Monday, March 17, 2008

What's the Lincoln Museum worth to me? At least $10.19. How about you?

I look at most things from a communication and marketing perspective. That's why, when I heard that the Lincoln Museum will close in June, I focused on it as a marketing problem. "What," I thought, "could have the museum done differently to make it more of a destination? What could have they done to attract more visitors?"

Well, I didn't have any immediate answers--and part of the problem is that I've only been to the Lincoln Museum once. It struck me as a nice place, a true asset for Fort Wayne, and something that made me feel proud to live where I do. But it also seemed a little stodgy, dry, and--yes--boring. The kind of place I'd drive by and think "I'm glad that's here," but without thinking "I should go back."

Maybe that reflects more upon me than it does upon the Lincoln Museum. Maybe I should have thought of it more often when planning my discretionary time. But the point is, I didn't. And neither, apparently, did most people.

So now that the Museum may close its doors forever, the question is, what is Fort Wayne willing to do to save the Lincoln Museum? According to an editorial in today's Journal Gazette, people like Geoff Paddock and Marilyn Moran-Townsend are doing more than just asking that question--they're trying to answer it, and engaging others in doing the same. They're giving the community a second chance to support the Museum with their ideas, their advocacy, and their checkbooks. It's an uphill battle, of course. But you have to respect them for trying. And that leads to you hoping they succeed. And that leads to you wondering what you can do to help.

If there's something good in all of this, then, it's that people may end up with a renewed sense of urgency about the Lincoln Museum. It's a cliche, but it's also true that you don't know what you've got until it's gone (or until it's slated to become "More Accessible and Visible"). It may be too late, of course. But remember that the Embassy Theatre almost disappeared, too, in 1972. And knowing that, I'm much quicker to buy a ticket to an event like Down the Line, knowing that I'm playing a small part in keeping something alive that I'd miss if it were gone.

That's why this might be the best thing that's ever happened to the Lincoln Museum. It's given people a sense of urgency, gotten them thinking about what the Museum is worth to them, and made them wonder what they'd be willing to do to save it.

As for me, I know I'm thinking about the Lincoln Museum more today than I ever have.
And that's got me thinking about saving the Lincoln Museum as a marketing problem.

Right now, for example, when you do a Google search on "save the Lincoln Museum," not much pops up. But what if you got an engaging, interesting response? What if the first hit you saw was

That's why
I just used GoDaddy to reserve I think it's easy to remember and kind of fun, but also direct. I don't know if that's the right answer. I know a website can't do much on its own, but it's a way of capturing and sharing ideas. So for me, saving the Lincoln Museum is apparently worth at least $10.19.

Now, how about you? Is anyone willing to host the site? Design the site? Work in conjunction with Moran-Townsend and Paddock to make sure we don't reinvent the wheel? What else are you willing to contribute?

What strategies do you think would be most effective in giving people a sense of urgency about a place they didn't care enough about to visit in the first place? Post your ideas in the comments, and encourage others to do the same. Let's see if we can solve this marketing problem, and help save Abe in the process.

1 comment:

Erik Deckers said...

I think part of the Lincoln Museum’s problem is that it’s, well, about Abe Lincoln. Sure he did lots of great things, and I'm not denying any of that. When I worked in Fort Wayne, I knew it existed, but I couldn’t tell you a thing about it, and I couldn’t have told you why I should go.

But what do I – a consumer with limited time and resources – want to go there for? It’s almost like the opera: I know I’m supposed to like it, but it's not what I listen to in my spare time.

The Lincoln Museum needs to have special events, such as hosting events for the Chamber of Commerce's Business After Hours. They need to market to homeschoolers (there are more homeschoolers than you can shake a stick at in Northern Indiana). It needs to be a participant in the community, not just a destination.