Extend Your Merchandising Wingspan
To make a program like this work, Maxwell says, it's important, first off, to select companies wisely -- researching them before you do business to ensure that they're able to develop and provide a quality product. It's also important that the company has a presence in the marketplace and can be aggressive at marketing your products.
Marketing revenues have accounted for less than 5 percent of the museum's annual budget over the last 10 years, but for an organization with a fiscal budget this year of about $24 million, that's not pennies. The tangible money accrued for the museum from marketing efforts pales in comparison to the funds generated by things like membership and gifts, grants from corporations and private individuals, tours, special events, exhibitions, conferences, and its endowment. But, Maxwell stresses, there's an intangible value, however hard to calculate, derived from product promotion.
A key component that makes Winterthur's merchandising efforts, which have been going strong since 1981, successful is the support of the museum's board of trustees and senior managers, Maxwell says. She also adds that it's important that museum staff are educated on the products they're developing. Just slapping its trademark on merchandise is the antithesis of what this organization is about.
"Every product that bears the Winterthur trademark has historical copy developed for it by a team of marketing assistants who work with museum professionals to assure accuracy in background detail and provenance of each design," Maxwell says. "The Winterthur Prototype Review Committee, made up of curators, conservators, librarians, garden curators and marketing professionals, evaluates every product for quality and adherence to product specifications. ... Only after the committee's approval can the trademark be used on a product and the product placed into commerce."
Prior to the Web, the museum merchandised mostly through direct mail, such as catalogs, special mailings and "product-driven press kits sent to targeted trade and consumer editors," Maxwell says. Today, the museum has a Web site (www.winterthurgifts.com) devoted exclusively to the sale of products, and 26 of its 28 licensees have a Web presence, some selling directly to the consumer while others include online catalogs.