Nearly two weeks ago, we reported that Ernie Keebler and his merry band of Elves had uprooted their magical Hollow Tree to the heart of New York City for a special pop-up event in honor of Keebler’s new Whoopsy! Fudge Stripes cookies. Turns out a branch of the Keebler “FacTree” actually runs right into SoHo!
While I wasn’t able to make it to the event (#westcoastproblems), I wanted to further explore how the Hollow Tree pop-up was created since I can’t believe it hadn’t been done before. Who better to speak to than Jane Ghosh, Senior Marketing Director of Keebler Cookies, and Erin Gallagher, Creative Director at Krispr (a Kellogg’s-specific branch of Edelman), AKA two of the biggest masterminds behind the initiative? They’re here today to take us on a guided, behind-the-scenes tour inside the Hollow Tree’s pop-up — grab your favorite Keebler cookies and follow along!
According to Ghosh, the Keebler Elves have been magically working in their Hollow Tree for more than 100 years. They have always been happy to receive visitors, but not necessarily have them tour the Hollow Tree — that was always off-limits to the public eye. Until now, when Gallagher said she wanted fans and fudge enthusiasts to see how the “deliciously happy accident” of the Whoopsy! Fudge Stripes cookie came to be by taking them inside the Hollow Tree for an interactive experience.
“We were inspired by the story that the Keebler elves struck fudge in the ‘fudgeterranean’ spring beneath the FacTree. They discovered you can never have too much fudge or too much fun – that’s why we set out to create an experience that brought both of those things to life.” Gallagher said.
It was key that anyone stepping inside of the pop-up could feel as though they had just been transplanted to a wondrous new place. Krispr conceptualized, sourced, and created most of the details found inside of the space. Ghosh noted that certain artifacts, like a bronze Ernie statue, were included from the archive “Hollow Tree room” at Kellogg’s. Set design company 11th St. Workshop worked alongside Krispr as their production partner, spending a few weeks creating the pieces that made up the space and three days for assembly on site.
The Hollow Tree has always been an extremely detail-oriented space, and needed to be reflected as such in its pop-up. “We paid meticulous attention to detail and incorporated as much background knowledge of the elves into this experience.” Ghosh said. Some of the core details included the Keebler magic oven and Elfin Creed hanging over it, an oversized fudge pot, and the Keebler shield outside of the entryway. Even the wood grain needed to be carefully examined to make it feel like you were truly in the Hollow Tree.
Other pop-up details included generous amounts of ingredients and scaled baking tools like flour sacks, barrels, fudge, aprons, chairs, pots, and pans. Given that this space is home to the Elves, there were plenty of “home-y” elements like photos and bookshelves filled with books too. (If you looked closely at the book spines, you would find cheeky titles that only an elf could pen.) Ghosh noted that Krispr introduced special new details into the Hollow Tree including their own TV. “We had so many amazing details we wanted to capture, so it was difficult to choose how to include it all, but we think that we nailed it!”
We’ve toured the space, now it’s time to get hands-on and bake! As visitors entered the Hollow Tree, they got a glimpse of the overflowing fudge geyser. Inside was a fudge fountain, which Gallagher said a specialist chocolatier constructed for the event to make sure that the chocolate flowed and kept flowing.
Using the hot, melted chocolate to coat plain shortbread, fans could make their own Whoopsy! cookies — a Keebler first. There were also opportunities to go “fishing” for fudgy cookies, “paint” huge cookies on an easel, and pose for #fullyfudged selfies with Ernie who was excited to meet and greet with fans.
Ghosh and Gallagher both agree that the event was an amazing experience that allowed generations of Keebler brand fans to interact with, and go inside, the Hollow Tree for the first time. While there aren’t any plans to activate the pop-up again, Ghosh did say with a wink, “You never know what the future of fudge may hold!”