Blog: Are pop-ups losing their power?

Are pop-ups overused, misused and are they losing their power, asks Momentum Worldwide's Fran Elliott.

Experiential blog: Are pop-ups losing their power?
Experiential blog: Are pop-ups losing their power?

The pop-up has gone mainstream. It is no longer a tool used by niche, smaller brands to capture the attention of consumers - everyone is doing it, including Kayne West. His new Life of Pablo clothing range was recently available in 21 locations around the globe for just three days. The limited time and exclusive opportunity caused a huge media buzz around the launch, resulting in a nice bit of publicity for the label. 

But is this incredibly impactful platform overused, or even, misused, and if so, does this mean that the pop-up is losing its power? Has the pop-up had its heyday and is it time for it to stand down?

Pop-up stores, or ‘flash-retailing’ as they were once known, have for a long time been a budget-smart way of piloting anything without ‘going all in’. The physical engagement with the customer allows the brand to both get to know its audience personally and build strong relationships with them - rather than talking at them about their product or service.

There is no doubt the pop-up model can create demand around a brand. Customers are attracted to exclusivity and the ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ concept gives them the element of desirability and something they can then tell their friends about. It also has huge benefits to marketers.

The issue is that for the experiential world, we’re becoming saturated with them and people can become desensitized to them, often missing the engagement element the brand has tried so hard to capture. 

The pop-up now seems to be the go-to route for brands in search of instant cutting-edge engagement. Over the past fortnight alone we have seen several pop-ups from well-known brands, for example Ikea is asking people to a DIY restaurant, Tetra inviting us to their Tranquility Tank (pictured below) and Walkers recently opening a crisp sandwich shop. 

Should pop-ups stand down?

The role of the pop-up has transformed over the years and more brands (including those multi-billion dollar global hard-hitters) are looking to use this platform to fast-track their cool status regardless of whether it’s a good fit. It can be argued that if you are not doing it then you are missing out, but this can sometimes be counterproductive if it is done just for the sake of it.

Ribena launched its one-day coloring pop-up (pictured above) aimed at those who ‘love to grab life by the felt tip.’ This feels like marketers making the media platform fit the brand – it feels forced and unnatural.

Despite the saturation and misuse of pop-ups in some quarters, it can be a really good way to engage customers when done correctly. Before going down the pop-up route, marketers need to consider these four key things:

Short duration – shops should be open for days rather than weeks at a time to promote a sense of exclusivity and demand. After all, if they were giving something away which you knew would end soon, who wouldn’t want to attend?

Limited edition product – guests should be limited to how many items they can buy, or have access to something money can’t buy. Think about what’s the unique and different story the brand is trying to tell? Can we make a link here back to the Kanye West pop-up? This is one of the tactics he successfully deployed, pushing up sales even more so. 

Exclusivity this channel is about quality not quantity. How do people gain access to the pop-up? Is it invite only? Remember, it’s not who goes but who knows!

Shareabilty use this channel to create awareness of something unique, to encourage intrigue and desirability.

When a pop-up channel presents an opportunity to tell a story to its customers that is unique and different, has compelling ROI or Return on Experience (ROX) and delivers authentic communication – then this platform is the right one to choose. When it is relevant it will be at its most potent.

Choosing to create a pop-up needs to be carefully considered. Its overuse is running the risk of seeming old-hat and gimmicky. Those ‘me-too’ brands who are doing it to tick a box are doing a disservice to something that, if done properly, is a true experiential channel at its best.

Let’s not reduce the power of the pop-up. Be relevant, be exclusive and stay only long enough for us to remember you, otherwise, you might just lose your charm.

Fran Elliott is UK director of experiential and events at agency Momentum Worldwide.

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