Selling Culture to the Young - The Creation and Development of the Louvre Museum Youth Pass

How can one of the world's most prestigious cultural institutions appeal to a younger audience without appearing to be "dumbing down"? INSEAD Dean Gabriel Hawawini and Prof. Marci Hawawini of New York University investigate how by launching the Louvre Youth Pass in 1995, the museum attempted to attract a long-overlooked, but rather sceptical younger market, while still keeping its broader public service duties firmly in mind.

by Gabriel Hawawini, Marci Hawawini
Last Updated: 23 Jul 2013

In the mid-90s, one of the world's most prestigious museums was facing a difficult and complex challenge. For the Louvre, finding new ways to attract 15- to 25-year-olds - a group that had obvious and substantial growth potential, but that expressed a generally ambivalent attitude towards museums in general - was seen as a priority. While most young people may not have visited museums often, some surveys showed that many wanted to do so. Promotional and advertising campaigns aimed expressly at the young, however, could be risky. The types of blatantly youth-focussed campaigns used to sell running shoes or CDs might have been widely seen as too crass and "low brow", thereby alienating more conservative visitors and benefactors.

INSEAD Dean and Professor of Investment Banking Gabriel Hawawini and co-author Prof. Marci Hawawini of New York University present a compelling case study, detailing the considerable time and effort the Louvre's directors invested in trying better to understand and to attract such a diverse group of potential visitors. This was no mean feat, since a lot of feedback indicated that many youths were misinformed about even the museum's most basic functioning. The authors consider the various challenges facing a non-profit institution of the Louvre's very considerable size and public stature when trying to reposition itself in a more challenging environment, created in part by new financial objectives imposed by the Ministry of Culture.

Serious practical constraints - including a lack of available studies concerning the majority of the Louvre's younger visitors and the difficulty of evaluating the museum's vast cultural offerings because of an absence of clearly defined objectives - prevented its directors from being able to conduct as thorough a review of the situation as they would have liked. Moreover, a recent fundraising-centred initiative had not lived up to expectations. While it had definitely helped to boost membership, contributions by benefactors had actually declined. The initiative was beginning to cost more than it was bringing in, but cancelling it would be a massive PR black eye. The museum's directors were determined to avoid repeating any such error.

The study details the painstaking process by which the Louvre embarked on its targeting strategy towards the young adult market, particularly the launching of its Youth Pass in December 1995, and how it hoped to create a dynamic that would persuade young people to visit the museum more often. In doing so, the institution was attempting to reconcile a certain degree of conflict between its public service duties and operating within a new administrative and political environment. The circumstances surrounding the Louvre's Youth Pass launch and associated advertising - including its administration and control; the formation of special partnerships and the attempted relaunch in 2000 as a result of its proven success ? offer a rare insight into the complex types of product management considerations that such a renowned cultural institution may face when trying to appeal to a particular, largely elusive section of the general public.


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