Not too long ago Sculpture Milwaukee was only a spark of imagination from Steve Marcus, chairman of the board of the Marcus Corporation. His vision was to bring inspiring sculptures from around the world and share them with the people of the Greater Milwaukee area at a price everyone could afford – free.
Mr. Marcus’ great ambition took years before coming to fruition, and now, with 22 sculptures from internationally renowned artists, Wisconsin Avenue is home to the largest urban outdoor sculpture exhibition. But before the streets were lined with sculptures as tall as 39 feet, Graydient Creative helped devise a marketing plan and create a digital presence that would complement Sculpture Milwaukee for years to come.
From web design, to mobile app development, and social media management, this article outlines the processes and techniques we’ve used throughout the Sculpture Milwaukee project to create a rock solid digital marketing campaign.
The first order of business was to nail down the design guidelines and help create the Sculpture Milwaukee brand. We started by identifying a color palette and creating a mood board that would embody Steve Marcus’ vision.
Our designers took inspiration from multiple sources including Milwaukee’s unique urban setting, the downtown cream city brick, black and white photography, and local street art such as spray paint graffiti, murals, as well as large script typography. We made sure to include local elements that were distinct to Milwaukee, as this exhibit is going to be a feature of the city for years to come, but remained neutral enough to allow for the every changing exhibit of sculptures from year to year.
With the inspiration gathered, the team began thinking about a color palette to complement the metropolitan setting as well as the beautiful artwork that would be on exhibit. We wanted to keep the colors simple so the design wouldn’t detract or compete with the sculptures on display. With that in mind, the team decided on a simple black and white color scheme with gold as the pop color.
We believe gold was the perfect color to incorporate in the design because it symbolized the unique urban art exhibition in more ways than one. First, the gold color represents class and high quality. Second, it displays a sense of prestige that accompanies the large outdoor sculptures. Lastly, we believe gold is a versatile color that can be applied with a glamorous effect to attract potential art buyers or used as an elegant neutral to reach out to the general public and art viewers.
After the key design elements were identified, we began thinking about the structure of www.SculptureMilwaukee.com from a development perspective. One of the first things we had to consider were the two distinct content types: the art and general information about Sculpture Milwaukee.
With these in mind, our team of developers set out to create a dual-navigation system. However, this came with multiple challenges. First, not many sites use similar types of navigations, and there were few examples of the concept overall. Second, our backend was not originally built to support splitting the navigation into separate menus. This required building a unique solution that would make this navigation possible and help users find the information they’re looking for quickly.
We also implemented a Progress Web App (PWA) feature that allows users to retrieve online information with no internet connection (as long as the information have previously been retrieved and cached on their mobile device).
The idea for building the site as a PWA was originally conceived as a fallback to the mobile reception issues that can be caused by towering downtown buildings and help reduce the user’s data usage, especially for features like the Google Maps virtual tour. Implementation was started after the site’s initial launch, and began with the integration of service workers. Essentially, service workers allow developers to manage a special local cache and control how the browser interacts with that cache and the server. The biggest advantage of using a service worker is that it allows the website to be usable offline. Because the cache is local, the service worker can be told to fetch from the cache first before sending a new request to the server. Another advantage of using a local cache is that the page loads much quicker. It doesn’t need to fetch data from another server every time and lacks the additional headers from typical HTTP requests. This makes the website as accessible as possible to users who are visiting Wisconsin Avenue for the outdoor exhibition.
In the next stage, our mobile app development team set out to build a dedicated mobile app for Android and iOS. The goals for the Sculpture Milwaukee app was to provide a comprehensive digital experience while users were viewing the sculptures, and to offer a free ‘guide’ for all viewers while they toured Sculpture Milwaukee. Our team brainstormed dozens of ideas that would guide the development of the app and enhance the user experience for patrons on their first visit while encouraging them to return.
The first big feature we built was a guided audio tour that allowed users to plug in their headphones and listen to professional commentary about the sculptures and artists. This feature was designed to encourage foot traffic, but also to help viewers develop a deeper connection with the art. When a person reads, sees, and hears about a specific installation, they start to create a connection with the piece. They begin to understand the meaning of the sculpture and the artist’s motive behind it. This gives the users more reason to care and invest in the tour while creating an attachment to various pieces.
Additionally, because Milwaukee is a diverse city, we implemented the audio tour in both English and Spanish. The application automatically recognizes the preferred language set on the users phone and adjusts accordingly.
The app also has a full list of fun features. For example, users can take pictures and add unique Sculpture Milwaukee frames to them. They can share these photos with friends and family and help spread the word about the art exhibition. Other features include a mini-game tour rather than a traditional tour as well as an option to favorite sculptures that users particularly enjoyed or want to learn more about.
Social Media Management
Once we launched the site and sculptures were lining Wisconsin Avenue, we quickly realized there was a loud buzz following the exhibition. The community had really developed an interest in the project and they wanted to connect with the Sculpture Milwaukee via social media. Our client had been previously managing the social channels but quickly realized they were far too busy with boots-on-the-ground tasks to maintain the social presence.
That’s when we stepped in! We were asked to take over the social media strategy for Sculpture Milwaukee and engage the audience in real-time. With the tools we use at Graydient and the strategies we’ve created from previous experience, we made a smooth transition into the Sculpture Milwaukee social media management role.
At Graydient, we believe the golden rule of social media marketing is to never allow your strategy to be an afterthought. We understand that without general background knowledge in social media marketing it may be difficult to spread awareness around a project. However, our expertise is in creating engaging online experiences and we knew just what to do. After just two months of managing the accounts, engagement saw a 3000% increase on Facebook and Instagram.
To round out the whole campaign, we also worked with Sculpture Milwaukee on print advertising pieces. We felt it was important to spread the word in a more traditional way that would engage locals and those in the Greater Milwaukee area.
The print initiative encompassed a wide range of collateral, including large posters, retractable standing banners, table tents, decals, and more. These pieces could be seen throughout the Milwaukee area including on-location at the historic Pfister Hotel.
The branding on these pieces was, in large part, kept consistent with the branding seen on the website. However, we did make a few adjustments to some design elements in an effort to increase readability and catch an onlooker’s eye. The biggest diversion we made was adding effects to the gold type that gave it more shine and dimension. We also altered the cream city brick on a few pieces with a black overlay for a darker, edgier look.
As this year’s exhibit draws to a close on October 22nd, we’re already beginning to reflect on this year of firsts and look forward to the future. We are extremely proud to see every piece come together and accompany the incredible sculptures on Wisconsin Avenue. Working alongside some of Milwaukee’s most talented teams, special thanks to our co-marketing committee members including Downtown Milwaukee BID #21, VISIT Milwaukee, Jigsaw, Ellingsen Brady Advertising, and the Russell Bowman Group, our team has loved working on this project and helping to build what has become a cornerstone of Downtown Milwaukee come to fruition.