Insta Happy

Think about your “happy place”. What comes to mind? Lying in a beach chair, toes in the sand, a gentle ocean breeze cooling off a hot summer day while you sip the frozen drink of your choice? Riding a chair lift slowly to the top of a mountain, glancing down at all the fresh powder you’re about to tear up? When I think about mine it definitely falls closer to the beach fantasy. But how about a happy place centered solely around getting the perfect Instagram.

I know we’ve all seen at least one picture from a pop up art exhibit centered around getting the perfect, trendy Instagram your followers will be jealous they don’t have on their feed. I know I’ve seen quite a couple Instagrams from the Museum of Ice Cream, pictured below, consisting of sprinkle baths, hanging bananas and more pink in one room than you could imagine. Taylor Swift held her own pop up exhibit in New York City in the winter of 2017 following the release of her album Reputation. While both of these experiences were created to commemorate certain things there was also a heavy social media drive behind their existence.

These trends usually taper off depending on how often a new pop up starts flooding Instagram. I became re-interested recently when I saw a tweet in our #IS6621 thread that shared that one of these pop up exhibitions would be coming to Boston in just a little bit. The “Happy Place” wasn’t something I had heard of before but immediately got into searching all social platforms to get a look into what they had to offer. Being the YouTube nerd I am, I had to check out any and every vlog and review from consumers experience at this so called “happy place” to find out if it was worth it.

Tickets are necessary to enter the Happy Place and $35 seems a bit of a lofty price to pay for an Instagram picture for your feed. I’m guilty of posting Instagrams from highly sought out spots, most recently the Wynwood Walls in Miami, however it’s completely free to walk around and take pictures. In an interview with the founder of the Museum of Ice Cream, Maryellis Bunn, she explains that millennials crave experiences over material objects, using them as status social symbols. She states “Experiences are pure. But a photo of yourself experiencing something – even if it only exists as pixels on your phone – is a thing, a thing people want. And it’s a thing they’ll pay extravagantly for.” Users are looking for the picture perfect moment to distinguish themselves from their peers and give their profile that small social edge.

These interactive exhibitions have created a profitable platform completely surrounded around one simple thing – selfies. While doing more research into how these types of business remain profitable I was opened up to a level of business I hadn’t even realized existed – the pop up economy. With the amount of content we sift through daily, marketers have to turn to new avenues to advertise consumers and through pop up style events and shops they can offer a unique hands-on experience that a 30 second ad may not offer. Depending on target audience, brands can use these events as organic advertisement campaigns where users do all of the work, coaxing other consumers into visiting the shop to be a part of the trend. And, with such limited run dates consumers feel more desire to go collect a unique experience that anyone who wasn’t around for those two weeks would never have.

Not only has this changed the marketing world, the real estate industry has been flooded with a wave of ultra-short leases for business and events like these. A company, Splacer, focuses solely in creating what they describe as an “Airbnb for event spaces” helping brands find short term spaces for projects they want to roll out. As brick-and-mortar continues to die, space is expensive and companies are turning to e-commerce with unique pop-up consumer experiences more than ever.

The “museums” began not founded in profit and selfie driven moments, but human experiences used to bring people together over a shared interest in the art and the beauty of the exhibits. A few owners and creators have said that often their goal is just to break even as it’s not that profitable of a business but they love sharing their art so it doesn’t matter. Jordan Ferney, the inventor of the Color Factory another pop up art museum, stated “It was really important to me it wasn’t just a set,” she said. “You work so hard and all people write is, ‘It’s an Instagram museum!’”

While the pop up economy has shifted from its beginning roots in art over profitability, I think from a marketers’ perspective it’s the new way to do advertising. Delegating typical social media campaign funding, such as paying influencers and doing brand deals, into unique spaces for consumers to interact hands-on will generate better brand awareness and dependability. Social media is the perfect way to let consumers do the work for you and creating spaces dedicated to users and their experiential nature could continue on an upward trajectory of profitability.

I’m always a fan of a good ‘gram opportunity and may have to stop by to see if all the hype is worth it. If this piqued your interest too, the shop opens up on April 5th in Boston and you can decide for yourself if this is truly a “happy place”. So, are you gonna go?


  1. shannonbenoit5 · ·

    This is such an interesting phenomenon. I completely agree that it’s a great business model and marketing technique, especially because, as you pointed out, the visitors have to do the work themselves! I think it’s great when people value experiences over things, but when people go somewhere or do something only for the picture or the instagram, it’s really not for the experience, which I don’t love. Not that I haven’t been guilty of going somewhere and wanting to get a good picture of it, but paying $35 just for an instagram seems a little absurd to me. I have no doubt it will be successful though!

  2. jlrose03 · ·

    I’m so glad you wrote about this topic specifically! I’ve been seeing a lot of grams and even NYTimes’ pieces showcase these experiences of “material objects”. NYC started with a variety of them from the Museum of Ice Cream which started out as just a pop-up exhibit and is now opening a permanent venue ( Furthermore, I’ve seen this trend of pop-up events in Museums including the Whitney that is featuring a FREE Andy Warhol exhibit (Members – Free, Non-Members – $25), to the Wynwood Malls in Miami mentioned above. I think these “experiences” are what millennials crave and what better way to catch their attention on Instagram to immediately sign up!

  3. Jaclin Murphy · ·

    Now this is interesting. I’ve been thinking about when our generation is old what will people look back and think. Will this and other crazy social media/influencer trends persist (or become more extreme) or will 40 years from now people view this as a weird social experiment? I can’t say for sure. But as far as things go, I think the idea of the Happy Place is harmless. So people want a good insta, are willing to pay $35, and a brand could potentially market off of this. More power to them. I think this is the type of thing that would be cool to experience once. But seeing as I am not an influencer I cannot see a normal person paying to do this again and again. I’m curious to see what will happen with the Boston version!

