Pop-Ups as Retail Theater: How Brands Are Setting the Stage for Consumer Engagement
In the beginning, pop-ups were the domain of new brands with limited marketing budgets. Rather than sinking a boatload of money into permanent stores, brands popped in and out until they found firmer financial footing and tested the market. At the other end of the spectrum, mega brands created pop-up extravaganzas that blew budget out of the water. Brands in the middle were left muddling where they fit in.
It can be tough to stand out in a crowded space—especially for brands that aren’t totally new to market. While it may seem that only brands with a thriving social presence can captivate an IRL audience, a well-executed pop-up experience can be just the thing to move the needle for any brand—new, legacy, or anywhere in-between. And some of the best executions we’ve seen employ pop-up as retail theater.
Retail theater in the populace
To reach a new audience, go to where your prospects are. It’s all about location, location, location. And while high visibility brick and mortar locations may be out of your balance sheet’s reach, the temporary nature of a pop-up could make it possible to secure a marquee site—if only for a little while.
William Shakespeare said it best when he wrote, “All the world’s a stage.” The world is like a stage for consumers to interact with brands on a deeper level than they would browsing a store or an e-commerce site. It’s not enough for brands to simply appear, however. The most successful pop-up integrations involve key elements to generate a high level of lasting engagement: color, texture, performance, and takeaways. Create a multi-layered scene that draws attention, provides educational touchpoints, and converts new consumers into authentic brand fans. Employing a multi-sensorial experience that educates and stimulates can help consumers take away your brand mission and leave them wanting more.
In order to successfully activate, elements should captivate consumers and allow them to fully experience your brand to maximize your ROI. As every marketer knows, sampling is one of the most effective marketing tools you have. Mix one-part sampling, one-part location, one-part drama, and you’ve got the key ingredients to a successful pop-up.
Visual and tactile elements are a key part of the immersive pop-up experience. Think about what the consumer can touch and feel, and how various textures interact visually. Click To Tweet With social media use at an all-time high, a strong photo moment will keep consumers engaged and likes and shares growing. It’s an immensely productive cycle of shoot, share, attract new visitors.
Successfully surprise and delight consumers
Recently, Medallion Retail visited a pop-up installation for Hendrick’s Gin that checked all the boxes of an effective mise en scène. The brand crafted a Midsummer Night’s Dream-inspired oasis outside of midtown Manhattan’s Pershing Square, just steps away from iconic Grand Central Station—the ideal high-volume location to capture tourists and commuters alike.
Hendrick’s transformed the concrete backdrop into a fantasy garden with bright florals to introduce its Midsummer Solstice Gin to the masses. The brand partnered with floral company BloomsyBox to create bouquet takeaways for consumers, entertained guests with larger-than-life performers on stilts, and served complimentary summer-themed cocktails made with the gin. It was a midsummer night’s dream fantasy brought to full-throated life.
Hendrick’s utilized exquisitely executed signage and display to complement their surprise-and-delight moments, including branded umbrellas and posters that appeared as if printed on parchment. All of these points of engagement helped consumers immerse themselves in the brand’s Brit origins, while the experiences themselves introduced a new perspective on gin as a refreshing summer drink. The pop-up was only open for four hours each evening and was packed with smartphone-wielding consumers every minute.
Dunkin’ Donuts created similar excitement with the debut of a traveling tiny home in 2018 that visited New York City and Massachusetts. The coffee giant took their slogan, “AmericaRuns on Dunkin’,”quite literally—the house was powered by used coffee grounds.
The brand introduced the concept to consumers a day ahead of opening in NYC’s Madison Square Park—a beautiful high-trafficked oasis in the middle of Manhattan’s trendy Flatiron District. The brand amped up the pop-up buzz with sampling, interactive outdoor games, and promo information about a newly launching sweepstakes for a two-night stay in the home’s long-term locale of Nahant, Massachusetts (where Dunkin’ Donuts originated). Every element of the pop-up was thoughtfully considered, down to the dark wooden exterior that mirrored the color of fresh-brewed coffee.
The experiential home was unexpected, and reinforced Dunkin’ Donuts ground coffee as a morning staple for many consumers and sparked new dialogue via the home’s sustainability footprint.
The final act
As both Hendrick’s and Dunkin’ Donuts illustrate, making your brand stand out hinges on thinking beyond what a traditional brick and mortar store can offer. Outside the four walls of a storefront are endless opportunities to captivate consumers and give them meaningful experiences. It’s placing these experiences—performance, entertainment, unique environment, and sampling—in the footpath of your audience that will resonate long-term and build a brand.
Medallion Retail has the award-caliber pop-up and experiential marketing experience needed to increase your brand’s stage presence and draw acclaim. Reach out to Michael or Chris of Medallion Retail at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
What’s the most theatrical pop-up experience you’ve had recently? Let us know in the comments section below and let’s share notes!