At the height of the recession, brands looking to drive sales through buzz further embraced the pop-up and experiential concept, attracted to both the novelty factor and cost-effective real estate. However, with the novelty gone, brands with the equity and creative impetus still find the concept promotionally effective for long-term brand-building.
Piperlime, a Gap e-commerce footwear property, launched its first pop-up shop on September 8, around New York City's Fashion's Night Out event, scheduled for September 10. On the eve of its fourth anniversary, the "25 Days of Getting Dressed" shop serves as a promotional opportunity at a time when the brand has been fully integrated into Gap Inc., says Jennifer Olsen, VP of marketing and creative at Piperlime.Good timing for PR
"We were confident we could drive PR from this with the ability to invest in local advertising and things that would drive traffic to the store," she says.
The shop includes a style loft where consumers can create looks, share images on Facebook, and enter a daily challenge based on a creative brief from Piperlime. The winner's look and personal information is featured in the store window and on Piperlime's site.
Olsen says the approach enables the brand to extend key product partnerships with popular stylist Rachel Zoe and Project Runway designers, as well as a relationship with Vogue, one of Fashion's Night Out's main organizers.
Matt Jones, SVP of strategy and creative at Jack Morton Worldwide, explains that experiential marketing is often a good fit for targeted fashion lifestyle brands such as Piperlime, as well as online and service-oriented brands that "traditionally struggle to get people to experience and touch them."
"Two years ago, everyone felt they needed it as a line item in their budget," he says. "Now they are more savvy and realize that, depending on their objectives, they might or might not need to embrace the philosophy."
Jack Morton client Hyundai recently launched a 10-city pop-up "ride-and-drive" tour, which tasked non-Hyundai drivers to videotape and upload their 30-day, "uncensored" experience via installed video cameras, iPads, and social media platforms.
The integrated marketing effort, largely supported with the experiential piece, represents the brand's largest push into social media.
"We set up an experience that goes beyond cones and tents," says Monique Morin Kumpis, experiential marketing and strategic alliances manager at Hyundai.
Connecting a physical concept with an online viral goal that reinforces brand values is deemed experiential success by marketers.
"Pop-ups are being used as smart vehicles for building communities," adds Jones.
Kellogg's Pop-Tarts recently rented a Times Square space to sell innovative products such as Pop-Tarts sushi. Though not a permanent endeavor, sales and buzz will impact the brand's decision to stay past January.
"It's less about the novelty of coming in and out, and more about providing an experience," says Scott Sundheim, brand associate director at Pop-Tarts. "We're trying to find new ways to engage consumers with an experiential or tangible approach."Keeping things fresh
Ludobites, a 2-year-old pop-up restaurant concept by celebrity chef Ludo Lefebvre, has built its business model on the idea of the fresh concept, following a successful trial in a vacant bakery space.
The restaurant is now in its sixth iteration, each of which tout the Ludobites brand and a different menu, concept, and location. Lefebvre's wife Krissy, also in-house counsel and marketing/PR head, says she uses Twitter to fill last-minute cancellations and promote the chef's new concepts.
"We found his audience broadened to the young 20-something crowd," she says. "We're not doing this for PR, but the way we're operating the business has turned into a fantastic PR plan. We've never had so much press."
Though it seems oxymoronic, permanent pop-ups facilitate the long-term branding to which experiential marketing must aspire.
"The most important thing is not to tell stories, but create stories that spread," says Jones. "That's the future. The shiny bit of short-term buzz, we'll see that disappear."The Evolution of pop-ups 2005 Wired
opens a pop-up gadget retail store in New York City to help position the tech publication as an authority in the space2008
Target launches several New York pop-up stores. Branded "Bullseye Bodegas," they highlight product partnerships with high-end designers2009
Refinery29, a fashion media outlet, turns a Port Authority space into a month-long pop- up sample sale as part of its "Save Fashion" editorial drive