Smithsonian’s New Brand Positioning: “Seriously Amazing”


The Smithsonian Institute is 165 years old and isn’t hurting for visitors: 30 million people come calling annually.

Even so, the organization’s executive team was dismayed to learn that that “its recognition had dropped to 77 percent for 18-to-24-year-olds, and that 25 percent of respondents think that the Smithsonian is ‘elitist,’” the Washington Post reports. Too many people were thinking of the place as America’s attic, and a confusing one at that. As its Twitter bio reads, “We’re not a museum. We’re 19 of them! Plus 9 research centers & the National Zoo.”

Time for a brand refresh. The Smithsonian set aside $1 million to come up with a branding campaign that G. Wayne Clough, the Secretary of the Smithsonian, hopes will show that the Institute’s diverse programming and educational activities represents a “conversation, not a lecture,” the Post notes.[more]

An in-house document reports that the Smithsonian was aiming to “place more emphasis on what we do instead of on what we have,” according to the Post.

Smithsonian museum directors were part of the planning process. What they come up with was the tagline, “Seriously Amazing.” 

“What we wanted to get across, and this is a shift we have been doing, is show the Smithsonian is listening to the world, not only talking to the world,” said Cristian Samper, the director of the National Museum of Natural History, to the Post.

And, of course, another hope for the new tagline is that it will inspire more donors and partners, the Post notes — even if the wags at Washington City Paper dismiss the new slogan as off-brand and (in its “dude”-like desperation to appeal to youths) “perfect for stoners.” What do you think?