Last Friday I stopped by the Evanston Art & Big Fork Festival to check out Guaclandia, a small portion of the festival being spun as a “fun and immersive avocado experience.”
That was a bit of an oversell. The entirety of Guaclandia was a school bus emblazoned with letters advertising Wholly Guacamole—a company specializing in flavored guacamole dips—and an avocado-green ball pit (see what they did there) that spilled out the back. The themes and entertainment felt lifted straight from a kindergartener’s birthday party, and I imagine the pit was about as sanitary.
It took about two minutes to walk through Guaclandia. Featured was a Warhol-style wall of avocado illustrations, a claw-machine arcade game with small avocado-themed prizes, and a nearly blank wall on which guests were prompted to write in chalk what they liked about avocados.
These features were all peripheral to the main focus: promoting Wholly Guacamole’s newest chip-and-guac snack packs. Upon entry guests were urged by one of the three employees to sample the goods, which ranged from mild to spicy.
Guaclandia was a sad example of an Instagram trap, otherwise known as any vapid installation or experience being marketed as a millennial playground. Ultimately these traps cater to social-media profiles and feature built-in photo ops but not much else. They are thinly veiled advertising ploys—and Guaclandia took the concept to a new level. Its marketing strategy skipped the formalities and just went ahead and identified itself as an Instagram trap.
The full-disclosure tactic was almost admirable—and it would’ve been a pretty smart advertisement had it been executed correctly. But if your focus is to entice visitors to take photos, you should probably pay more attention to aesthetics.
I didn’t see a single person pose for a selfie. Everyone just grabbed samples and left. The “immersive avocado experience” would have been equally immersive had one employee just stood in an empty school bus and handed out samples of guacamole. The cramped school bus itself proved irrelevant, and if anything it added an extra level of bother, because you had to force your way onto it for a snack.
The guacamole wasn’t bad, though.