Charles Dickens Museum fulfilling its great expectations

In the heart of London’s Bloomsbury is the Charles Dickens Museum. At 48 Doughty Street, where such classics as Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby were written, there is nowhere better to connect with the great author, through experiencing his townhouse, beautifully restored to the time he lived there, and exploring the world’s greatest collection of Dickens memorabilia, including his writing desk. Actor Simon Callow CBE described the Museum’s charm succinctly when he said simply ‘Feel Dickens’s presence’.

The Museum benefited from a Heritage Lottery Fund grant to renovate the house in 2012, but wisely recognised that this was only half the task – telling prospective visitors about it was the other. The HLF agreed to fund a marketing strategy project, which we bid for and won the contract to deliver.

We recruited London market research company Harris Interactive to provide insights into the profile and motivations of the Museum’s visitors, as well as unearthing barriers in the way of those yet to visit.

Den Scotford of Harris Interactive said “We carried out site interviews with museum visitors, during the peak and shoulder periods, undertook an online survey to capture the opinions of UK residents and executed a series of face-to-face street intercept surveys to explore the views of London tourists from across the world. We also put in place an exit survey using our survey platform, to monitor whether the visitor profile changes over time.”

We complemented these insights with workshops for staff, volunteers and trustees to ensure the experiences and views of internal stakeholders were captured; and analysis of information the Museum already held, such as previous surveys and London Pass data.

This was distilled into a long-term strategy for the Museum, based on a simple, compelling proposition, clearly expressed, and a series of practical tactics for both online and offline media, to be delivered quickly so that the Museum was well-placed to benefit from the increased interest that was likely to be generated from the BBC drama series Dickensian.

Dr. Cindy Sughrue OBE, the Museum’s Director said “We’ve seen an immediate increase in visitors to the Charles Dickens Museum, which we put down to the pragmatic advice The Happy Seven has provided within a new tactical marketing strategy, alongside our timely exhibition linked to the BBC mini-series Dickensian. Nina and Martin were also able to draw on their network to create new marketing opportunities for us, and we’re looking forward to what we expect to be a very successful 2016.”