The ROM’s new brand platform aims to modernize the museum

Setting the path for a post-pandemic recovery, an epic short film connects the good and bad parts of history to topical issues younger audiences are interested in.
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The Royal Ontario Musuem’s new brand platform is designed to attract a new generation of Canadians to the museum following the COVID-19 pandemic.

The tagline of “ROM Immortal” is to “live on in what we leave behind,” which gels with the traditional idea that museum are places to maintain, explain and display historical artifacts.

“All of those objects represent many kinds of stories,” says chief marketing and communications officer, Lori Davison. “They unlock all kinds of stories about our shared existence, and then the planet itself.”

But to separate itself from other cultural institutions, as well as shed the stuffy image many people might have of museums, “ROM Immortal” is putting those stories – from the inspiring to the horrifying – on full display.

The cornerstone of the campaign, led by AOR Broken Heart Love Affair, is an evocative, artistic six minute film that details the history of mankind. While it starts with the Big Bang and a 2001: A Space Odyssey-style advent of life, the remainder of the video takes a loose approach to chronology, with the first astronauts appearing alongside woolly mammoths, or soldiers from different eras engaging in battle against each other. And as much as the film celebrates human achievements, it is also not shy about the darker parts of history, from colonialism to crackdowns on political protest to genocide.

The creative is designed to make the museum, and the artifacts therein, the “heroes” and focus, according to Davison, but to also make people see it in a new light. The objects represent not only history, but topical and pressing issues of our day, including health crises, racism and gender equity.

There is also the desire to bring people back to the ROM, one of the many businesses adversely affected by COVID-19.

“The ROM has historically had really strong attendance,” says Davison. “I think we’re the most attended museum in Canada, and one of the top 10 in North America. And then, of course, the pandemic hit, and our doors were closed for almost 13 months and so, we are in a situation of building back our audiences.”

One audience in particular the ROM is trying to attract is newer and younger Canadians that don’t necessarily have that nostalgia for their local museum and are the primary target audience for the new brand platform.

The insight behind the campaign was, despite being interested in topical issues and culture, some people just aren’t connecting those with what’s on display on the ROM. According to Davison, the main difference is demographic, and the campaign’s approach is meant to make the connection in a dynamic way that’s more interesting for younger museum goers.

The ROM began laying the groundwork for the new museum-wide brand platform with a February campaign for its “Dawn of Life” exhibit, which similarly aimed to break away from traditional museum marketing.

The film will be promoted through the ROM’s YouTube channel and other owned channels, with the paid side of the campaign focused on out-of-home posters and digital display ads, as well as a 90-second version of the film airing in cinema.

As the campaign progresses, there will be more content that invites people to understand something unexpected about the items being displayed says Davison.

In addition to BHLA on creative and brand strategy, the ROM worked with Leo Burnett to design the brand identity, OMD on the media buy and No Fixed Address on PR. Scouts Honour and director Mark Zibert led production on the film.