Who’s playing to win in the game of pop ups

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

by One Two Collective staff

If you’ve ever sat in a fluorescent-lit office just knowing everyone outside is doing something way more fun than you, then you’ve experienced the pull of summer energy. Summer energy is colorful, active and fleeting. Devising a way for your brand to tap into that FOMO with a pop up activation is a great way to make a splash in a season that can be otherwise limiting.  

Rather than give a white paper version of the technical components of popping up that are a given, we’re going to call out some creative summer experiences and our thoughts on what they’re doing right and the takeaways you can apply to your own brand.

Photo c/o Milk Bar

Milk Bar Austin

Christina Tosi has carved a unique space for herself out in the competitive world of baking with her nostalgia inspired confections, and her Milk Bar concept has been going strong for over a decade. However, unless you’re New York or LA based, you’re likely experiencing her famous birthday cake or compost cookies merely at the wiles of your most ambitious baking friend. Tosi and team offered a short term remedy to this locational deficit by popping up for a week in Austin after participating in local food fest Hot Luck held at the end of May every year.

While a food truck is not a novel concept on its face, the flawless execution of this week-long pop up is something to be commended. In town for a little over a week, the bright pink ‘69 Chevy postal truck stopped by four different local destinations offering a way to cater to an existing fan base and a way for the brand to trial a new market. Clear communication, defined operating hours and a mobile operating space that channels the brand’s personality is a great example of how to make a short term setup work for your fans and your budget.

Photos c/o Pantone Café

Pantone Café

If you’re reading this thinking, we don’t sell shirts and we don’t bake cookies- do pop ups even apply to us? Great questions! And, yes. A pop up is a great way to sell awareness around your brand and educate a new audience on why you’re the best. At the root of any quality retail experience is creativity, and that is even more critical when you’re selling something not quite as tangible as a piece of clothing. Pantone, the proprietary color wheel known for its use in printing, manufacturing and plastics, is well regarded but because their revenue focus is on licensing vs actual product output, their unique approach to popping up was creating the Pantone Café.

A colorful micro eatery, the beachside cafés are devoted to food and beverage items that can be classified by its color matching system. The brand has hosted three different cafés over the last few summers capitalizing on bold pops of color that photograph well and lend themselves to social media. The spaces are clean, photo ready and at trendy beachside locales perfect for short term activations. If you want to emulate their creativity for your non-tangible service, you want to be focusing on what activity guests will be doing on site (eating, hands-on samples etc), how they’ll be sharing the information (instagram, mainly), and how exclusive you want your activation to be (one location or ten, destination location or traditional).

Photos c/o Goop

Goop MRKT Amagansett

We unironically stan a beachside pop up and Goop is no stranger to the short term retail game. Their MRKT concept floats around the country popping up in trendy cities in peak season and the Amagansett location is a natural addition to the roster. Programmed to the hilt and flocked with a steady stream of well clad influencers, it’s hard to critique this shiny focal piece even if you want to find the lifestyle they’re pushing cloying. So let’s focus on what the lifestyle pop up whiz is doing right.

Location location location. Being where your consumers vacation, relax and play is a prime place to sell them goods. Without a high pressure sales environment, it gives customers a more laid back setting to try something new allowing them and the retailer to experiment with things they might not have otherwise. The other major player in their success here is the influencer focused integrations. Local partners and media figures who are relevant to the brand through a variety of industries from cooking to fashion make the brands seem relatable and accepting to a wide customer demographic. To engage the local market in person and develop a broader reach online, you can sample elements of their smart programming and make it work for you no matter your brand or pop up size. Small bursts of well defined thought leadership moments, food instructions or socially motivated parties can serve as great speed bumps to build a robust event calendar while also providing organic content for the duration of your activation.

One Two Collective helps brands enhance their consumer experience. Send us a note at hello@onetwocollective.com to learn more.