While the use of "pop-up" store fronts - which appear seemingly overnight, stay in operation for a short period, and disappear just as quickly - is gaining favor as a marketing strategy in urban markets, no one had considered them a strong PR tool, as well.
But when Schieffelin & Co., marketer and distributor of Moet & Chandon in the US, wanted to generate some holiday buzz around the brand, the Susan Magrino Agency (SMA) decided to take the pop-up concept to a new level by conceiving and developing a temporary M Lounge in four key markets - New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Miami - during the fall of 2004. "When you work in the wine and spirits business, you basically exist in somebody else's venue," explains Elizabeth Sorota, SVP and product group director at Schieffelin. "So we wanted to create an environment that completely embodies the brand, one that would enable us to reach out to our core consumers and also focus on different lifestyle areas."
In many ways, Moet & Chandon has been the victim of its own success. It is so well-established as a luxury product that few in the media or the public associate the brand with trendsetting urban nightlife. SMA EVP Michael Doneff says the company wanted to use the lounges to attract media well beyond the traditional food and wine pages to include writers on the gossip, nightlife, and even music and entertainment beats. Working with Sorota, SMA commissioned renowned interior designer Michael Czysz to design the d?cor for the lounge and then targeted key segments in the arts, entertainment, and music scenes in each markets. "With M Lounge, we wanted to shake it up a little bit and get people to think about Moet a little differently," Doneff says. "It's not just about opening a bottle for a toast; it's having it by the glass in restaurants and making it a part of nightlife."
To give itself inside knowledge of each market, SMA lined up co-hosts for special M Lounge nights in the four cities, including the Lookingglass Theatre for a night in Chicago, ArtReview magazine in Miami, and Island Def Jam for an Ashanti album listening party in New York. "Sometimes when you go into a market from the outside, you don't have the same clout," explains Doneff. "But our cohosts ensured we would have some high visibility." In order to maintain a certain amount of surprise about the M Lounge, Doneff kept the media in the dark as long as possible and only sent out media kits a few weeks before they were set to appear. "For longer leads, we sent out full media kits designed to really reflect the feel of the lounge, which ended up becoming this really cool item in itself," he says. "But, for a lot of other outlets, we wanted to maintain this little bit of mystery. New York already had some pop-ups, but the other cities not so much. We wanted to keep some sort of intrigue."
The invitation-only M Lounge events attracted more than 4,000 influencers in the four cities, which in turn generated coverage in local and national gossip columns, lifestyle pages, and entertainment sections. The campaign generated 114 million media impressions, including Liz Smith's nationally syndicated column, the New York Post's Page Six, The New York Times, Miami Herald, MTV, and magazines like Interior Design. Follow-up stories on holiday celebrations also mentioned M Lounge in coverage.
"In each market, we've already had calls from different organizations that want to incorporate M Lounge into things they're doing," says Doneff. "People were really wowed by the concept, so there might be a life for it going forward." "We were really pleased by the response," adds Sorota. "And we'll continue to work with the Susan Magrino Agency and come up with new ideas and keep things fresh."
PR team: Schieffelin & Co. (Moet & Chandon) and Susan Magrino Agency (both New York)
Campaign: M Lounge
Time frame: June to December 2004
Budget: $2 million