Smithsonian Goes Digital First

The Smithsonian Institution has rolled out its first marketing effort, centered on digital content and is supported by online advertising, social media, print and out-of-home.

Smithsonian Institution is the world’s largest museum and research complex, with 19 museums, nine research centers and more than 140 affiliate museums around the world, according to Wikipedia. Individual museums have done marketing in the past to highlight new exhibits and such. However, this is the first time the institute is marketing itself.

The “Questions Alive” campaign is meant to depict the institution’s devotion to the increase and diffusion of knowledge. At the center of this effort is a new website,, which is filled with content created by Smithsonian’s own researchers and scholars. The content is crafted to broaden people’s understanding of what the Smithsonian is and does and also to present it as an exciting resource for discovery and learning. It is presented on the website’s home page in the form of questions. Once clicked, visitors are taken to the answer. One question is, “Was Dr. Seuss a wartime propagandist?”

“Naturally, we have a lot of content and realized that digital is an avenue through which we could distribute it, building more awareness and a better understanding of what we are among millennials,” said Pherabe Kolb, associate director of strategic communications for Smithsonian.

Digital ads that lead consumers to the content hub will run through November. Bits of content from the site will be distributed via Smithsonian’s Facebook pages. The ads will run in magazines and in outdoor venues in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington, D.C. They will feature the Smithsonian fictional characters paired with intriguing questions they might ask the Smithsonian.

The Smithsonian worked with the brand consulting firm Wolff Olins to create the ads. The website was created by the digital agency Threespot. Promotional support for the “Seriously Amazing” campaign is being provided by Target.

“We’re hoping that this campaign will educate consumers on the fact that the Smithsonian is a place for learning,” Kolb said. “It’s the first time in our 166 years that we are doing a national branding and awareness campaign for the institution as a whole.”

Main image courtesy of Shutterstock

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