Blog: The power of the pop-up

Jackanory's Jo Curtis offers a brief history of the trend, plus her top five tips on how to create the perfect pop-up.

British Vogue has opened a pop-up café at Westfield London
British Vogue has opened a pop-up café at Westfield London

Pop-ups continue to be bang on trend with 2016 seeing more brands and businesses ‘popping up’ on a daily basis. Whether it’s a traditional shop, a shop within a shop, a mobile stand, tent, vehicle or otherwise, it seems the pop-up craze is here to stay. No longer limited to smaller brands showcasing their products for a short-term retail boost, we’re now seeing department stores (Bloomingdale's), luxury brands (Chanel), tech brands (Lenovo), confectionery brands (Cadbury) and many more jumping firmly on the pop-up bandwagon. 

Pop-ups: a brief history

Some believe it was Rei Kawakubo (of fashion brand Comme des Garçons) who kick-started the pop-up trend in 2004, after setting up a temporary shop in a disused building in Berlin. Others believe the trend was largely led by the restaurant trade, drawing on the tradition of restaurants being run from people’s homes in Cuba, while another camp argues that YBAs Sarah Lucas and Tracey Emin were responsible, following their 1993 set-up of a temporary London shop where they made and sold mugs, t-shirts and ashtrays. Whatever its origins, the pop-up phenomenon, in all its guises, looks set to thrive throughout 2016 and beyond.

So why run a pop-up?

Aside from the ‘here today – gone tomorrow’ buzz they create, a pop-up can be a powerful hub for a brand to present everything under one roof to new customers, as well as some of its most avid fans. While pop-ups hit fewer people than a big advertising campaign, they enable brands to form new relationships that will hopefully translate into lifelong brand advocacy. Being able to communicate your brand in an incredibly strong and concentrated way, wrapped up in an experience and story that will be told and told again, is something a pop-up can deliver in spades – all without breaking the bank.  

And of course pop-ups play directly to the new-age consumer’s obsession with "the temporary" and their expectation of a fun, exclusive experience. FOMO – or the fear of missing out – is a strong emotion to capitalize on. After all, if you have time, you’ll take time, whereas if something’s temporary, you’ll get right off your backside and get down there as soon as you can.

Pop-ups can also provide a great platform for face-to-face consumer research, particularly when launching a new product or service. Forget the graphs that state your target consumer’s age, hometown and hobbies, hang out with the real people instead – it’s amazing what you’ll learn. 

Five tips for creating a successful pop-up 

1. Get the location right and the people will come. Ensure your pop up is accessible, easy to find and ideally in a spot that people will want to capture and share on social media. 

2. Consider the duration. A pop-up must be a temporary thing. The buzz around a pop-up and its powerful attraction rest on the fact that it will soon be gone. 

3. Tailor your opening hours. There’s no need to be open 24/7. Tailor the opening hours to suit the activity and audience you want to attract. Make sure the opening hours are clearly communicated across all channels so people do not turn up and find it’s shut.

4. Get the story right. Ensure your pop-up offers an intriguing, experience-led atmosphere and environment. Cute touches, areas of discovery, quirky educational pieces about the brand/ product and interactive elements will increase dwell time and further encourage social sharing.

5. Exploit exclusivity. Once up and running, a pop-up can be a powerful platform for all manner of events alongside the core activity. PR launches, media events, blogger events, private views, competition winner experiences etc. Adding events such as these to the pop-up schedule can help exploit the exclusivity badge while further spreading your brand’s story. 

Jo Curtis is co-founder of brand experience and live events specialists, Jackanory.

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