? I’m a big gamer in every sense of the word, and I was curious to find out how far games could be incorporated into the arts world. Ron Evans from Group of Minds gave examples of how they can be a great addition/solution to non-game problems. From the National Library of Finland’s DigiTalkoot, a platform which combined crowdsourcing with games to digitise documents from their newspaper archives, to, a task manager designed for those Dungeons and Dragons enthusiasts out there (yes, I might be one of them), there’s a place for gaming that bridges the gap between audiences and organisations. Another thing that’s easy to forget is gaming doesn’t have to be technological; some of the best are on the ground, with nothing but our own minds required, open to all.

Ron provided a useful checklist for those that want to consider gamification:

  • What’s the ultimate goal? What do you want to gain and what’s the baseline ie. how are users behaving now?
  • Is it a game? Does it enhance the player’s experience?
  • Is there a mechanism for on boarding ie. How users play, what are the rules?
  • Is there feedback on progress? Players love a good score board.
  • Is there a reward of meaningful value? It could be financial, a certificate, recognition, showing appreciation or giving early access to something. One thing to bear in mind, and in Ron’s words: ‘Discounts suck.’ Aim to give people the ability to do something they couldn’t before.

Finally, for all those points gatherers out there (think club card points):

Pointification is not a game – there is no play.

Ron was passionate about this.


There was so much more which I can only touch upon briefly: Dominic Parker from Sage Gateshead and Jackie Hay of Morris Hargreaves McIntyre talked about how they brought nine arts organisations together in Newcastle to build a data-legal shared audience database, helping them to reach new audiences through e-marketing; Chris Michaels, Head of Digital and Publishing at British Museum talked about ‘Big Data’ and how the museum is investing in new analytics and digital technology to enable them to better understand their audiences across a wide spectrum of platforms; and an ‘Influencing Upwards’ workshop with Mark Wright from People Create will see me wearing a pink shirt more often, even though it’s so not my colour.

I could go on, but being back behind the University of Cambridge Museums desk means I must be good and reply to emails, visit museums and look forward to some great projects, all of which are sure to feature elements of what I’ve taken away from the conference.*

For thoughts from some of the other delegates and speakers, visit the AMA Blog.

Richard White, Marketing & Communications Coordinator, University of Cambridge Museums

* Yes, including portrait masterclasses.

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This entry was posted on August 11, 2015 by in Behind the Scenes, Culture, Goal 2, Goal 3, News and tagged , , , .
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