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The Ups and Downs of Rebranding a Brand That Has Been Established 84 Years

The Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (UMoCA) is one of the many arts and cultural destinations when visiting beautiful Salt Lake City, Utah. UMoCA offers very unique exhibitions and galleries that encourage its visitors to explore what it means to exist in today’s world through art that inspires imagination. These exhibitions are just one of the many reasons why UMoCA is a must-visit attraction for both tourist and locals alike.

However, there is a history behind this popular arts and cultural destination. Four years ago, UMoCA was known as The Salt Lake Art Center (TSLAC) and was perceived by the community as a more scholarly and exclusive institution. Following a 2011 rebrand, the Salt Lake Art Center changed its name to The Exhbition at  Utah Museum of Contemporary Art Utah Museum of Contemporary Art and as a result, it was able to change the community’s perception. Today, UMoCA has not only physically expanded their galleries, exhibitions and events, but they have also diversified their audiences and formed a greater sense of community.

The National Arts Marketing Project (NAMP) talked to Sarina Ehrgott, UMoCA’s Marketing Director, who gave us insight into being the only contemporary museum in Utah. Sarina also explains the delicate process of rebranding an arts organization that has been established in a community for more than 80 years.

What is UMoCA’s mission? 

UMoCA is a small budget contemporary art institution and it is extremely important for us to stay in the forefront of technology. Not only should that ideal be expressed through our art galleries, events and exhibitions, but also the way we advertise. UMoCA’s brand has become the primary concern within my department. Therefore, my mission is to encourage consistency when it comes to our brand and our identity, and that we are constantly exposing it to our audience. My goal is for our message to be forenamed in all of our collateral pieces, and to remind our audience of UMoCA’s existence, and to show them that we have been here for 84 years.

 What led to The Salt Lake Art Center’s rebrand?

The Salt Lake Art Center (first the Art Barn) was a place where artists came together to create art, over time it became a place for art lessons, and it slowly formed into an institution of exhibitions. Ultimately, TSLAC became to be perceived as a highbrow art institute for an elite group. As a result, people started feeling excluded from the contemporary art community we were trying to build. By initiating a rebrand, the institution’s goal was to cease the highbrow perception many people were having of TSLAC, and to make it a comfortable environment for all people to be inspired by art. The communities’ perception of TSLAC was not the only cause that that led to a rebrand. Another, reason for TSLAC’s rebrand was the need for a contemporary institution in the capital city. Being called “The Salt Lake Art Center” did not express the depth of our work within the contemporary idiom -- from innovative exhibitions to related programming. The name did not portray that we are testing new technologies, mediums and ideas, and perspectives of what contemporary culture is, and that we are showcasing them through art.

Banners on the street advertise the museum.How is the old brand differ after the rebrand? Has the target audience changed?

Our brand change was not extensive at first. Other than the name change, our physical appearance remained the same, except for our logo and color palate (now a combination of cyan, white and a cool gray). Design and marketing evolved later. However, the most dramatic change that we encountered after our rebrand has been the way we reach out to our newly expanded audience. Our visitors ranges from senior citizens who enjoy painting, to young adults that are drawn to contemporary art, to parents, children, and anyone who is searching for inspiration or looking for a moment to relax. When we market an event, we have to make sure we are marketing to each group; the appropriate way while maintaining a consistent brand message.

Were there any difficulties during the rebranding process?

The most challenging thing after our rebrand, was to draw our community back. As an institution we were able to change the perception of UMoCA and showcase the contemporary museum that we are through our rebrand, unfortunately that led us to another difficulty. Many people who were part of our TSLAC community believed that TSLAC had shut down and immediately replaced by UMoCA. Another challenging obstacle for UMoCA was losing a few of the donors who appreciated TSLAC and did not realized that there was a shift happening as opposed to a replacing institution. My job has been to get patrons to understand that UMoCA is the same place as The Salt Lake Center, that we have been here for 84 years, and that we are more open and accessible than we were before.

Do you have advice for an organization that is going through a rebrand?

I believe that audience engagement should always be the number one priority as it helps build personal connections between your organization and the community. It is very important to let people know that there is a change in your brand coming, that your audience gets enthusiastic about it, and that they feel as if they are a part of the rebrand process. Small things such as letting the process be more public by engaging the community in decisions like choosing a logo, or allowing the community to vote on the new colors pallet, can help your4 community come closer together making the experience more personable and memorable.

Within the last two years of marketing the new brand, UMoCA has finally found its loyal community. A community that consists of people of all ages with all points of views that share the same willingness to explore the contemporary ideas that will help them view the world in a different way, through their art galleries and unique exhibitions.

Sarina Ehrgott will be speaking at the National Arts Marketing Project Conference in November 6-9 2015. Her presentation will be an energizing technology track titled, “Look Right. Act the Part. Becoming a Successful Digital Brand.” For more information on the conference and to register today please click here!

Want to submit your own success story or case study? We want to hear from you! Email Laura Kakolewki at lkakolewski@artsusa.org

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