Seeking to reach ad-weary consumers, brands are trading pop-up ads for pop-up experiences. Holiday parties (Ferrero Rocher), beer bashes (Bud Light), and the controversial covering of New York City’s subway in Nazi insignia (Amazon) all exemplify the experiential marketing trend. The latest is the Museum of Feelings, a Glade-sponsored exhibit “that reacts to emotions – and turns them into art.”
On weekends, as many as 3,000 visitors line up to visit the Museum, located in New York’s Battery Park City and open from November 24 through December 15. Will Smith’s son was reported to be inside when I visited, and the wait time was four hours.
The cube is divided into five “exhibits,” each intended to evoke a distinct emotion by combining a Glade scent with ambient lighting and sound. For example, the Calm “exhibit” features a thick, pink-tinted haze of Glade’s Lavender & Vanilla fragrance; the goal is to make visitors feel they are “walking among the clouds.” Staff explicitly encourage visitors to take photos and share them on social media with the hashtag #museumoffeelings.
Although those exhortations sometimes feel a bit heavy-handed, they appear to be working: the Museum hashtag has garnered almost 19,000 mentions on Instagram. All the visitors I talked to found out about the exhibit on social media, further testifying to the brand’s marketing savvy.
Unlike other brands in the Home Care sector, which lags behind other industries on social media – one in five Home Care brands has no Facebook presence whatsoever – Glade has invested extensively in social campaigns. Glade became the top Home Care brand on Facebook in terms of share of voice in 2014, generating roughly one of every five user interactions with brands in the category.
Glade is also one of the top 10 Home Care brands on Twitter and Instagram and has the fourth most popular brand channel on YouTube, where it has stacked up almost 25 million views with content that focuses on uplifting sentiments rather than household air freshener. The video “What Will Glade Inspire In You?” was the fifth most-watched brand video in L2’s Digital IQ Index: Home Care.
That theme of emotions over product extends to the Museum of Feelings. “If you go on social media or look at our TV advertisements, it’s not literal – here’s a cinnamon stick, here’s a slice of an apple. It’s about how fragrance makes you feel,” a Glade marketing representative explained.
But will this experiment pay off for Glade, especially with its cryptic connection to the brand? If no one knows the Museum was sponsored by Glade, will all those Instagram shares translate into Glade customers?
Critics have called the exhibit everything from “a confusing mix of ambient advertising and immersive art” to “something out of a second-rate Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.” David Ward, a senior historian at the National Portrait Gallery, told Smithsonian that the exhibit was “more like a massage parlor than a museum.” While visitors I talked to rated the experience more favorably, they were unaware of Glade’s role in creating it.
Brian and Alexis waited in the Retail Lounge to take an “emotionally generated” selfie. Regular museumgoers, they’d spent nearly three hours in line for the exhibit after reading about it on Instagram.
“It’s a different feel than the Met,” Brian said. “It’s definitely more interactive.”
Melodee, a Baruch College student, was impressed by the originality of the marketing tactic. But before finding out that the Museum was sponsored by Glade, she just had thoughts on the scents and visuals: “It was interesting. The scents were nice.”
Yet the Glade experience nails one aspect of a good marketing plan: it ends in commerce. The traditional brick-and-mortar shopping experience still accounts for 90% of all retail sales; testifying to that fact, the first batch of limited edition Glade candles available at the Retail Lounge sold out in less than a week. Priced at $9.95, the Instagram-ready white boxes have a more luxurious connotation than the brand’s typical packaging. As the Glade representative put it: “It’s not what you would see at the supermarket.”