Pop-Up Retail and Guerrilla Marketing
Great retail pop-up – that emotionally engaging, destabilizing, awe-inspiring, out-of-nowhere brand event – is totally guerrilla.
It makes sense, then, that its marketing be guerrilla as well.
Guerrilla means creating a surprising experience where there once was nothing. It’s bold and clever, mysterious and covert. It’s ephemeral, but with attitude and a little grit.
To be considered guerrilla, a marketing tactic must be innovative, unconventional and resource efficient. Guerrilla marketing is high-concept yet utilitarian, and takes place at street level. It is about using existing resources – and a lot of nerve – to inspire mass awareness and participation.
By doing something unexpected in an unexpected place at an unexpected time using unexpected tools, a retail brand can titillate, shock, raise an eyebrow and elicit a gasp. The trick is to invest more creative energy than money.
Although guerrilla-like concepts have been deployed since the beginning of trade and commerce, Jay Conrad Levinson coined the term “guerrilla marketing” in his classic book of the same name. Written to inspire cash-strapped business owners with the idea that it doesn’t take big bucks to capture the imagination and dollars of target audiences, he offered several essential guerrilla marketing tenets:
- Understand the way target shoppers think and behave
- Be fearlessly creative (and brave)
- Develop strategic partnerships to achieve shared goals
- Leverage free media
- Decide things quickly, and use agility to outflank competitors
And while major retail pop-up is not a small business, the same rules apply. In fact, due to the stealthy nature of the pop-up, guerrilla marketing tactics are ideal for building excitement and visits.
Look at elements in the area surrounding the pop-up store with an eye not towards what they are, but what they can be. Lamp posts, benches, crosswalks, manhole covers, sidewalk imperfections, stoops, bus shelters, fountains, fences, doorways – all are opportunities to go guerrilla and wow a shopper.
Here are 26 examples of marketing “street propaganda”:
- Curate a block-long mural by neighborhood graffiti artists
- Treat your storefront as a billboard
- House a community art installation
- Populate store windows with human mannequins
- Paint the windows to look smashed
- Rejuvenate the block with sponsored plantings and seating areas
- Create urban art from found materials
- Stencil a sidewalk
- Facilitate reverse graffiti; use soap to “reveal” a message
- Transform a public bench into a branded selfie station
- Paint a faux entrance on the back of the building
- Repurpose a manhole cover into a steaming bowl of soup
- Turn a bus stop into a movie theater
- Yarn bomb the trees
- Project light shows on the building
- Message using human billboards covered in body art or temporary tattoos
- Facilitate product hacks; establish a hacker’s space
- Provide a stage for local performers
- Host an urban picnic
- Offer sneak peeks via neighborhood scavenger hunt
- Stage acts of kindness (free hugs?) outside the doors
- Display product on the outside of the window;
- Activate social media; product giveaways, VIP events, reviews
- Mount a fashion show with unexpected models
- Post a provocative image/video online
- Activate celebrities via surprise, unannounced shop visits