When their design is consistent with a company’s brand identity, corporate museums can be a powerful tool of authentication in markets, such as luxury and fashion, which increasingly prize authenticity (a construct made of quality leadership, heritage and sincerity) over standardization and homogenization. The conclusion is drawn by two Bocconi scholars (Maria Carmela Ostillio and Antonella Carù, Department of Marketing and SDA Bocconi) and a graduate student (Giuseppe Leone) in a paper which won the Best Paper Award in the Marketing category at AIMAC 2013, the XII Conference on Arts and Cultural Management (Bogotà, Colombia, June 26-29, 2013): Corporate Museum as a Pillar for Brand Authenticity in Luxury Companies. The Case of Salvatore Ferragamo.
Established in 1995, the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum is located in the Medieval palace in Florence which headquarters the company, focuses on the history of the business and the life of its founder and is managed by a director who reports directly to the Ferragamo family. The museum hosts two sections: one dedicated to Ferragamo, the other to temporary exhibitions (during the time of the study, a Marilyn Monroe exhibition).
With their paper, the authors intended to investigate the capability of a corporate museum to transfer brand identity and consistent brand associations, through a qualitative methodology based on in-depth interviews to both actors who directly contribute to the Salvatore Ferragamo brand identity (family and management) and museum’s visitors. The main findings of the research highlight the consistency of the brand identity as thought by the family and management and the authenticity as perceived by the visitors.
Authenticity, in Ferragamo’s case, arises from the figure of the late founder, well depicted in the museum; from the continuity of values warranted by the focal role played by the family in the management of the company; from the location in Florence and in Palazzo Spini Feroni, with their evocation of art and magnificence; from the perceived quality of the product, associated to concepts such as craftsmanship, tradition, Made in Italy and art. The museum can thus be “a repository of memory”, it “tells the myth behind the brand and joins the values and the passion of the founder who represents the brand essence and its moral authenticity” and is successful in communicating the link between brand and art. “Living an educational experience”, the authors explain, “the visitors increase their brand knowledge thanks to new positive associations related to the brand’s heritage”.
Minor perplexities, and an indication for future fine-tunings, arise from an excessive focus on the temporary exhibition, which distracts the visitor interested in Ferragamo, and from a relatively weak link between the past of the company and its present and future.