A couple of weeks ago, the American Museum of Natural History released Explorer, an iPhone app and museum guide that has gotten rave reviews. The application makes use of several state of the art technologies, one of which is an indoor Wi-Fi network which allows the Explorer app to pinpoint a user’s exact location in the museum and direct them to specific exhibits and even the closest bathroom. It is a prime example of effective brand utility, augmenting a museumgoer’s experience while placing the organization’s logo on the mobile user’s home screen.
What is probably just as impressive as the museum’s app is its effort to promote it. AMNH is pushing the application using traditional PR and advertising. Once in the museum, posters educate those waiting in line about the app and how to rent an iPod touch. The ticket stub announces another of its apps: “Dinosaur iPhone app free download at AMNH.ORG/APPs.” Of course, Explorer is the first app users see when visiting this URL. Certain exhibits have stickers with iPhones on them as a call-to-action. Ads are visible across the entire museum, it is clear the message AMNH wants to get across.
What’s important to realize here, is the power of mobile when properly integrated. As the above image depicts, brand utility plus advertising will yield the best results. Without backing up a mobile application or on-device campaign with advertising, PR, or existing properties, efforts could easily fall flat. We’ve talked to agencies where a client’s refusal to promote an app has resulted in just that.
Another thing to keep in mind is that not all information is meant to be provided through mobile phones just because it can be. Sometimes a “traditional” placard or sticker on an object makes a lot more sense than building an augmented reality application to display the same text. The experience for the user should be as frictionless as possible, and we must consider every medium’s strengths and weaknesses. In the case of Explorer, the mobile phone did what nothing else really can — locate and track a physical individual in order to provide contextual content. Through a combination of the innovative and the obvious, AMNH made a trip to the museum a lot more fun and worthwhile.
Previous coverage of museums using mobile:
Oklahoma Museum Curates with Mobile
MoMa Embraces SMS
Hit Museums and Galleries in Europe