  4. Really nice post. A student actually did their presentation (or a blog) on the ice cream museum a couple of years back. Somewhat surprised that they’re still around and apparently doing reasonably well.

  5. dancreedon4 · ·

    I agree that $35 is a lofty price for the “perfect” Instagram, I am willing to bet people have spent hundreds and even thousands for the likes. When you mentioned “airbnb for event spaces” it immediately reminded me of the party (part one) I went to this weekend for my cousins 30th at Bow Market in Somerville. ( ) The room was perfect for my cousin as she is the artsy type and I assume the booking worked similar to that of an airbnb type of event space. In the few spots in the Seaport where they aren’t building, there are also seasonal pop-up shops which are Instagram worthy. Very well-written post!

  6. I know $35 is definitely a lot for an insta worthy picture, but I know plenty of people who spend a whole lot more than that. I think you get at a great point. For a lot of people the investment isn’t about the gram alone, but rather the experience, and the ability to document that experience to be the envy of your friends. I know my girlfriend uses her Instagram as a way of documenting all of her travels and links a story behind each picture when I see them. I mean it’s not a horrible thing that they’re paying for the experience, but it is horrible if they’re only paying for the picture. Personally, I don’t get all caught up in finding the perfect place to get the perfect picture, but my girlfriend definitely does. She’ll do hours of research just to find the perfect spot for a pic every time she comes up to visit me. I guess this form of the pop up economy provides everyone with the feeling of an exclusive, Insta worthy experience all for the low price of $35 compared to a plane ticket and a hotel. Definitely playing to a hole in the market! Smart call on their part!

  7. debhan10 · ·

    I totally agree that millennials crave experiences over material objects, using them as status social symbols. I think it’s a very intriguing idea, because it only became possible with the rise of social media. We now tend to do certain things just for the sake of having that one good photo to show everyone what we did or where we went. I found the YouTube video to be quite humorous because it captured quite accurately what’s going on behind-the-scenes. It’s a plain, ordinary loft with certain areas that are extravagantly decorated, but there’s really nothing glamorous about it, apart from these “picture-perfect” corners. With all this being said, I guess you could call me a hypocrite because I think I would still be willing to pay the $35 to attend these exhibits. It’s a fun date spot! It’s something you don’t get to experience on a daily basis, which is what makes it so enticing. I also thought the pop-up economy which you mentioned was super interesting. I’ve seen various popups for Warby Parker, The Daily Harvest, Proof Collective, etc. It’s an effective way to market your brand and interact with new consumers without having to commit to long-time investment. I’m all for it. Great post!!

  8. cgriffith418 · ·

    Interesting that the founder of the Museum of Ice Cream says millennials crave experiences over material objects, and that experiences are now a status symbol, since it’s really the photo of the experience that people want, which is material. Rather than “can you afford a Chanel bag,” it’s “can you afford to fly to New York, stay in a hotel, spend a day going to the Museum of Ice Cream and hanging out in SoHo.” But of course, you’re not just going to talk about doing all of those things, you’re going to post the photo. Therefore, I think she’s wrong in saying they want experiences; they just want the material thing that comes out of the experience. Unless you can be 100% satisfied with going and doing something without ever posting a posting of it or publishing any evidence that you did it, I don’t think you can say you went purely for the experience. I think it won’t be long before the next Instagram photoshopping scandal is about putting yourself in a place/experience you never really were, instead of changing the look of your body.

  9. masonpeterman · ·

    This is such an interesting concept that is really new to later generations. With the proliferation of media it’s true that everybody is chasing the perfect picture to show others that they live a unique and interesting life. Whatever the intent of those attending, these events are a really cool opportunity for artists to make a quick splash as well as for companies to create cool experiences to promote their products/services. It’s really interesting what a small piece of art can do to attract people. I know restaurants that painted a large mural of wings on the side of their building, and subsequently people were constantly taking instagrams with it and then eating inside. People will do anything for a perfect picture, and if businesses can offer fun experiences to provide that opportunity, it’s a great way to promote themselves. It’s very interesting to see such a tangible reactive shift in marketing to the age of social media and instagram. It will be interesting to see what they come up with next. Great post!

  10. licarima · ·

    I have never heard of the this concept or knew it was quite a trend. This is a very cool way for marketers and vendor to test the market. I would agree that I am starting to see a shift in millennials craving experience over object, although this is not the case all the time, there has been an increased attention on capturing your experience with social media. I can count the amount of times my first have asked me to go like their instas. The Airbnb for event space is also an awesome idea!

  11. cynmzfigueroa · ·

    Wait I’m so glad you posted about this. I’ve been getting served Happy Place Boston ads for the past few weeks wondering what exactly I was being sold and this makes sense now. I guess I’m a bit surprised that people are into this? Just reading the tech fitness blog article, I made a comment how some of the concepts presented felt like they were just modernizing infomercial products. Here I feel like Happy Place is modernizing your old school photo studios. Remember those Sears back in the day where you took your family portraits with this as the background? Someday we’ll all look back to our 2010’s photos and all have the same iteration of a giant cookie background.

  12. I really enjoyed these pop ups as well. I visited both the Ice Cream Museum and the Candytopia ones in San Francisco during winter break. They were really fun for my entire family to visit. I also watched an interview with the creator where he described these phenomenons replacing standard museums and the typical “mall experience.” John Goodman the founder is a retail veteran and used to be the CEO of mall staple Wet Seal. He brought the retail background and captured people’s attentions. I totally agree this is a great opportunity for marketing especially when big name celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Wiz Khalifa are endorsing the location.

%d bloggers like this: