An exact Science
By putting the words “science” and “fun” into the same sentence, those who work with the creative left-hand-side of the brain might think that a lesson on what an oxymoron is will be forthcoming. But, the marketing team at the Glasgow Science Centre believes that, in fact, learning about science can be fun, whatever the age, and are looking to both market and sell their product in exactly that way.
The marketing and selling of the Glasgow Science Centre was always going to be a difficult task. Whilst the building is immense, it is hardly in a prime location for visitors – being set on the south side of the city, with only a police records office and the radio station Beat 106 as its neighbours. Also, encouraging people to come to a visitor attraction to learn about science was never going to be an easy sell.
The centre comprises a science mall that aims to offer an innovative way of learning about science, along with the only IMAX cinema in Scotland and a rotating tower giving panoramic views of the city (although it has been closed since shortly after the launch, due to essential structural work). The mall is spread over three floors, and various interaction-led activities are available to the public, from creating your own genetically modified child, to seeing a cockroach up close and personal.
Fiona Collie is the director of development and marketing at the Science Centre. She believes that the centre needs to aim towards the local market in order to get people through its doors. In fact, the majority of visitors who come to the centre live in a thirty-mile radius of the attraction. “We aim to target a large percentage of local media when we are doing a marketing drive. So, we look at local media along with doing promotional work, which means that we can encourage a high level of awareness about what the Science Centre actually does. I suppose that really is the crux of our marketing plan – if we do have local promotions both in the media and within our community relations programmes then we appeal to the majority of our visitors.”
The Science Centre has researched both who the visitors to the centre are and why they are visiting, with the results falling into two different categories.
“We have two major attractions for all who come to the Science Centre at the moment – there is the mall itself and also the IMAX cinema. What we are trying to do is target the areas in relation to the type of groups that are coming. For example, the IMAX is a more family-orientated audience, yet it is also popular with our youth market. The mall, on the other hand, is more popular with children aged between five and 15, along with adults between the ages of 30 and 50. And around 65-70 per cent of all our visitors come from the surrounding area.”
In order to sell the centre on all its good points, negating the unwelcome publicity that has dogged the centre since its opening, the marketing team has grown and changed.
Collie explains that this was something done out of sheer necessity, and maintains that it is of paramount importance that those working in the marketing side understand implicitly what the Science Centre aims to achieve.
“Everything that we do on the media side of things is done in-house – we have three people in our marketing department, we do all our media buying and we also have an in-house designer who works on all our art work.”
A larger and more robust marketing department has been created, with marketing manager Alisdair Smart, who worked on the client and, briefly, agency side of the industry, joining Collie, whose background was previously in the charity sector.
“I think that if you have that sort of team behind you then it can only work as an advantage in terms of what you bring to the table. We have so much knowledge and understanding of what the centre actually does, and I think that we understand entirely what the customer both wants and needs from us. And we can therefore supply it. We have a clear vision of what we are trying, and need, to achieve,” says Smart.
The centre has therefore been marketed in a very specific way. It is also not only used for science and learning, but has become effective in use as a venue for numerous events, ranging from award ceremonies to press conferences. “We also offer corporate events – we can put a marquee in Civic Square,” says Collie. “We hold business breakfasts for companies and the exterior of the Science Centre has been used in numerous photo shoots. In fact, it seems that every time a new car is brought out they always come down to the centre to have its picture done. And, naturally, the car is always silver,” she jokes.
The Science Centre is, however, an imposing figure in the Glasgow skyline. In time it might even become a landmark within the city and has been already named one of the most poplar tourist attractions in the whole of Scotland.
Collie admits that there has been criticism concerning the centre, but believes that they are turning the corner and winning the battle. “Although we have had a lot of criticism in the past year or so we have also managed to become the fourth most visited paid attraction within Scotland. I think that we really should be shouting about what we do, as it is important and valid. We have been awarded the Scottish Visitor Attraction of the Year, and that is really something to be proud of.”