‘Be A Patron’: How MSA Defined the ‘Why’ of MSS

October 16, 2017

By Paul Stewart-Stand

Born out of a three month process, our Museum Store Sunday (MSS) call to action is:  Be A Patron.

The brand identity introduced on September 26 is the visual expression of the Advocacy Committee’s work over the past months.  Five committees of volunteers, tasked with different facets of MSS, contributed innumerable ideas and notions.  As this process moved forward, MSS evolved from concept to an international event, an annual celebration, and an opportunity to energize our community. We wish to communicate “to the world” the value and importance of non-profit retail.

Sounds easy, no sweat!

 ‘Be A Patron’:  Origin

As we entered July, much of our energy went into defining MSS; a process we came to call defining the ‘What’ of MSS.  Through a committee-wide exercise, we distilled a single communications strategy statement:

MSS is an international event to promote shopping at museum stores and cultural institutions.

It offers a shopping environment for unique, meaningful holiday gifts in a relaxing and inspiring environment. It provides the local community and general public with an opportunity for the proceeds of their purchases to support education, the institution’s mission, and to give back.

This was followed by a competitive analysis.  Equipped with this statement, our graphic design firm (who had previously worked on the branding for Museum Store Association) presented us with how MSS is positioned against Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday.  Through this analysis and in comparison to these other events, it became clear that MSS had an opportunity to carve out a distinct space.

Our value proposition is this significant and defining factor:  Mission driven shopping supports our cultural institutions:  ‘Be A Patron’.  This has become known as the ‘Why’ of Museum Store Sunday.

How is ‘Be A Patron’ defined?

Be A Patron is a call to action. The term Patron has dual meanings: it can mean both a benefactor and a shopper.  We explored alternative words and terms, but none resonated quite like Patron nor had the concise visual impact.

The word’s use has been in decline over the last century. Historically, Patrons were elites – the exclusive domain of the wealthy, the aristocracy, or the church.  Fast forward to today.  Patronage applies to anyone who makes a purchase from a museum store. Whether one purchases a pencil for $1, a $20 children’s toy, a $50 print, or a $500 sculpture, any purchase is by a patron: Patron of the Arts, Patron of History, Patron of Science. Everyone can ‘Be A Patron’.  We want the world to know that when a patron purchases a gift from a museum store, they help to sustain that museum’s service to the public.

We seek to infuse new meaning to the term Patron and democratize it.  With a purchase at any level, a Patron has an impact.

A Campaign and an Opportunity

A full spectrum of questions and responses met the introduction of ‘Be A Patron’.  All of the feedback was instrumental as it helped us refine and define the branding and its message.

Complicated (and perhaps slightly uncomfortable) the introduction of the idea of MSS required a great deal of analysis and thought.   One member remarked, ‘You do realize, people are talking about it.’  In talking — in communicating complicated, sometimes uncomfortable messages — we identified the opportunity.  We wanted people to get the message and then think about how, where, and why they are spending money and time this holiday season.  Without significant resources to promote a truly global event, we went in the direction of a simple, thought-provoking (or what we began calling a ‘sticky’) message. We needed to make that message stick with our Patrons!

 ‘Be A Patron’:  bold, ambitious, and deliberately provocative…. Herein rests our opportunity to magnify this event globally with a small budget, yet infinite aspiration.

Paul Stewart-Stand is the co-founder of the San Diego based STEWART/STAND®, a privately held design company established with brother Theo Stewart-Stand. The company designs, markets and sells design-led men‘s and women’s accessories and other original lifestyle products to customers worldwide. Paul has been a member of MSA for over eight years, and is the 2016-2018 Vendor Advisor to MSA Board of Directors.paulstewartstand

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