With its bright pink walls, giant crystal chandelier and ball pit, Rosé Mansion provides a perfect backdrop for Instagram. That’s the point.
The colorful, interactive celebration of the popular pink wine is one in an explosion of pop-up experiences and retail spaces designed for the carefully curated social media age.
No matter your interest, someone’s probably started a selfie-worthy pop-up to celebrate it. Eggs. Candy. Ice cream. Even avocados and pizza. (But, so far, no avocado pizza.) Visitors shell out as much as $45 apiece to get into Rosé Mansion, Museum of Ice Cream, Color Factory and other hotspots in cities like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami. Each one provides plenty of opportunities to snap photos all but guaranteed to rack up the likes.
Although an experience dedicated to trendy wine or ice cream might seem silly, the people behind them have leveraged social media platforms like Instagram to generate excitement and keep people coming in. That’s a valuable lesson conventional businesses and even museums and other nonprofits could learn from.
“Brands and organizations want to take advantage of the fact that consumers are sharing more photos today than ever before, and create business models or tap into that idea to achieve their own objectives,” said Jane Fisher, director of specialty retail at research firm L2.
The Rosé Mansion
Rosé Mansion totally gets that. It channels all the best things about a museum, an amusement park and a bar. Visitors can frolic in a ball pit, sit on an oversized throne fit for royalty, guess the aromas on a giant scratch-n-sniff wall, and, of course, sip wine as they learn more about rosé.
Visitors especially love the pink flamingo booth, a space the size of a fitting room filled with plastic flamingos, palm leaves and flowers attached to the walls. They also line up to snap selfies while swinging from a chandelier with a backdrop of maroon velvet drapery. A bathtub surrounded by fake ivy garlands and flower petals proved so popular that the founders added a second one.
The exhibit opened in July, is slated to run through October 21, and has sold out almost daily. Tyler Balliet, a wine industry veteran who has organized wine festivals and educational events, cofounded the pop-up with Morgan First.
“If people just want to come and just take a photo and have a glass of wine and leave, that’s totally fine by me,” Balliet said. “[But] it’s my hope that they get at least a little nugget of information before they head out.”
The Rosé Mansion makes learning fun, too. A room that looks like something out of ancient Rome – complete with a chaise lounge where you can sip wine – tells you that the Romans were the first to combine food and wine in a social setting. Other lessons reveal that rosé is pressed from the same grapes used to make red varietals, and champagne was once twice as sweet as Coca-Cola. (Fun fact, according to Rosé Mansion: the British wanted a drier version of the sparkling wine, which the French called “Brut” to poke fun at what they considered the brutish tastes of the British.)
The educational aspect was enough to win over Laura DeLaurentis, a 29-year-old publicist who recently visited the Rosé Mansion with friends. “I thought it was adorable,” she said. “You got to taste different wines and they had some fun educational elements to it, so that really sold it for me.”
Making spaces Instagramable
Beyond playing a role in marketing, social media influenced the design of Rosé Mansion. When they planned each room, “we really wanted to think about ‘Where do people want to take photos? What kinds of things do people want to share?’” Balliet said. “But then at the same time, we wanted educational moments in every single room as well.”
Balliet takes that last bit seriously, and pushes back against the characterization that the Rosé Mansion and pop-up experiences like it are simply selfie playgrounds or an “Instagram museum.”
“Social media is the way people share things in the world we live in today. This is the way people talk about things,” he said. “I think [that criticism] is a really easy way to hate on young people. What’s wrong with taking photos of you and your friends?”
Only about 31,000 people follow Rosé Mansion on Instagram – a small footprint compared to the average of 3 million or so that follow the top 100 brands on L2’s specialty retail list. Victoria’s Secret leads the bunch with a whopping 61 million followers on Instagram.
Despite the relatively small audience of followers, Rosé Mansion can tap visitors to amplify its message and draw new customers. It says people most often learn about the place through friends who post photos on Instagram using hashtags like #rosemansion. “It’s much more of a grassroots approach,” says Fisher, the retail expert at L2.
At first glance, it looks like Color Factory in New York took a page from the same playbook. The pop-up, which celebrates the “discovery, serendipity, and generosity of color,” looks ready-made for Instagram and Snapchat.
Although Color Factory insists it is not a museum, it seems a bit like one. Artists like Lakwena Maciver and Jason Polan created installations especially for the pop-up. One exhibit features a decision-making flow chart on the floor that eventually leads you to a small room dedicated to the color that suits you best (Blue for me). There’s a light-up dance floor, a giant baby blue ball pit and a room where you stare at a stranger across the glass and compliment them using colors.
The experience features cameras throughout the space, and photography is encouraged. Scan a QR code on a card you receive upon entry and the cameras snap your photo and email it to you.
Still the people behind the pop-up say selfies aren’t their focus. A Color Factory spokesperson said it strives to deliver “high-quality art that has an impact.”
That may be, but retailers can learn from places like Color Factory. Incorporating a bit of whimsy through fun, photo-worthy features like colorful spaces, branded mirrors, neon signs, and photo booths generates brand awareness and attracts customers. Some brands, like makeup company Glossier, have already successfully tapped into this with their retail experiences.
“Designing physical retail formats or pop-up events that are Instagram-friendly is definitely a smart approach,” said L2’s Fisher. “Brands are struggling to recapture foot traffic and really asking themselves what the future of retail looks like.”
It’s not just retailers who can draw inspiration from places like the Museum of Ice Cream.
“Traditional museums are watching and learning and in many cases innovating themselves,” said Laura Lott, president of the American Alliance of Museums. “[They] see the power of social media and people sharing their excitement with their networks and what that can do for that organization’s reputation, brand and future attendance.”
That said, you probably won’t see a ball pit or flamingo booth at the Metropolitan Museum of Art anytime soon.