Ranking The World's Most Admired Art Museums, And What Big Business Can Learn From Them

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The world’s biggest companies invest huge sums of time and money in reputation management. And yet, when measured, art museums have demonstrably better reputations than even the most well-regarded businesses in the world.

A recent research project conducted by myself and Patricia Heijndijk from the University of the Netherlands to rank the world’s leading museums by reputation demonstrates that, despite their best efforts, organisations the world over have a lot learn from how museums cultivate a positive public image.

By adapting “RepTrak”, an established tool used to measure the reputations of the world’s best known companies, we conducted interviews with over 12,000 individuals – both museum visitors and non-museum visitors. We asked about the galleries themselves, the collections, their role in the local community, and what they did to educate and inform society, amongst much else – and the results were stark.

While the fact that France’s Louvre topped our list might not be a huge surprise given its profile, what was notable was that on a scale of 100, museums scored on average 15 points above the world’s highest ranked companies. After a career spent measuring reputations in the corporate world, I can tell you this is a significant gap.

Other notable results were the strong performance of the U.K.’s Tate Modern museum across five of the seven evaluations – a few small improvements in key areas could see them rocket up the overall ranking – and the relatively poor performance of the Vatican Museums in Rome, one of the most visited in the world. It is also apparent that the overall image of the country or city a museum is located in appears to have a large say in its overall evaluation.

So – what can businesses learn from museums? There are many elements, but perhaps the most important is that museums have stellar reputations because they have purpose driven strategies that are rooted in a tradition of serving their customers – the public. While the authenticity of a museum’s purpose alone improves public perception and trust – what they offer elevates their users in a way that companies may find hard to replicate.

It might be a challenge to match the way a museums make their customers feel, but achieve it and the payoff could be considerable.

So which museums do people love best?

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