SMEs opening their doors to tourists

More and more companies are opening museums for the general public. Why do they make these investments and what are the benefits? Here are some explanations and accounts.

Two women visiting a museum.

From the secrets of Appenzell cheese making to the adventures of master chocolatiers and the skills of glass blowers, a museum often provides a unique insight into the history of a company. "The foundation of a business often contains fascinating elements," explains Adrienne Suvada, head of the Communication & Branding Competence Center at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW). "Being able to capture these elements and turn them into a tangible experience is an excellent way to positively communicate a brand, especially in a context where it is becoming increasingly difficult to reach the public through traditional advertising."

However, it is not enough to have a good story to tell. The expert says that the brand's appeal is best conveyed by making the visit as interactive as possible, whether it's by revealing the behind-the-scenes of production with cooking workshops or sensory experiences, for example, or through games and tastings.

Attractive contact point

After two years of planning and construction, the beverage manufacturer Ramseier opened its "World of Discovery" in Sursee (LU) in June 2020. The 900-square-meter exhibition space is designed to give adults and children an insight into the history of the brand, the journey from fruit to bottle, and a tasting session. This year, visitors have already sampled more than 27,000 liters of the brand's various beverages. "The feedback has been extremely positive," says Christoph Richli, Managing Director of Ramseier Switzerland AG, which has 250 employees. "The World of Discovery is an attractive contact point for the company but also a new destination for an excursion in the region, which attracts visitors from all over Switzerland."

Ramseier's CEO reveals that the project enabled the company to meet numerous requests for company visits, which were previously not possible due to the plant's safety and hygiene guidelines, thus promoting the entire local value chain. Planning and deadlines were the biggest challenges in completing the project. "As always in a construction project, it is advisable to allow for sufficient time reserves. In addition, we had to deal with issues outside the usual scope of our work, which had to do with the design of the bistro's services or the acquisition of a restaurant license, for example."

Reputation and Appeal

The Cornu family business, which specializes in baked goods, has also created a building for the general public. Inaugurated in 2016 in Champagne (VD), "La Fabrique" includes a store, a café, workshops, a restaurant and a museum. The latter allows visitors to discover what goes on behind the scenes of the baker's trade via touch screens, interactive play elements and a direct view of one of the factory's production lines. The building has recorded around 70,000 visits in the last twelve months. "We are very satisfied with the project, even if its impact remains difficult to quantify," explains Cyril Cornu, a member of the management of Cornu SA. "La Fabrique has undoubtedly allowed the company to increase both its reputation as an employer and its appeal to the public, thanks to its perception as a place where people can have a good time for a good price."

He stresses the importance of determining the project's direction from the outset and how it will be operated in the long term. "The maintenance of this type of installation is a real challenge, and it is essential to think about how the museum will function in five or ten years. Moreover, the points of interest imagined by a manager of an SME do not necessarily correspond to those of the public, hence the importance of enlisting the help of specialists in order to bring ideas to life."

For Adrienne Suvada of ZHAW, the key is that the project fits the company's image. "Clearly, designing a unique experience is available only to companies of a certain size. However, a company that creates a smaller but authentic project doesn't necessarily fare worse."


On the theme

Chocolate loving tourists

Chocolate museums are among the most popular tourist attractions. There are now about ten of them in Switzerland. The newest of these, the Lindt Home of Chocolate, has become a major tourist destination since it opened in September 2020. Located at Schokoladenplatz 1 in Kilchberg (ZH), the museum welcomed its 500,000th visitor this summer. Since the beginning of the year, it has recorded more than 1,000 visits per day on average, and up to 2,000 visits per day on weekends.

Last modification 07.12.2022

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