Will the Museum of Ice Cream Survive the Coronavirus?

Gisella Tan
The Startup
Published in
11 min readApr 3, 2020

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Source: Museum of Ice Cream

The Museum of Ice Cream — the pinnacle of younger generations’ frothy “experience economy” — might not survive the coronavirus.

If you’re unfamiliar with the cultural phenomenon of MOIC, Instagram probably isn’t your go-to social media platform. Contrary to its name, MOIC is not a museum, nor is there a strong relationship to the sweet dessert. Instead, it’s a photoshoot-friendly exhibit — multi-sensory, interactive, hyper-visual — consisting of brightly-colored rooms with technicolor popsicles, hanging bananas, or the public’s favorite: a giant pool of sprinkles.

When MOIC launched in New York City as a summer pop-up in 2016, it sold more than 300,000 tickets — worth around $5.4 million — in its first five days. Since then, it has landed a permanent location in San Francisco and expanded its NYC venue to a 25,000-square-foot space. The “Instagram aesthetic” has become synonymous with MOIC’s millennial pink walls and quirky backdrops; after all, it was a “spectacle worthy of the finest Instagram filter.

When I visited MOIC a few years ago, I felt a little embarrassed. With only 340 Instagram followers, I’m far from being an avid social media user, despite being Gen Z. I sometimes use the term “#basic” disparagingly to describe devoted Instagrammers with highly curated feeds. But, as a marketer whose clients were struggling to stand out from the oversaturated digital space, my curiosity about the potential of experiential marketing mounted. I paid almost $90 for two tickets (!) and dragged my unwilling partner along for some answers.

Standing awkwardly in an overwhelmingly pink antechamber decorated with signs reading “My Ice-Cream Name Is Kim Carbdashian” and “My Ice-Cream Name Is BaChoc Obama,” I observed the giddy excitement from the selfie-takers in my group. They shamelessly, yet expertly, posed with each new prop or backdrop — lips pouted, backs arched, toes pointed — while their friends and partners crouched low and stretched high, phones and cameras nonstop snapping.

I left with a camera roll of mediocre pictures courtesy of my lighting-illiterate partner, which garnered 1 Instagram post that gained a satisfactory number of likes (40, in my case). My interest in MOIC began to wane as experiential marketing became more…

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Gisella Tan
The Startup

I write about Gen Z, marketing, Hong Kong, and my immigrant identity. Email: gisellatanx@gmail.com