Smithsonian launches branding campaign


The new Smithsonian Institution branding campaign, “Seriously Amazing,” makes a central bet: Visitors and would-be visitors across the country have questions, and the Smithsonian has answers.

Its icon is a question mark, and it features red, green and spacesuit-silver characters, all asking for info:

“What has given us water from Mars and daggers from India?”

“How is hip-hop like the microchip?”

“What exactly does a bear do in the woods?”

The $1.4 million campaign, which has been two years in the making, launched Thursday with a preview for staff, regents and directors, and a new website. Ads in the Smithsonian magazine, outdoor advertising in Washington and four other cities, digital ads and signs at Smithsonian construction sites, such as the African American History and Culture Museum, will be rolled out over the next few weeks. It is funded internally and by an in-kind gift from Target.

“The object of doing this is to make sure we’re connecting with younger audiences,” said Wayne Clough, secretary of the Smithsonian. He calls it a push to reach “aware moms who are so connected to the rest of the world” and those outside the Washington area. “We’re going to probably have over 30 million visitors to the Smithsonian this year, but some are only coming once in a lifetime. That leaves about 320 million others that we aren’t reaching physically. At the same time, we have 100 new exhibitions a year. It’s a shame to put on these exhibitions and not have youngsters have some ways of seeing it.”


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