CMO of the Week: The Museum of Ice Cream’s Erin Levzow

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After serving as VP of marketing technology for Del Taco, Erin Levzow didn’t know it could get better than selling tacos. That is until she was hired as the chief marketing officer of The Museum of Ice Cream. Her new mission: selling the joy of ice cream.

After serving as VP of marketing technology for Del Taco, Erin Levzow didn’t know it could get better than selling tacos. That is until she was hired as the chief marketing officer of The Museum of Ice Cream. Her new mission: selling the joy of ice cream.

“There was a lot of happiness in selling tacos, I didn't know how I was going to top that,” says Levzow. “But ice cream brings even more joy.”

The Museum of Ice Cream is a chain of interactive experiences inspired by ice cream where guests can jump in a pool full of sprinkles and eat an endless supply of the cold dessert. Levzow had never heard of the Museum of Ice Cream when they first approached her but when she started talking to them she fell in love with the concept. “It's a place where you get to play like a kid, even adults are playing like kids jumping in Sprinkles and eating unlimited ice cream,” she explains.

Levzow is the brand’s first-ever chief marketing officer and has been carving out the role ever since she started in December 2022. “There's nothing more challenging than to be the first at something because you are creating the path,” says Levzow. “You're not coming in and going, ‘Here's a playbook.’ You are creating the playbook. It's wonderful. Our founders are unbelievable. The feedback loop here is amazing. People want to hear feedback and that's how we learn together and grow together. Being able to create something from nothing is fun. For some people, it's scary. For me, it's fun.” 

The Museum of Ice Cream has locations in New York, Chicago, Singapore, Shanghai and Austin and manages a team across time zones. “It creates all these different perspectives,” says Levzow. “Everybody has a voice at the table and that's what makes it beautiful. I'm not creating a playbook by myself. Our whole team together is creating the wave of the future with our founders’ backing and support.”

Brand Innovators caught up with Levzow from her home office in the Milwaukee area to discuss marketing to tourists, bringing joy and the sprinkle pool. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What attracted you to the new role and kind of what your vision is now that you're there?

Their whole mission is to bring joy to people. It's not just happiness. It's not just, oh, that was fun. It's true joy, an experience that you get to escape the world we live in today, and go play and just have fun. That is what attracted me and then the ability to grow this brand and to bring it to everyone globally. 

We already have five locations throughout the globe and we're growing, as well as other experiential concepts. My vision is to continue to spread joy and to do it to as many people as we can possibly touch and invite them to play with us.

Can you talk about how you're applying your strong digital background to your new role?

It's not really different from hospitality. We're in a lot of very tourist-focused cities like New York City, Chicago, Singapore, Shanghai and Austin. When tourists come to town, they don't know what to do and so digital is the best way to get to them. They're not necessarily coming and picking up the local newspaper. Being able to use the same background I had when I worked in hotels and hospitality, to put focus on targeting tourists and travel. People are focused on having fun with their family and friends or a night out. 

How are you telling those stories?

Social, programmatic, paid search, video, everything across the board, when it comes to digital. A montage video is the best way for us to tell a story. You see someone playing, and you think, ‘I want to do that. Like that's fun.’ We are very lucky and blessed that we are the most hashtagged museum out there with around 72 million hashtags on TikTok. So sometimes we don't even have to talk about ourselves. Other people are talking about us, which is the best place to be.

How are you thinking about loyalty and return visits?

It's something we're continuously working on. How do you engage that repeat visitor? We cost more than going to the movie theater but not by much. Having someone continuously come back, but engaging them to let them know there are other places. Each Museum is a little different. You're going to learn something new or find something new to explore has been really important. 

We do it a lot through our one to one messaging, Once they've been to us. We can target them through email and social media, but also being able to engage them as they're leaving, because telling others is our No. 1 favorite thing for them to do. If they can share a review or share with their friends on social, then they have done enough.

Are you also engaging people on a local level to try to get them to maybe have return visits?

In each market, we have a brand experience manager. And in those markets, the brand experience manager is out at local events, and involved in the community, connecting with schools, as well as local ice cream parlors, because we are an experiential thing, the ice cream that we serve, oftentimes we connect with locally to serve the ice cream that that people tend to want to experience. So we try to get as ingrained as possible in our communities. 

For instance, in Chicago, for Black History month we had Ida's Artisan Ice Cream and Treats. Ida started after the pandemic. She ordered an ice cream machine to play with her kids right before she lost her job when the COVID hit. Then she started making ice cream with the kids and putting in lots of different ingredients. She was working out of a startup incubator in Lawndale, Chicago, and we connected with her and purchased her ice cream to serve in the museum. She was over the moon with how well it went right because more people learned about her ice cream than she could have ever imagined. Meanwhile, we were able to give back to her as well as uplift her story.

Is the post-pandemic demand for in-person experiences driving traffic?

Even before the pandemic started, people were exhausted. They wanted something to experience that was different than just staying in a hotel or just going to a regular movie and so we were already doing very well. But after the pandemic, absolutely. People just wanted out. They wanted and even still, we see it like, you don't want to just go do something where you sit and don't talk to each other, and you want to engage and have fun together. 

Back when I first started dating, you went to a movie and didn't talk to each other. You would spend three hours together and maybe only half an hour talking to your date. Now people want activities where they can interact with each other. They want the ability to go out and connect with each other and have a conversation and play together. That brings people together so much faster than any experience where you're not actually communicating, because you can build a connection and engage. We're creating memories. 

Can you talk about how your roles at other companies have helped prepare you for this role?

It's funny because the Museum of Ice Cream has a little bit of every job I've done. Restaurant, we have a food and beverage part of our brand obviously ice cream, but we also have a bar. We sell food and beverages. And the digital component, the e-commerce component, the retail component, I've touched all those things in my past roles in hospitality and hotels, this is not so different with the tourists coming to town. How you target them, bring them to you. 

Do you work with influencers too?

A lot of influencers. Oftentimes, they come to us again, because when they're on their travels, they want to come in and see it. We've done influencer nights. We've done Yelp elite nights. It runs the gamut and all different sizes of influencers. Anyone who Googles Museum of Ice Cream will see different celebrities and macro and micro influencers that have been in our locations all the way through to Beyonce herself. We are unbelievably blessed. It's about the relationship. We treat everybody in each party, like they're an individual and that they're important to us and they are important to us.

Where do you see the company a year from now?

We're going to keep growing. So we're also going to expand other experiential concepts. We know we've done ice cream really well and we know we can bring that to other things and bring life to other places. We know that there are a lot of markets that still need us. We hear that from our fans, from our followers and from real estate. We’re going to continue to grow and continue to build.

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