Is It a Pop-Up or a Party?

pop up party getting ready

As we forge ahead in our new millennium, marketers must find creative ways to tackle tough questions. What’s the best way to leverage brand ambassadors?  If an influencer influences and no one responds, did they really influence? And, finally, if a pop-up offers up bubbles, biscotti, and a 10% discount — is it really a pop-up or is it just a party? What’s the difference?

For experiential marketers, it’s important to define the pop-up accurately in order to set the right expectations, not only for your customer, but for your team. A pop-up is a marketing tool that can be much more than a PR party.

Know Your Pop-Up

There are fundamentally two kinds of pop-ups: homegrown, often spontaneous events, and strategically designed environments. As the Atlantic reports, “The former involves, say, a lone entrepreneur who scopes out a bustling brunch spot and puts up tentpoles and tables to sell her line of handbags. It’s a form of marketing that is flexible, creative, and timeless. The second category is, by now, more visible: Google pops up a donut shops to promote its new internet-connected speakers; Bulgari invites models to a popcorn-themed fashion pop-up in Paris.”

As more and more brands have adopted pop-ups, the format has become a catch-all term. It’s not a party your publicist plans, which is itself an art form. A pop-up takes creative strategy, a storytelling experience, and a built installation — but one that is not built to last.

Parties serve a vital purpose in marketing (and are a great excuse for champagne). But it’s important know when it’s a party — and when your marketing dollars would be better served by investing in a pop-up.

We asked Katie Bottrell, Group Delphi’s Vice President of Marketing and Growth, to weigh in on when you should pay for a real pop-up, or simply throw a cool party. Her answer? Step back and ask these questions first.

What’s your event goal?

“Think about what you’re hoping to accomplish. Are you selling retail on site? Generating buzz with a new product? Or are you looking for deeper connections?” says Bottrell.

A big factor in your choice has to be the audience. Who is this event for?

“A party will offer opportunities for focused engagement with your audience but give you less range. It’s great for your established customer base, and you can accomplish a lot of excitement with VIPs at, say, a venue folks normally can’t access,” says Bottrell.

Pop-ups, on the other hand, offer broader exposure to new audiences and can take on many forms.

“If you want to amplify your brand and come into the market in a splashy way, then a pop-up is a great option,” says Bottrell. “And remember, not all pop-ups are the same. Some are for the public, transforming a typical space into an eye-catching new experience. You can also partner with a retailer for an in-store takeover to their established customer base. A great example being Glossier and Rhea’s Cafe.”

Location, Location, Location

Choosing a location can’t be an afterthought.

“Do you already have a space that is friendly to a party, like a hip office? Or, are you looking for something unconventional for your party, like a warehouse or a marina?” says Bottrell.

If you decide on a pop-up, think about how you’d like to bring focus to your experience in an open space using a dome or tent, a fully functioning building structure that comes together overnight, or a trailer you roll in. But you can’t always do exactly what’s in your mind’s eye.

“Whatever your chosen location, you must consider the regulations for hosting your own event or party. For pop-ups, you will encounter licensing and permitting regulations, insurance requirements, and serious logistical considerations,” says Bottrell. “For events, many venues cover the cost of licensing and insurance, and include that in their rates. You’ll need get acquainted with the venue’s coverage.”

Don’t Forget Flow

“Pop-ups typically have a catchy main attraction and smaller supporting areas of energy, whereas party attendees can be motivated to flow through a defined space over time. So, be sure to consider how you want people to move through the experience,” says Bottrell.

Next, think about your focal point. Is it a celebrity, an art installation, a music act, or perhaps a product launch?

“A party is great for unveiling your newest product and its features. Parties are also fantastic if you’ve got a celebrity or thought leader lined up to present, as you can guide attendees to a specific area at a certain time. A pop-up… not so much, as there is no way to ensure folks won’t miss the main event. For pop-ups, you’ll need a series of focal points throughout the event and your brand ambassadors to guide attendees through the experience.”

Thinking about a food event? Read more in Culinary Pop-Ups: Keeping a Cool Head and a Hot Plate.

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