Branding À La Mode: Target and the Museum of Ice Cream

The Target sponsorship of the 2018 installation of the pop-up Museum of Ice Cream in New York is branding à la mode – something good on top of something good!

Branding À La Mode: Target and the Museum of Ice Cream - Howard Davidson

The social-media friendly “Museum” of Ice Cream was first unpacked in 2016. It’s a selfie-taker’s dream. Its elaborate ice-cream-themed sets allow visitors (at $38 a pop) to photograph themselves in their sundae best, then post to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Except this experience is a brand experience.

Minnesota-based Target has always been an experience-friendly retailer, building events around new fashions by designers such as Missoni and Lilly Pulitzer. But its younger-moms-with-money audience is hip to posting pics of themselves and their kinder all over social media (or sharing them by text). So Tarjay-ing young Jackson and Zoe just puts the cherry on top.

Now add Museum of Ice Cream at retail. First, there’s tasty apparel and accessories like gummy bear graphic tees, banana-patterned separates, and pastel roller skates. Of course there’s ice cream, with flavors like Nana Banana, Cherrylicious, Chocolate Crush, Churro Churro, Vanillionaire, Piñata, and Sprinkle Pool.  (No, not strippers. Ice cream flavors.)

Meanwhile, The Museum of Ice Cream is just the latest in what seems like 31 flavors of giant-photo-set-slash-ersatz-museums that are clicking with millennial consumers. There’s CADO, the “avocado-based pop-up art experience.” Some are sweet on Candytopia, a “sprawling sanctuary of confectionary bliss.” Funko, the manufacturer of funky licensed dolls, lets visitors to its Everett, WA headquarters photograph themselves in a Funko Batmobile or with a Funko Godzilla while lining up to buy.

It’s a strategy that works – the Museum of Ice Cream is a Webby winner. And it lets customers interact with brands in a fun and sharable way. (Sort of like unprotected sex.)

So – what’s next? What will Kotex photograph visitors walking through when it opens a Museum of Feminine Hygiene? On which cuts of beef will visitors sprawl at the Cattlemen’s Beef Board? Will traditional museums make themselves more social-media aware, mocking up Munch’s “The Scream,” Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus,” or Leonardo’s “The Last Supper” for selfies? Can music stores regain relevance in rooms where customers are photographed with Lady Gaga or a Coldplay album (I kind of see myself on Viva La Vida)?

The social media environment is the perfect place for brands and customers to meet. All you need is a brand, a story, and a customer with a camera.

Howard Davidson


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