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Why Marketing to Families for Cultural Institutions is Important

November 1st, 2022 | 3 min. read

By Julia Elliott

Woman crouches down behind her child and points to artwork on the wall of a gallery

Do you remember your first family vacation? What about seeing a stage show or going to a museum? Travel and cultural experiences can leave lasting impressions on parents and kids alike.

If you work in these industries, you understand this transformative power. But honing your marketing budget on families isn't always a top priority — or a consideration. And it makes sense. Sometimes it's not an obvious fit; others, you're focused on other demographics.

But here at Zoe Marketing & Communications, we've seen significant ripples from family marketing. We've helped promote tourism destinations and cultural institutions to parents in metro Detroit and Chicagoland for 35+ years via our sister companies, Metro Parent and Chicago Parent.

In this blog, we'll explore reasons to open your marketing to families. We'll cover the following:

  • The life-long potential of giving kids cultural experiences at a young age

  • 3 key factors: loyalty, word of mouth and volume

  • People are very open to visiting cultural venues and traveling

  • Bonus: You can attract families without doing overt "family" marketing

By the end, you'll have a sense of inspiration — or reinvigoration — about family marketing.

The life-long potential of giving kids cultural experiences at a young age

Think back to an early travel, theater or museum experience you had. Did it spark a love of science, art, music or searching for shells on the beach? 

Through these new experiences, plenty of proverbial "bugs" can bite. And this can lead to:

  • Parents being more likely to bring excited kids back for return visits

  • Increased odds children will prioritize these experiences when they get older

  • Higher chances they'll someday also pass this on to their kids

This generational potency seems almost glaringly evident. But it's worth exploring. After all, these experiences can be poignant for kids, changing how they see the world — even their career dreams.

Museum impact

They've emerged as key learning hubs for young kids especially in the past 30 years, the American Alliance of Museums notes. Whether it's the featured exhibits (fashion, outer space, dinosaurs) or helping kids make sense of their worlds, museums open doors.

Plus, welcoming kids can make museums feel less "intimidating" to all ages, AAM adds.

Theater dynamics

Kids exposed to live theater before age 8 feel like "theater is for someone like me," says research cited by the National Endowment for the Arts. That's huge in building a future audience. It also boosts kids' personal growth and can motivate them to take action.

Tourism possibilities

From making kids more empathetic to other cultures to shaping babies' speech development, travel has plenty of benefits for children, too, notes Travel + Leisure magazine.

3 key factors: loyalty, word of mouth and volume

Marketing to families also has the innate power to build three key things.

1. Loyalty

Families who love your destination, whether local or out of state, often come to rely on it. They know they can return for a great repeat experience. They may even become your membership or season ticket holders — or make it an annual tradition.

2. Word of mouth

Parents have robust networks, thanks in no small part to the school scene. Their recommendations can be gold for other parents looking for cultural experiences.

There's a growing trend of getting memberships and meeting up with kids' friends there. And whether it's a museum, show or trip, families often post and tag their adventures on social media. That makes them ambassadors for your destination, too.

3. Volume

This final point is a bit more practical. A family of four, for instance, is more likely to spend more than a smaller crew or solo visitor. That goes for tickets, souvenirs, food, lodging and more.

Let families know what's here for them to meet their needs. That increases general visitations — and the odds they'll come back, too. 

People are very open to visiting cultural venues and traveling

Folks view cultural spots as "more welcoming" and accessible than ever.

In fact, in the past five years, public perception of history and art museums as "welcoming to people like me" has shot up 8%-9%, notes IMPACTS Experience.

The symphony, orchestra and science centers also show significant gains, along with popular zoos and aquariums. There's also strong growth in first-time non-white visitors, IMPACTS says.

Meanwhile, domestic travel is thriving, the U.S. Travel Association reports — back to pre-pandemic levels.

Bottom line: There's openness. Cultural destinations need to fling open their "doors" and draw in families — to build strong connections into the future.

Bonus: You can attract families without doing overt 'family' marketing

Finally, as beneficial as it can be to market to families, it doesn't have to be kid-centric.

Did you know cultural marketing geared at adults is effective for adults with and without kids? Creating that excitement for grown-ups generally is essential. Why? It makes them more eager to visit (and maybe even get that coveted membership). And, of course, they'll pass that excitement on to their kids.

In reality, parents go to many things that can feel like a "drag." It's more about their kids getting something out of it. But it doesn't fulfill them personally.

So show them what's here for them, too! Destinations can be informative and illuminating for kids and exciting and instructive for parents, too. Playing with that balance can pay off.

What are the next steps to marketing my destination to families?

Reaching families is essential for cultural spots — whether museums, performing arts venues, zoos or travel destinations.

This blog captures some of the reasons. It builds loyalty, word of mouth and traffic. Not to mention, it sets a foundation for future visitors months and even decades into the future.

Ready to start marketing your culture hotspot to families? Talk to your advisor at Zoe Marketing & Communications. We'll put our 35+ years of experience reaching this market to work for you.

Still exploring your options? Dig into the best practices for your cultural getaway, including:

  • The best marketing tactics for museums

  • The best marketing tactics for theater/performing arts

  • The best marketing tactics for travel destinations

Julia Elliott

For 17 years, Julia Elliott crafted strategies and stories for Zoe, along with its sister companies, Metro Parent and Chicago Parent. A deep background in journalism helped her create customized content marketing to drive client success.