by Diana Darling

You want a museum to be wonderful. Ideally it will be full of wonderful stuff, like ethnographic museums or museums of musical instruments. But sometimes the mere concept of a museum is wonderful, even if the stuff inside is unremarkable apart from being amassed in great quantity and variety, as with the Cumberland Pencil Museum in Keswick, England, or the Umbrella Cover Museum in Maine.

So what is one to make of a museum of marketing? Ubud has the only one in the world, if you don’t count the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising in London, which is presumably full of campy objects like old cereal boxes. But a museum of marketing? Why? And what on earth would it have in it?

The idea to build the Museum of Marketing 3.0 was the brain child of Hermawan Kartajaya, co-author with Iwan Setiawan and Philip Kotler, a marketing guru, of Marketing 3.0: From Product to Customer to Human Spirit. He conceived it as a way of honouring the eightieth birthday of Philip Kotler, known as “the Father of Marketing”.

The conflation of the ideas of “marketing” and “spirit” caught the imagination of Puri Ubud, as the leaders of Ubud’s ruling family are collectively known. Why not, they suggested, build it at the Puri Lukisan—Ubud’s premier museum of Balinese art—which they more or less own? They would provide the land and their imprimatur.

When rumours began to waft that Ubud would have a museum of marketing, the screams went straight up on Facebook: “Say No to Museum of Marketing in Ubud!!!” is a page created by the “Save Our Ubud” community. One post reads, “ ‘Philip Kotler Museum of Marketing’ and Starbucks (and Circle-K too) are ruining the uniqueness of Ubud.” Another post objected that “this project is just a marketing ploy to promote certain individuals and has nothing to do with Ubud.”

Oh, but it does.

Marketing in Ubud has a noble—some would say royal—history. As most people already know, in the 1930s two European painters, Rudolf Bonnet and the impossibly glamorous Walter Spies, worked with local artists, providing them with materials and advice, and helping them find a market for their works among the handful of rich tourists who came to Ubud. In 1936 they formed the Pita Maha artists’ association under the patronage of Tjokorda Gde Agung Sukawati (1910–1978), one of the lords of Puri Ubud. In 1956, he and Rudolf Bonnet founded the Museum Puri Lukisan, whose core collection is Pita Maha works. This art museum thus has marketing in its DNA.

Thus Ubud became known by its first marketing slogan, “the village of painters”. Then it gobbled up Peliatan and its dancers, and Mas and wood-carvers, to become “the cultural heart of Bali”. Then it added boutique hotels, spas, yoga, and fine dining, propelling it to being named in 2010 by Condé Nast Traveller “the best city in Asia”, to general astonishment, although Ubud’s success has been based mainly on not being like Kuta. No bungee jumping here.

This marketing strategy continues to be guided by Puri Ubud—particularly the sons of Tjokorda Gde Agung Sukawati, themselves important figures in Ubud’s tourism industry—which sets the moral tone for Ubud’s image. It is a strategy greatly flattered by the ideas of Philip Kotler.

The Museum of Marketing 3.0 is devoted to the idea that marketing has moved from 1.0 (product-oriented) and 2.0 (customer-oriented) and must now become 3.0 (spirit-oriented). Here the language goes vague. According to the museum’s website,

Like Marketing 2.0 customer-oriented marketing, Marketing 3.0 also aims to satisfy the consumers. However, companies practicing Marketing 3.0 have bigger mission, vision, and values to contribute to the world and provide solutions to problems in the society. Marketing 3.0 lifts the concept of marketing into the area of human aspirations, values and spirit. Marketing 3.0 believes that consumers are complete human beings whose other needs and hopes should never be neglected. Therefore, Marketing 3.0 complements emotional marketing with human spirit marketing.

Whatever. If the museum’s exhibits illustrate anything, it is that Puri Ubud believes it is carrying on the legacy of Tjokorda Gde Agung Sukawati in being an exemplar of spiritual marketing. The question is whether the criteria of marketing 3.0 are fulfilled by marketing “spiritual tourism”.

 Photograph by Christine Colton