How can a museum better appeal to and inspire its visitors?

How market research helped the Van Gogh Museum redefine and strengthen its brand identity to better serve the public

By TNS, a leading worldwide market research company, in collaboration with the Van Gogh Museum.


Financial independence and increased competition

To ensure its top position in the Dutch and global museum market, the Van Gogh Museum needs to stand out from its competition. Previous audience research by TNS identified few areas of improvement, but the museum decided that they needed to get deeper, and understand not just general satisfaction but also the underlying needs and wants of its visitors, in order to tap into them and establish a firmer brand-need relationship. With TNS, they tried to dig deeper.


Quantitative and qualitative techniques

The researchers started by looking at the consumer-brand-relationship model, to outline the way consumers related to the brand emotionally. A psychological framework called “Needscope” was used to look at emotions in a disciplined way. Following the definition of this framework, a qualitative phase was introduced to allow the researchers to understand category behaviour and brand choice. For the quantitative leg of the study, 25 visitors of the museum participated in a single interview lasting an hour and a half. 1,140 visitors participated in the quantitative study and filled out an exit poll following their visit.

So what?

Rebranding and renovation

The research showed that Van Gogh Museum visitors were intrinsically driven by the core need for an experience. Gaining insight into the deeper drivers and emotions of its audience, the Van Gogh Museums Educational Department adjusted its guidelines for text displays inside the museum to present the content to the audience in such a way that the museum gets its message across, whilst at the same time enriching and inspiring visitors. The research therefore prompted an update to many of the museum’s educational material, as well as tours and activities.

This new brand positioning has inspired a number of large-scale decisions, for example, whilst making renovations to the building, the museum made the decision to relocate its collection to another venue to remain accessible to visitors.