Brands and the Museumification of Everything

Museums and art galleries alike are renowned for being intimidating, boring, abnormally quiet “white spaces” that are filled with possessed guards who typically only talk to you if you mess up. The stern and unforgiving “do not touch the art” is a statement I have had awkwardly aimed towards me in both my child and adult years. Thankfully times are changing and what was once a rule that myself and many others were constantly tempted to overstep, has been replaced with an encouraging prompt to interact.

The museum and gallery experience is evolving with many contemporary institutions exhibiting immersive installations that overwhelm the senses and effortlessly translate into ideal Instagram pictures or snapchat stories — a millennials dream. The capitalisation on the power of social media within these spaces came clear to me when Brisbane’s modern art gallery GOMA, showcased a strange yet amazing three-story installation of psychedelic synthetic fibres exploding onto its walls. On opening weekend, my Instagram feed was completely overtaken by selfies of people climbing and embracing the muppet-like spectacle. Its viral nature allowed GOMA to be seen as one of the most exciting galleries in Australia and you bet I was there the following weekend with a meticulously chosen filter at the ready. Similarly in LA, the intriguing “Rain Room” exhibition at LACMA where it is completely sold out, has a powerful Instagram presence with more than 30,000 images and videos posted with the hashtag #rainroom (1). The irresistible participatory elements of these exhibitions ultimately make them more accessible to those who may feel not welcome in the highly conceptual art world, consequently engaging new audiences.

GOMA, Brisbane, 2016 — Icelandic artist Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir’s Nervescape V Exhibition

The popularity of large-scale, shareable installations on social media has inspired a number brands to move past product-focused marketing and offer consumers new immersive experiences with their brand, taking inspiration from the museum and gallery format. Here at the projects* we expect brands to capitalize on this emerging trend as a powerful opportunity to reach new audiences, create engaging content and offer unique touch-points for consumers.

“If you can make consumers walk through a museum, that’s more time than these brands have ever been able to engage their customers over the course of time..”
— Nicole Ferry, Partner and Executive Director of Strategy at brand engagement firm Sullivan, 2016.

The creative possibilities to captivate audiences who like myself may have the incessant need to interact both online and offline simultaneously, are endless. Here is a short breakdown of a number of inspiring brands who are telling their story beyond specific product attributes through museum-inspired formats, in turn building more meaningful perceptions amongst their consumers.

Kiehl’s x Zoolander

A cross promotional partnership made in heaven and one of the coolest activations I’ve ever seen that dealt with a really, really, really, serious matter. Transforming a landmark building in New York into the “Derek Zoolander Centre For People Who Don’t Age Good (DZCFPWDAG), Kiehl’s invited the public to master the art of “aging good” by walking through six large scale, shareable activations that allowed guests to discover and try Kiehl’s anti-aging products, whilst also immersing themselves in the iconic and hilarious world of Zoolander 2. The two brands humanised Kiehl’s personality and brought it to life in a way that was engaging and culturally relevant to consumers.

Glades Museum of Feelings

To breathe life into a 60-year old brand, Glade offered the public a new way to experience and understand their brand. Bringing emotions to life through scent and showcasing the connection between them, Glades created the Museum of Feelings. Inviting visitors on a walk-through exhibition to explore five multi-sensory rooms that highlighted five scents that represented five emotional states. Who knew candles and wax melts could be so inspiring. The campaign was not only the first museum that reacted to its visitors’ emotions and turned them into art, but also reminded people of the power of scent and allowed people to feel again with Glade.

FX Legion

One of my personal favourites is the immersive television pop-up method, overtaking the usual social media and street campaign. Earlier this year American cable channel FX Networks launched a museum-style immersive art exhibit featuring the work of four artists inside a Brooklyn warehouse. Dubbed the “Legion Where?House”, the gallery was used to promote and celebrate the new Marvel series television premiere. Fans were invited to enter a mind-bending gallery inspired by the fractured reality and unpredictable world of Legion, where installations challenged audiences and brought the unfathomable power of the series to life through art.

Refinery 29 + The Ice Cream Museum

Rather than buying digital ad space, brands are also embracing the notion of buying experiential advertising spaces within exhibitions to reach audiences collectively. Two defining examples of this are Refinery29’s 29 Rooms in New York and The Museum of Ice Cream in downtown LA. For a second year in a row during New York fashion week, Refinery29 took over a Brooklyn warehouse and brought to life a social media spectacle — a fashion and art funhouse, where several celebrities and brands sponsored interactive rooms, including the likes of Lady Gaga, Michael Kors, Ford and Google. It’s as close as you will get to selfie exercise. The type of exercise I’m totally down for. Obviously.

More recently, unless you have been living under a rock, The Museum of Ice Cream has also been taking over the social media arena, with pictures of guests swimming in sprinkles to giant popsicles melting into the walls. Ten candy-coloured galleries with ice-cream inspired art installations and samples of frozen goodness along the way — If this doesn’t speak to you on an emotional level, I don’t know what will. Tinder sponsored an installation with their own branding twist where attendees could answer a number of questions to then be given their ideal ice cream match. Dove Chocolate was also involved through sampling, and saw a 9% increase in sales in the one month the museum was open (2).

I will admit that although this type of marketing can create a whole lot of social media buzz, brands should not expect the efforts of an installation to go viral on its own. When executing immersive projects such as this, they need to be seen more as unique touch-point and platform for a brand to produce fresh, culturally relevant content for their audiences, that they too can instantly share on the ground. At the projects*, we believe that the strategic and creative marriage of art and marketing is a powerful means for businesses form deeper connections with their consumers. If you are interested in taking your experiential work to the next level in world where large-scale art installations and immersive environments reign supreme, please get in contact.

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