Amidst the retail slowdowns in traditional storefront locations, the Museum of Ice Cream has found a golden ticket.

Swimming pools filled with sprinkles, ice cream sandwich swings, waffle-coned walls and more have been dominating social feeds since MoIC first opened in Manhattan the summer of 2016. The Museum of Ice Cream sold 30,000 tickets their first week in business, leaving 200,000 freezing in the waitlist. When they opened in San Francisco a year later, tickets were sold out in 18 minutes. A favorite destination for celebrity family outings and Webby Award Winner for Best Overall Social Presence in 2018, the Museum of Ice Cream has achieved a massive amount of success in a short period of time.

How the MoIC success is relevant to your brand

What Museum of Ice Cream strategies can a brand employ and adapt to their own business? Experimental, physical, and sensory experiences that are seamlessly integrated with Instagrammable, social media friendly moments are reinvigorating and redefining retail. In other words, brick and mortar business is alive, and it's giving way to new, connective experiences.

Doug Stephens, the founder of Retail Prophet and author of "Reengineering Retail: The Future of Selling in a Post-Digital World" is confident that the store is an enduring force in today's market. Stephens claims, "Stores are the most powerful, measurable, manageable form of media that a brand has at its disposal. While the world becomes more and more virtual, people are increasingly craving physical experiences."

Here's the takeaway: "Stores can't be just about distributing products." Instead, "they need to be about distributing experiences - less stores, more stories."

MoIC Founder Maryellis Bunn was also inspired by the universality of stories when creating her museum. Bunn says that "everyone has an ice-cream story...Food is a language which we all understand. When you have something as simple as ice cream, it's something that's really happy and it brings people together in a way that's unexpected."

Understand the consumer journey and the connected consumer mindset

The Museum of Ice Cream is a great example of how the consumer journey, fragmented as it is now, can still be used to build brand awareness. The connected consumer of today interacts with brands in an omnidirectional fashion, not the traditional one-directional. For instance, the consumer who purchased a ticket for the Museum of Ice Cream's grand opening in New York arrives at the brand differently than the consumer who bought a ticket after seeing pictures of Beyonce and Blue Ivy's visit on Instagram. This is what defines the journey of the connected consumer: options, and multiple touch points.

Creative variations

Another trend that sets the Museum of Ice Cream up for success is their ability to deliver variety within their established theme and aesthetic. MoIC modifies their exhibits with every new pop-up location. For example, the San Francisco Museum of Ice Cream featured new installations such as the "Mint Jungle" and "Carnival."

We also should look at how MoIC works with the city they pop-up in. In addition to showcasing new rooms at the San Francisco Museum of Ice Cream, MoIC partnered with popular San Francisco ice cream brands, integrating them into the experience. This kind of collaboration is extremely savvy. Not only does the Museum of Ice Cream present itself as a new destination, but one that understands and participates in the existing, local culture.

Creative iterations

Brands can also learn from the Museum of Ice Cream's continual expansion in the form of creative iterations. MoIC returned to New York this past summer to open the "Pint Shop," offering new photo opportunities with educational experiments and tasting diversions. As specified in the press release, "the initiative re-envisions the grocery store, enabling a hyper-sensory experience." It is also where the MoIC debuted their own line of ice cream. Maryellis Bunn explains, "New York's museum was like a beta iteration... then in L.A., San Francisco, Miami, each one continues to evolve."

Bunn recognized a pain point regarding the difficulty of securing tickets to the museum. The Pint Shop, "free and open to the public," is a creative resolution. Bunn and her museum value inclusivity, and she wanted the Pint Shop to reflect that.

Now MoIC ice cream and apparel are available nationwide at Target. It seems only likely that the Museum of Ice Cream will continue to gain traction, visibility, and positive reception from consumers of all ages.

Food for thought

The Museum of Ice Cream took a simple, accessible, idea and transformed it into a wildly successful franchise. Any business can look to the creative agility of the Museum of Ice Cream for inspiration on how to build a brand that attracts enthusiastic, engaged, and ever-loyal consumers.

Published on: Nov 21, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.