2019 SXSW and Coachella set the bar for pop-ups

It is springtime. It’s officially springtime. This means that we are in the thick music festivals and pop ups, most notably 2019 SXSW or Coachella. Businesses are working harder to create pop-ups that attract customers faster and keep them interested longer as millennials, Gen-Z, continue to increase their spending power and limit their attention span.

These trends in immersive displays, intricate theming and other ephemeral marketing are more prevalent than ever at Coachella and 2019 SXSW. They are two of the most renowned annual festivals. Both events featured high-profile pop-ups this year: From the Dolls Kill Quickie Mart, to the Calvin Klein #MYCALVINS House, these campaigns capitalize on the need to stay ahead of the curve in order to capture the millennial and Gen Z markets.

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Many of the most elaborate pop-ups at Coachella 2019 featured immersive spaces that festival-goers could use to take photos and get an insider’s view into the brand. This is an opportunity for experiential marketing with huge sales potential. It’s all about creating emotions and feelings that millennials and Gen Z will love. Unique brands are able to stand out in the Gen Z mindset. It’s been happening for years.

Beauty brand YSL designed a gas station with the possibility to fill up on the brand’s newest products. It was unique and beautifully designed. This space is great for Instagram photos. BMW utilized the event to capitalize upon the SoCal road trip fantasies,using the pop-up to show custom cars and give guests the chance to meet Khalid.

Although it can seem daunting for brands looking to make customers pay more attention in a constantly changing business world, curating beautiful spaces is a great way to build relationships with them on a personal level. This personal experience is one the most valuable commodities in today’s market and keeps customers coming back for more.

Relax…and have fun

Festivals are great for making friends and listening to great music. But they can also be a place of escape. Many people wait all year to attend these festivals. It’s a chance to escape into a world full of fantasy and joy. There can be sensory overload, which can sometimes lead to too many good things.

Brands can also create spaces that encourage relaxation and calm at festivals. A variety of brands used 2019 SXSW to remind customers to reset and practice self-care and health. Goop, a health and wellness company, hosted their first pop up this year. It featured entire stations dedicated to their most popular products. (Gwyneth Paltrow, founder of Goop, was also making rounds at major media outlets to promote the Goop brand–working brand awareness from all angles).

Others took advantage of the opportunity to join the wellness revolution. Bose held a popup to promote its new headphones/sunglasses. Viceland created a skatepark for visitors where they could take photos, skate and relax. Rent the Runway and West Elm hosted a relaxing pop-up with meditation apps. Each brand “sold” a concept of wellness, and not selling products. Each brand used 2019 SXSW to present new health trends and wellness products to a new audience. In essence, each brand was a relaxation vendor, offering a memorable experience that will last long after the last song has been played.

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Experience leads to lasting relationships

Pop-ups are a key part of festival experiences. Customers interact with the companies they create, and then share those posts with a wider audience through social media. Exposures are free for every visitor who attends a pop up. While some festival pop-ups are expensive, the influence and exposure gained can be priceless. The strong emotional connection is irreplaceable.

Pop-up Retail Delivers the 8-second Generation’s Imagination: Social Cause Captures It

You read that right. Gen Z, also known as the iGeneration is hard at work developing an eight second filter to determine what is worthy of their attention. Social cause marketing is a great way to get their attention and make them accept your message.

CSR (Corporate social Responsibility) is key

Gen Z is known for being easily distracted and having a difficult time sticking with one brand. They are highly praised for their support of social causes, from fighting global warming to saving the rainforest. Popular opinion is that they carry the responsibility of “saving the planet” on their shoulders, at fourteen- to twenty-something years old. __S.47__ This can help you connect with the audience that will spend $29-$143 billion per year in direct consumer spending in 2020.

It is important to align with a social cause that is relevant to your brand and authentic to it. Let’s take a look at some social cause initiatives by major retailers and brands and see how they can be expanded into retail pop-ups. This will create a win-win situation for both brand and cause.

Use humor and sampling to combat poverty and social injustice

Red Nose Day, an annual fundraising event for Comic Relief is held every year. This organization works to end poverty and injustice in the local and global communities. Mini Babybel(r), Cheese commissioned a huge interactive billboard to be activated. It had 10,000 Babybels attached. The cute Babybels were a perfect match for the red noses of its supporters. The image of Scarlett Moffatt, Googlebox star and Googlebox singer, was revealed as the Babybels were taken by passersby. Scarlett interacted with the crowd by sharing her best jokes and cracking jokes.Jokes about “cheesy”. The entire setup could have easily been “put on wheels” using a mobile pop up, which would have gained even more attention and more social media posts as it moved through the city.

Babybel’s activation was a great way to connect a playful brand with a serious social cause. It leveraged humor and its connective power to bring people together. It provided a great opportunity to sample and reinforced the red nose visual element. This experience could have been mobilized to increase its impact exponentially.

Gen Z responds better to brand messaging when they feel the cause is more than just supporting the bottom line. If you can create an emotional connection with your audience (and that emotion could be humor) and make a positive impact in the world, then it will resonate more with them.

Support climate change initiatives while immersing customers

McDonald’s offered a free McFlurry to pedestrians as part of their interactive global warming awareness campaign. A billboard with heat sensitivities provided free McFlurry cups to pedestrians. Lucky recipients could redeem the cups to receive a free McFlurry and be redirected to a nearby McDonald’s. It was a great way to increase foot traffic to the permanent location.

Let’s apply this idea to a pop up retail experience that partners with other brands. A pop-up could activate an offer when the humidity or temperature reaches a certain point (using AR and VR). A coupon is given to the patron, or the actual product. This pop-up is presented in partnership with non-profits such as The Nature Conservancy and The Environmental Defense Fund. It could be used to emotionally connect brands to solutions for rising temperatures.

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Pop-up retail, where compassion is the main commodity

“Order Mistakes” was a pop up restaurant that sought to understand people suffering from degenerative diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. The Japanese restaurant was built to raise awareness about Japan’s aging population. All of the waitstaff were suffering from a degenerative condition, and customers were informed that they would be receiving their orders incorrectly or never arrive. This experience provided much-needed insight into these debilitating conditions and the lives of those who are living with them.

The experiential pop-up highlighted a social cause that society often overlooks. The concept of the pop-up could also be applied to other retail categories, such as t-shirts that are too small, lipsticks in the wrong colors, and books in the wrong sections. This was an extremely bold activation, which might not have worked in the US like it did in Japan. It is absurd to spend money and time knowing that you might not get what you desire. The people who supported the cause were able to gain compassion and understanding for others’ struggles. This was a great tradeoff.

Gen Z expects your brand to be more than just a bottom line.

It is important to place your cause first when designing a pop-up for a social cause. Gen Z will appreciate your efforts. Patrons of all ages will also notice that you are giving back and moving forward.