I went to the Museum of Feelings last week. My friend and I (along with many others) spent over 2 hours in line for the event. When security cut off the line, people offered us money (even offered to venmo us on the spot) if we would let them cut the line to where we were.

The best part about this? It’s an ad. 

The entire exhibit is put on by Glade (the air freshener brand) in an attempt to connect feelings with scent. At the end of the museum experience you can even buy limited edition Glade candles.

Instead of feeling duped, I’m in awe. Brands spend so much time and money hoping to get an ounce of attention from consumers, and here you have New Yorkers waiting in line for hours (which most of us won’t even do for a trendy restaurant) to see an ad.

Props to Glade.

But more importantly, how did they do it?  Here are some of my takeaways:

  1. Tapping into the experience economy

The experience economy is nothing new, and neither are brand+experience collaborations. Retailers are taking note by turning their stores into engagement centers. At Pirch, an appliance store, you can try out showerheads and make free lattes while salespeople tell you about your potential kitchen. Warby Parker recently held make your own button events where they enticed people to their store with the idea of making free buttons in store. Brands also work themselves into popular experiences in ways like sponsoring an event or music festival.

The thing to note about the Museum of Feelings is that you didn’t feel sold. When you go to an event at a retailer, it’s pretty obvious they want to sell you something. And brand sponsorships at events are often awkward attempts to throw a brand into an otherwise authentic experience (ie, the Honda Stage at a music festival).

When you go through the Museum of Feelings, you get sold on the idea of feelings&scent, but the Glade brand is not shoved in your face at every second. Instead, museum goers get what they came for: an immersive experience. Glade then pops in at the end to show you how to buy the scents for your home.

2. Root strategy in a strong insight. Also known as: Why should people even care?

You can’t just put on an event and hope people will show up. This goes back to planning 101: finding a tension people care about. And what can induce more feelings of tension than feelings themselves? At the root of every person is a desire to understand how to control their feelings (who hasn’t felt this way after a breakup?). Learn to control your feelings, and be happier more of the time. It’s why Coke’s Open Happiness resonates. With that in mind, The Museum of Feelings is a pretty good value proposition.

Plus, Pixar’s Inside Out already validated people’s interest in feelings.

3. Don’t ignore design

Sure, a lot of content that goes viral these days is cheaply produced, on-the-fly style work. And if you capitalize on a strong insight (see above) you can gain popularity that way. But it’s also true that design (and really, user experience) plays a huge role in how people choose to engage with your content. If you have the funds, it pays to invest in design. The NYTimes redesign (and specifically their mobile experience for their article on the Whitney Museum) increased my usage of the product. Oscar health insurance is another company whose entire value proposition is around improving the experience of health insurance. Are Oscar’s health plans actually good? Not sure. But the redesigned experience has certainly caught the eye of investors.

Back to the Museum of Feelings. Their website is clean and interactive, and the actual event space is a glowing box that can leave other NYC museums envious.

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The colors of the museum actually change with the mood of New York City, via a social algorithm that reads into New Yorker’s tweets. On the inside of the museum, everything has been given strong attention to detail, from the various emotion rooms, to the futuristic outfits worn by museum guides.

The design of the building alone caught my interest, and gives the Museum of Feelings some credibility in a space dominated by big names.

4. Be social, not fake

Hash-tagging campaigns is standard practice these days. But I am pretty sure that most people do not share most campaign hashtags. People will share what they want to, not what you ask them to.

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My Instagram from the exhibit

The guides at the Museum of Feelings encourage you to share, but it’s not necessary because the entire experience is designed to make you want to share. The lights and sounds are Instagram worthy, and the museum guides seemed trained to wait for attendees to finish recording their Snap-stories before moving people along to the next room.

At the end of the event was a room with big photobooth-style cameras where you could pose with friends and have your image sent to you via email (and now Glade has my email..).

 

5. Comms planning > Media Planning

Instead of a massive blanket media spend, the Museum of Feelings came up at just the right moments. A Facebook event appeared in my feed after a friend said they were attending, and I unintentionally gave the Museum of Feelings extra media when I clicked ‘I’m interested.’ I also saw their ads on the NYC subway station near my apartment in Soho (close to the event as well).

The Museum of Feelings also stayed relevant with real time content, in the form of aforementioned tweets which monitor the mood of NYC.

6. Ads for an ad improve the perceived value of the advertised ad

This technique is perfected by Superbowl advertisers, where brands have built so much anticipation for ads that they release teasers for their ads which will run during the Superbowl. On the one hand, this is kind of silly. But on the other, it reframes ads from ads to content. If an ad has a teaser, it has to be good, right? Which means I am more likely to sit down and pay attention to an ad with a teaser.

The Museum of Feelings is an ad, which means that the ads for the Museum of Feelings are all ads for an ad. But they are done so well that you do not even realize you are seeing an ad for an ad. Instead, I (and many other New Yorkers who found themselves in the Museum of Feelings lines) saw these ads for an ad and thought, wow that sounds cool. And then we paid attention to an even bigger ad. Dammit.

7. Build a landing page with value

Much like hashtags, landing pages are also quite popular with ad campaigns these days. For events such as the Museum of Feelings, the landing page can advertise the event online and serve as a hub of information. But if most the information on the landing page is the same as the event information on Facebook, what’s the point in sending people to the landing page? Why not let customers stay in the platform they are using instead of pushing them to some site? Especially since Facebook at least lets people share the event directly with friends. Unless, of course, you can create value for both yourself and the customer by sending them to a landing page. Which the Museum of Feelings did quite well.

The Museum of Feelings site comes with an interactive feature, the mood lens, where online visitors can take a selfie and record their voice and have the site read their mood. I got Peaceful. From there, visitors can share their mood lens with friends. As a visitor, I both received value from the site (entertainment, my mood reading, cute selfie) and shared the event with friends. I can also check out the ‘Living Gallery’ where they show off the current mood environment of the world based off online selfies. Net: this is a landing page worth leaving Facebook for.

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Now, the Museum of Feelings has caught some flack for duping customers into a Glade ad, but overall I think the experience/ad is fabulous. My friends and I did not really care that it was sponsored (after all, it was free) because we enjoyed the event, it was unique, and we did not have products thrown in our face (until the end).

The Museum also hints at the future of advertising. As I have (hopefully) made clear above, the future of advertising is not just about leveraging experiences, but about being thoughtful in regards to giving your customers the right experience.

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