Updated: Apr 20
From foodies and shoppers to cinema and theatre lovers, the number of people attracted by pop-up events is growing on the back of the appeal of experiential marketing. Restaurants, retailers, cinemas, hotels, and more, are reaping the rewards of these well-executed, immersive mini wows.
What are the benefits?
Good pop-up events are powerful brand-builders. They enable companies to inject a fresh buzz into their brand, product, or service. They boost brand awareness and have the flexibility to allow you to test the water of a new brand concept, before a full launch.
Offering something new, that you can target towards a specific audience, means opening doors to sales and different customers, without alienating your existing customer base. For example, hotels might want to fill venue space on weekends. Pop-ups can fill the venue on a Friday/Saturday while offering a new experience to regular weekday business travellers too.
So, pop-ups a smart tool for venue and hotel yield management strategies.
If your only goals involve awareness, attracting influencers, launching a new business or brand, you don't have to make guests pay! If one of your objectives is making money, then read on.
If you're selling an experience, it can come with a higher price tag. I’m working with an independent cinema to plan and produce a series of pop-up events. The series of events will vary from dining experiences for adults to children’s events, but each will have an immersive element. The variety of the film and theatre industry gives these venues endless creative opportunities while boosting average ticket values.
I’ve also managed events at Chester Zoo. Ticket holders are not just paying for amazing food; they’re paying for a unique experience with a sprinkling of magic that is only available for a limited time with a limited capacity. Events like these allow guests to purchase an elevated experience to the usual offering. These sorts of events are also the perfect opportunity for corporate hospitality, what better way to wow your clients or prospects than with a rare ticket to a ‘pop-up’?
Community / CSR
Creating a buzz can have a fantastic effect on community-building – and not just for your brand. Local initiatives, by extension, are an investment in people and businesses in your area too. They can do loads to lift people’s spirits – check out this community pop-up for a group of independent traders in the South Manchester suburb of Chorlton.
Pull off a pop-up event
Pop-ups, by their nature, should be exciting. Each one should be unique, yet still reflect the brand it is there to support. So, inspiration and creativity are as crucial as fine-tuned planning.
The best way to start is by finding a strategic partner to work with and let them do the hard work for you. Professional events consultants will understand your brand and goals in the creative stages. They’ll then work with you on the complexities of catering, event marketing, ROI, operations, staffing, and more.
Don't feel you have to go full pelt into an expensive or long-term contract. I find that the most successful way to approach pop-ups is to plan, test, and prove a concept with an initial schedule of events over an agreed time period.
Here’s my mini step-by-step guide:
1. Once you’ve found your partner, and agreed on your goals and target market, get your business buy-in. If you are a venue or hotel, for example, you may need to include the owner or General Manager for headline financial models, then operational teams to work with your events consultant to deliver the project plan.
2. Commit and agree on commercials. Decide who will manage cash flow, ticketing, P&L, operations, staffing, catering, overheads from the venue. Include who will lead the event marketing and agree on what is going in the budget.
3. Filter information from the top down. A venue’s people need to know what you’re doing and who your partner is so they can get what they need from your operations team. You still need your marketing team involved too.
Depending on whether you or your event expert is selling tickets, the flow of information and data may vary, e.g. if you have an existing list of subscribers.
4. Agree who your team is, and who has which roles or responsibilities. Then build your full action plan. You may prefer a Gantt Chart for this, while your event partner may use a different project management planner. Use a solution that’s easy for your core team to follow but prioritise the project manager who has responsibility for updating the document.
Everyone must hit deadlines, and that needs managing, e.g. designs, printing, deliveries, costings, and contracts with external caterers, etc. Hosting your pop-up in an unusual space? Factor in timings for any permits required from local councils, insurance providers, and so on.
5. Get dates in the diary early to maximize your planning time.
6. Another one for hotels/venues here - agree on in-house or external catering. If you want to cater in-house, it MUST be up to scratch, especially if you’re hosting a food event. In-house will give you a more significant margin. Still, tasting menus generally don’t use in-house chefs because they require specialists to make guests speechless for the right reasons.
7. Review each event and implement changes if needed, but make sure all your stakeholders are on-board.
Throughout the planning, marketing, and execution process, remember my primary rule for pop-up events – your guests should always expect (and experience) the unexpected!