The summer ahead is certainly not the one Maryellis Bunn, CEO and co-founder of the Museum of Ice Cream, envisioned — 2020 was supposed to be a growth year where the three-year-old brand explored international expansion and built its empire beyond its two locations in New York and San Francisco.
But like many businesses, particularly experiential venues that have built their brands around sensory marketing, the museum has had to rejigger its operations amid the pandemic. It began to see a fallout from consumers early on, as Asian travelers, normally a big component of the brand's customer base, dwindled during travel lockdowns.
One of the museum's highlights is a pool of "sprinkles" that visitors can jump into. The sprinkles are actually multi-colored resin pellets, and the museum has had to set up containment systems to try and stop the pellets from escaping into outside storm water systems.
After closing the company's doors temporarily in March, Bunn took time to pause before pivoting. She surveyed customers to find out what they wanted from the brand.
"Taking the time to learn and understand how to best change and pivot a location-based entertainment company — where our core mission is to bring people together and when you have a pandemic we have to do quite the opposite — how do you build those best practices," Bunn says on the latest episode of Ad Age's Marketer's Brief podcast. Advertising Age is a sister publication of Plastics News.
The museum has been offering digital ice cream classes during the lockdowns, and also created a "stay-home experience kit" that includes brand partnerships with companies including Happy Socks.
Now, as lockdowns begin to lift and businesses start to reopen, Bunn and her team are reimagining the Museum of Ice Cream's experience moving forward. She expects to offer new programming for both kids and adults, along with more sanitization and hygienic measures and smaller group sizes.
"We have many advantages due to our size," she said. "We've always been small groups going through the experience at once."
On the episode, Bunn also discusses the Museum of Ice Cream's response to the protests for racial equality occurring across the country. Last week, the brand highlighted black-owned ice cream shops on its digital channels. It also honored black individuals, including George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor and Eric Garner, with signage on its boarded-up storefront in SoHo storefront that led with "I scream for."