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With temporary retail outlets popping up just about everywhere in large cities, brands have been outdoing themselves with surprise moves to attract young urbanites. The recent French 2017 Trophées du Brand Content event consecrated the pop-up store as the star of brand leveraging strategy.

And yet, pop-up retail is nothing new. In fact, it dates back to the 80’s. It is an offshoot of the marketing strategy of the founder of Swatch, Nicolas Hayek, who described it this way “We go in, we make noise, and we clear out”. At that time, we were essentially half way between classic shops and street marketing. The aim of the pop-up shop is not to really to do retail business; it is in fact a merchandising tool to make the brand stand out so as to boost sales through conventional channels.

The pop-up: the new customer experience.

An incredible example is the “chocolate bar” launched by Carlsberg in the UK at Easter time. The purpose of a pop-up store is to “make noise, but that’s not all. By offering a beer & chocolate experience, the brand wanted to set a new taste craze and thereby get more people to consume more beer at Easter time.

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Beyond linear constraints

In the consumer market, especially the food sector, pop-up stores are also a chance for brands to get over the hurdles of the conventional retail environment, to express themselves well beyond the physical limits of a store aisle.

This was the case with the coffee brand Carte Noir, who came up with a “Black supermarket”, a cool and artsy flash store set up in an abandoned supermarket. The public got a chance not just to discover the new coffee capsule range, but also to taste coffee shop creations, nibble street food, sip cocktails and even take art or yoga classes.

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Changing the image of the industry

Pop-ups enable brands to get closer to their customers’ expectations, for example with personalized products and premium experience.

In the fierce battle for ice cream supremacy, there are pop-ups galore. After Magnum in 2016, Carte d’Or launched a pop-up shop in 2017 to get Parisians to taste new iced specialties such as frozen macarons, “customized” to the customer’s taste. In this way, Carte d’Or was able to get over its image as “industrial ice cream” and portray itself as “designer food”.

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In Spain, the retailer Lidi set up a pop-up restaurant in a movie theater to promote their Deluxe range.

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Prompt instant desire

The virtue of the pop-up store is that it generates a unique experience, with an exclusive offer, valid for a limited time, for a privileged few. This is scarcity marketing, which is particularly suitable for luxury firms, many of whom have gone for the pop-up concept. In Italy, Louis Vuitton ran a pop-up store at the start of the year, making a buzz with Milanese hipsters.

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