A Millennial Marketers Take on #29Rooms from Refinery29

Inside the Palace of Fine Arts, #29Rooms

Inside the Palace of Fine Arts, #29Rooms

#29Rooms is Refinery29’s exploration into connecting with their readers in an experiential way. #29Rooms is an annual funhouse of style, culture and creativity created by a group of global artists and visionaries. It launched in 2015 during NY Fashion Week and has expanded to major US cities, including San Francisco where I attended. You'll find food, drinks, music, singing, pictures, shredding, (temporary) tattoos, donating, boxing, painting, sharing (dreams and secrets) and more! To no one’s surprise, it didn’t take long to sell out. And when they released more tickets, it just built up the hype leading up to the show.

As a media company, it’s not surprising that the #29Rooms brand is on point. The name is geared towards millennials and ready to trend on Twitter. #29Rooms itself has over 100,000 followers on Instagram, their own merch line and a special Snapchat filter. Their branding is the perfect shade of millennial pink.

#29Rooms is one of a kind. Everything from the art, creativity and experiences is exciting and a must-see. It’s culturally relevant and inclusive. #29Rooms is a genius experience that marketers can take advantage of. I am a huge fan of creative marketing placements and experiential marketing. And #29Rooms combines them brilliantly. #29Rooms is an excellent creative placement for brands to showcase their creativity in front of a millennial crowd. Each of the 29 rooms was inspired and created in partnership with an artist, visionary or brand. Each room was unique and captivating in its own way. Each space had its own relevant story to tell. Jake Gyllenhaal, Haagen-Dazs, Planned Parenthood, Pure Leaf, A Simple Favor (Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively movie), Demi Lovato, Janelle Monae, Adobe, Emma Roberts, Laneige and more partnered with #29Rooms.

Experiential marketing is continuing to rise in popularity. Consumers “ are hungry for all things immersive,” said Karen Wong, deputy director of the New Museum. “It’s a byproduct of us spending an inordinate amount of time on our screens.” The fact that some people attend [#29Rooms] to plump up their own social media feeds is “bringing us full circle,” said Ms. Wong. Many many attendees did use #29Rooms to plump up their social media feed. Just look on any social platform, use the hashtag #29Rooms and you will find thousands of photos, which not only built awareness of the event, but also enhanced the #29Rooms brand. 

#29Rooms’ themes and partnerships were carefully approved to ensure they would fit within the space that Refinery29 was working to create. Some brands utilized their space at #29Rooms better than others.

One of the secrets I found in the room "Tell Us Your Secret"

One of the secrets I found in the room "Tell Us Your Secret"

The movie, A Simple Favor starring Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick is still building hype. Before the trailer dropped Blake Lively “deleted” everything on her Instagram, only followed people named Emily Nelson and changed her bio to “What happened to Emily?...”. A social media wipe is an increasingly popular tactic to build buzz by top-tier celebrities (Taylor Swift). And now the movie has its own room in #29Rooms. Inside the room, it had the fragmented profiles and voices of the main characters, Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick. It also had a large board where you could write your own secret, roll it up and put it on the board for other attendees to read after you leave. It was very memorable and tied well to the movie.

THE ROOM "TELL US YOUR SECRET"

THE ROOM "TELL US YOUR SECRET"

Haagen-Dazs had its own room where attendees could experience their new Trio Crispy Layers Ice Cream with a sample and a hanging column of caramel-colored (and scented) thread. Their current marketing efforts focus on trial, and this was a great opportunity to encourage trial. In the past, they’ve had brand ambassadors in San Francisco handing out samples of their new flavors. Their room put their new ice cream flavor top of mind, for when attendees go grocery shopping, stop by the ice cream aisle and can find the new Haagen-Dazs flavor they tried at #29Rooms.

The water works photo backdrop, featuring the laneige watermark

The water works photo backdrop, featuring the laneige watermark

Laneige had a fun “Water Works” photo backdrop with pink pool floaties and a photographer. They were giving out samples of one of their products, while you waited in line. Once your photos were taken by a professional photographer, they were sent to an iPad, where you could send yourself the photos. When the photos arrived in your inbox they were from Laneige, they had a watermark with Laneige’s logo and the #29Rooms logo and they automatically signed you up for their email list. Laneige had a thoughtful and well-executed plan for their time at #29Rooms.

Mastercard was a partner of #29Rooms and for cardholders, you could get a key at the beginning of the event and use it to skip to the front of the line for one room. Maybe it encouraged loyalty to current cardholders, but it did nothing to enhance their brand or to encourage trial. It also brought minimal awareness compared to the other partners of #29Rooms. 

Overall, I take away a lot of creative inspiration and desire for more things experiential and expressive. My advice to #29Rooms as a consumer, do not let so many people in at once. It dampers the experience and does not leave enough time to experience all of the rooms when you are waiting in line for the majority of the event. My advice as a marketer to brands, take advantage! All attendees left with no less than 50 photos that are sure to be shared across their social media accounts. Let your brand be featured in one of them. 

Crafting the Ideal O2OPUS (Online-to-Offline Pop Up Shop)

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I’m a huge fan of the O2O (online-to-offline) revolution; even if the acronym has drawn some criticism.  What I really love is when it manifests in the form of a pop-up shop or O2OPUS (now there’s an abbreviation truly deserving of condemnation).  Like so many, I’m a sucker for the whole “here today, gone tomorrow” concept.  I mean who doesn’t want to be one of the lucky few to experience something truly unique (Instagramable at that)?  Regretfully, many of the pop-ups I’ve paid a visit were a serious letdown. 

Rather than list their failings, I’m instead going to outline what I think would be the ideal. 

  • The theme
  • The experience
    • Immersive!  This trend may be relatively new (to fitness as well bricks-and-mortar retail), but imagine something like this:
      • The storefront will display live athletes (defined using Nike’s description) performing their best moves, compelling just about everyone passing by to stop, look and imagine doing something like that themselves.
      • Once inside, using virtual assistants of sorts (with a personalized temperament of course), patrons will be led through a gallery-like obstacle course.  It begins with a curated assortment of pre-workout essentials: supplements, muscle rollers, wearable tech.  Everything on display can be taken for a test spin.  And everything will be long tail stuff - things typically only found on Amazon or other online shops (devices and such that many would never consider buying unless they could physically check it out first). 
      • Next visitors will get into the zone with whichever activities they’d like (one level of “the course” could feature high intensity interests such as kickboxing or HIIT, while another could showcase more flexibility pursuits such as yoga and aerial silks).  No matter the level or activities selected, all senses will be stimulated.  The heat goes up a few degrees, the music subtly gets a little louder, and the lighting changes to what’s most arousing given the activities.  Gear, apparel, etc., again things usually only sold online, will all be on display/available for purchase, and demo-able via virtual reality (the ultimate try-before-you-buy experience).    
      • The course finishes with recovery. The temperature, music and lights return to a soothing level; infrared therapies, electric muscle stimulators, even a lifestyle café serving up samples of whey protein shakes and enhanced waters, are all on hand.  And now with the course complete patrons can proceed to checkout (or the exit). 
      • At any point along the journey guests can tell their virtual assistant what they’d like to buy or what their reactions/initial thoughts were to something (and an aggregate of observations/transactions will always be available on the device for reference). As visitors go to leave, they can physically inspect their selections, which will be waiting for them near the exit, opt out of purchasing some (or all) of their choices, then simply confirm payment (credit card, PayPal, Google Pay, even cash).   
  • The assortment

I’d love to hear your thoughts - on my ideal O2OPUS and the brands found inside - or on one of your own O2OPUS concepts.