In the first week of June, a new Facebook application called Museum of Me captured the attention of more than 2.5 million people and surprised the people and the company that created it. And it all started with a simple sketch on a napkin.
During a time when celebrities and businesses around the world are clamoring to grab the attention of consumers through Facebook, the Museum of Me broke through the noise by taking what people care about dearly, and letting them create their own personalized story in a visual way.
The Museum of Me was created by an Intel marketing team in Hong Kong working with a boutique advertising agency in Japan, and it’s reportedly become one of the top 12 most popular museums in the world judging by the numbers.
Stephanie Gan, an advertising and digital programs manager at Intel, said the experience became an overnight sensation that spread socially around the world as millions of people were curious enough to go off and create a personalized virtual museum of their life. It was supposed to launch officially on June 1 but the team did a test pilot on May 31. Within 5 minutes, there were 36 likes. Within 5 days, there were 1 million hits.
“We just had the Facebook ‘Like’ button on the site and it took off through the power of what people were experiencing,” Gan said.
“It spread quickly through word of mouth via social networks, largely Facebook, but also Twitter and YouTube,” she said. “The first thing we saw came from a person in Madrid, who tweeted about the video we posted to YouTube.”
Next, people in Japan were tweeting the link to Museum of Me. Then New York, California and Brazil. Press and analysts covering social networking and computing trends weighed in, which contributed to the buzz.
Museum of Me pulls information from your Facebook page to create a virtual museum of your digital life. Photos, videos and friends are presented as pieces of art, displayed randomly as if in a museum or art gallery.
CNET called it a “really neat tool that does a fine job of collecting all the information from your Facebook page and doling it out in a fun exhibit.” The Wall Street Journal’s Tech Europe blog labeled it “a slick use of Facebook’s social graph and for creating what will certainly be a viral product.”
It struck an emotional chord with people, according to Jayant Murty, the director of Intel’s brand strategy in Asia.
“Images trigger memories and those memories can be very, very personal,” said Murty. “People go back to photo albums to reminisce on the past and tell stories about our past. These are things we do in our everyday lives. We just found a way to pull this together into an online experience.”
“Ultimately, the Museum of Me taps into one’s narcissism and private experiences in an intensely social and networked world,” Murty said.
Like any new and successful idea, the concept for The Museum of Me sprang from humble beginnings. The idea began with rough sketches drawn on cocktail napkins.
“Earlier this year at our big International Sales and Marketing Conference, our team wanted to quickly share the concept and idea of the project with our corporate colleagues, since we had the chance to meet up with them,” says Murty. “We didn’t have any writing material on us at the time, so we grabbed napkins from the bar, crowded around tables and sketched our ideas out!”
Not everyone was convinced once it went live, and the initial flood of visitors strained the servers gathering data for all these personal museums through the cloud.
Mashable called the experience “a bit creepy … it seems a bit like you’ve passed on,” and BetaBeat pointed out “that the very personal nature of this information makes the context in which it sits extremely important” in a post titled “Intel’s Museum of Me Features Dead Friends and Ex-Lovers.”
One person said “I don’t want to end up on a wall” below an image that his “friend” shared on Facebook from the Museum of Me experience.
Murty said there is a level of privacy built into the experience and that one of the big “aha” moments for him was when his team figured out how they would approach the sharing aspect.
“We created the Museum of Me with the intention of it being a personal, private experience,” said Murty. “Holding steadfast to the view that this is a private experience in a public environment was probably the best decision we made.”
Creating the Exhibit
After whittling down their ideas into a concept, Murty and Gan knew they were on to something big, but nobody expected it to become so popular once it went live.
“We took the idea of Museum of Me and started to share it around inside Intel when it was still in very early sketches,” said Murty. “It was really back-of-the-napkin stage, but even in that early phase virtually everyone said, ‘Wow, that’s interesting!’ And that’s not a response we encounter here all the time.”
According to Gan, the aim was to make something thrilling and emotional then equate it the performance and visual experience of Intel’s 2nd generation of Core processors. The company markets these with the tagline “Visually Smart” to highlight built-in graphics and media capabilities.
“We are not ‘in your face’ about Core i5 or Intel branding,” she said. “First you have the experience and then at the end we flash the brand badge. This is a better way for us to create an emotional connection.”
Projector Inc., the agency in Japan, suggested they create music that would play inside Museum of Me. So they worked with artist Takagi Masakatsu, a Japanese composer who solicited more than 400 different recorded voices from his Twitter followers. Those voices were woven into the Museum of Me’s musical score.
When it was finished, it represented a compelling new way to share people’s digital lives. Becky Brown, who heads up Intel’s social media center of excellence, said it was evident pretty quickly that more capacity was needed as the word spread.
“This thing just took off,” said Brown. “We were watching comments on our fan page, and some people were saying things were lagging, and that that’s how we knew we needed to add more server capacity.”
Rather than this being an entirely new idea however, Murty sees it as triangulating and processing a variety of insights.
“Very often great ideas are ones in which people draw on two or three parallel sources of inspiration,” he said. “The fact is, the pieces of the puzzle were there. It is just that we assembled them with the help of the talented people.”