Over the past 12 months, a growing number of brands has turned to pop-up activity to provide a burst of PR activity and another reason for consumers to interact with their brand – hopefully ensuring that the effect of these events are going to last even after the shutters come down. The last news about a pop-up store is related to Marni, the Italian fashion brand, located at the Ocean Centre in Hong Kong and featuring the whole Marni Edition.
The pop-up phenomenon dates back 2004, when fashion brand Comme des Garcons opened a guerrilla store in Berlin, followed by a long list of known brands, such as ony Ericksson, Levi’s, Breil, Uniqlo or the most recent ones of Apple, Nokia, and Adidas Originals.
The pop-up strategy allows brands to tap into new markets at low cost, as rents are cheap and the ‘concept store’ strategy creates a buzz without investing in advertising.
Even thought they are an excellent way to deliver a brand experience there is a question over their reach, as they engage only those consumers who actually visit. Jeremy Rucker, head of Hotel Retail, experiential agency RPM’s pop-up and retail division, says the growth of pop-up activity is partly in response to the levels of empty retail space on high streets. ‘With so many brands turning to online-only channels, pop-up activity helps bring excitement back to the high street,’ he adds.
The big question for brands is how to drive investment beyond the life span of the pop-up store and the PR generated at that time. ‘Data capture is fundamental, but creating engaging ways for the brand to interact with the consumer that can a develop a life of their own should be considered,’ says Owen Cato, creative director of retail agency Live & Breathe. ‘Extending activity in the pop-up store online and into social-media activity would work well.’
Claire Stokes, managing director of experiential agency The Circle Agency, adds: ‘Previously, when brands have talked about experiential, it has been all about being in the live space. Now it is about building new digital layers to ensure the halo effect of any given event stretches beyond just one single event.’ For example, when EA Games promoted its key Christmas video-game releases in shopping centres, it encouraged consumers to ‘check in’ to win titles. More than 3000 consumers took part, promoting the event far beyond the boundaries of the event venue.
However, industry experts warn against investing in digital at the expense of the core event. Trevor Hardy, founder of creative agency The Assembly, contends that pop-up activity should be viewed as another marketing channel. ‘The more sensory and multichannel the experience, the better it becomes,’ he adds. ‘The risk is that interactive and social media may dilute the experience – 100% of the efforts should be dedicated to ensuring the experience is the best it can be.’
However, the fact that even retail brands with a consistent high-street presence are turning to pop-up activity perhaps suggests that brands should be creating the excitement of a pop-up shop in their existing retail space every day. Hardy argues that this is not possible, as the ‘focus is on getting the maximum return per square foot’.
Caroline Wurfbain, client services director at experiential agency Jack Morton Worldwide, predicts that more brands will launch pop-up activity over the next 12 months. ‘The challenge is that if ideas don’t change, there is a risk that the market will become saturated and consumers will get bored,’ she adds.
Many of the most successful pop-up launches and events of recent years have not been the work of commercial brands, but independent chefs and artists. As a result, a raft of brands has attempted to mimic the halo effect of organic movements such as Hidden Kitchen, a private supper club that serves 16 people a seasonal 10-course tasting menu paired with wines. However, if these brands fail to offer consumers a compelling reason to interact with them, their experiential strategy risks being dangerously insubstantial (Source: Marketing Magazine)