In a mall that features a full-scale amusement park and aquarium, there’s pressure on retailers to think outside the box. Or, in some cases, reinvent it entirely, as Best Buy did last summer. The electronics retailer built a “Tech House” in the middle of the Mall of America Rotunda. Visitors could tour room after room, to see the latest connected gadgets—drones, virtual reality, wearable tech, digital home security, etc. —in action, rather than packaged up on a shelf.
From Glass Houses to Pink Houses
Best Buy wasn’t the first big brand to build a “house” at the Mall. In 2011, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota created a glass apartment where a man actually lived on display for 30 days to demonstrate healthy eating and exercise.
Four years later, Air Wick constructed a home where visitors could experience its room fragrances in their natural setting. Lifestyle experts designed each room around a scent, from kitchen to family room.
Of course, the biggest Dreamhouse ever to take up residence at Mall of America was Barbie’s—a 30,000-square-foot attraction fans enjoyed visiting for two years running. For a time, Barbie also had a pop-up shop in the middle of the Mall.
Back in 2000, General Mills opened Cereal Adventure at MOA—an elaborate experiential marketing initiative that featured a two-story Lucky Charms slide, a lab where kids could learn how cereal is made, and a cereal bar that was a popular spot among morning Mall walkers during its three-year tenure.
Extreme? Sure! But this is Mall of America—home to the very first LEGO store (known as the Lego Imagination Center when it opened in 1992). Its 34-foot-tall LEGO robot and play tables make the store a destination for more than commerce. To stand out at the biggest mall in America, brands have got to think big.
That’s exactly what Verizon did with its first-ever Destination Store, which opened at Mall of America in 2013. Forget the standard mobile phone store. The Verizon Destination Store is a supersized tech playground complete with a panoramic screen guests can change by moving their hands and feet, and lifestyle zones where visitors can play DJ, take a virtual hike on a treadmill, or customize a phone case on the spot.
“We wanted to reinvent the customer experience—provide a place where customers could enjoy and experience our brand in ways they weren’t able to before,” Verizon spokeswoman Meagan Dorsch said. “We felt the vision and culture at Mall of America aligned with our vision for Verizon.”
Crayola felt the same, bringing the Crayola Experience +Store to Mall of America last year. Visitors can make their own crayons, bring their drawings to life on screen, see live shows, play on a climbing structure, get lunch at the café and shop an array of Crayola merchandise you won’t find elsewhere.
“Mall of America is known for being a fantastic family destination. So when the opportunity arose we were excited to take advantage of it,” said Victoria Lozano, Crayola’s senior vice president and general manager of attractions and retail. “We’ve had hundreds of thousands of families make colorful memories with us in our first year, and we’re looking forward to many more.”