Mona makes brand statement at Remix
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Perth’s creative industries were challenged by diverse ideas in this year’s Remix Academy.
Perhaps Robbie Brammall’s address to the Remix Academy event in Perth earlier this month should have come with a language warning.
The director of marketing and communications at Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art (Mona), Mr Brammall was as provocative and irreverent in his verbal delivery as the museum itself is in how it challenges visitors’ perceptions and beliefs.
This year’s Remix Academy in Perth brought together entrepreneurs and experts from diverse creative industries.
Supported by the City of Perth, the Chamber of Arts and Culture WA, and Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries, the event included speakers from the US, UK, Brazil, Berlin, and across Australia.
Mr Brammall said Mona’s creative exhibits had been responsible for attracting 338,000 visitors to the museum in the past year and provided diversity to a state previously known primarily for nature-based tourism.
Travel publisher Lonely Planet rated Hobart the seventh best city in the world the year after Mona opened, during which the museum contributed $56 million to the state’s economy.
In the seven years since, this contribution has jumped to around $800 million, and 3 million people have passed through Mona’s doors.
Key to its success, Mr Brammall said, was establishing a distinct and authentic brand identity.
An advertising strategy based on disruption and use of earned media allowed Mona to become known for challenging audiences, and building an independent identity.
Mr Brammall also credited that communication strategy with having brought consistency to Mona’s outreach and interaction with potential visitors.
“We can’t rely on mainstream PR to drive sales and growth 365 days a year,” he said.
Mona’s growth has allowed it to make big plans, with a hotel, spa retreat, and camping ground in the works.
Mona is one of a number of organisations mentioned during the event that have achieved financial growth and engagement through a unique brand identity.
Co-founder of the Remix events, Peter Tullin, said distinctive creative brands were achieving major growth, particularly in the US market.
He outlined the unprecedented successes of immersive art space Meow Wolf, a US-based organisation creating permanent, fantasy-style installations.
Meow Wolf raised $7 million in investments for its first installation, and now employs nearly 200 creatives.
“What’s really interesting about this example is the growth they’ve seen in a relatively short space of time,” Mr Tullin said.
House of Eternal Return, Meow Wolf’s main exhibit, opened in 2016.
The converted bowling alley now houses a colourful array of art, and guests experience a non-linear storyline through dozens of rooms, secret passageways, interactive lights, and musical objects.
In addition, the complex houses a cafe and bar, and plays host to a series of workshops and community events.
Meow Wolf’s focus on imaginative and immersive environments has proved hugely popular, allowing it to expand to Denver and Las Vegas.
Despite the growth of organisations like Mona and Meow Wolf, Mr Tullin warns that many creative entrepreneurs still lack the support to turn their ideas into reality.
“People are consuming creative products more and more, so how do we develop the creative entrepreneurs to supply this creative product?” he asked.
Executive director of the Chamber of Arts and Culture, Henry Boston, highlighted the positive impact of these shared ideas on the Perth creative landscape.
Mr Boston noted a consistent emphasis on authenticity throughout the conference, with many speakers mirroring Mona’s story of authenticity, ambition, and aspiration.
“The takeaways I had were very much about clarity of vision, and being consistent with that,” Mr Boston told Business News.
Having an organisational vision and clarity of purpose was a consistent theme on the event, something Mr Boston said was far removed from a focus on statistics and output.
“If you look at organisations that become institutionalised, they quite often lose the idea of what they were originally set up to do, and why they were doing it,” he said.
In a sector so full of risks, Mr Boston said many regulatory bodies erred on the side of risk aversion.
Despite this, an array of successful risk-takers, both individuals and organisations, presented at the Remix Academy event.
“For me, a key takeaway was the need to be confident of our ambition, and support it. And support our creative people in that way so that we can provide a level of support that encourages people to take risks,” Mr Boston said.
Mr Brammell said he had been encouraged by advice he had received from Mona founder David Walsh.
“Fail if you have to. Upset people if you can. Just don’t let Mona drift to the middle,” he said.