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  • Subject area(s): Marketing
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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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Pop Up Events the New Experiential Marketing Phenomenon?

The aim of this essay is to explore how the pop-up industry has developed in terms of experience and how it can have benefits to customers. A comparison of 'events' and 'pop ups' will be briefly observed to begin to understand a definition for the term 'pop-up events'. Statistics and reports relevant to the trend of the 'Pop-up' will be viewed and a critical review of experiential marketing literature and the experience economy provided. Case studies of events that have taken advantage of the new trend and how this new trend can have a positive impact on a customer's experience and customer lifetime value. Lastly in view of the internet, a momentary look at how this could change people's desire to find new experiences in a bottomless world of information.

In order to define 'Pop up events' Bladen et al (2012), Events management an Introduction sees an 'event' as first being 'temporary' and secondly being 'purposive gatherings of people'. The EE Pop up Retail Economy Report (2014) has a comparable outlook and defines 'pop up' as 'a temporary shop, stall or brand experience used to sell goods and services for a limited period of time', these can include market stalls, galleries, caf''s and bars. It is considered by the author that both of these definitions are very similar and it could be said that a 'Pop-up' gallery, bar or cafe could actually be considered as an event itself, they are temporary, secondly they provide a one-off experience and lastly they are unique and have purpose to the consumer.

The pop-up economy is typically categorised in one of two ways: Pop-Up Shop or Pop-Up Event. Unlike traditional events such as festivals or concerts, the pop-up is a one-time event with no expectations of it becoming  fixed. Furthermore, pop-up events often require a smaller budget and our usually held in unique settings.  A senior brand manager for Comfort believes that a pop-up 'should be considered as a one off experience available for a short time' (Roberts,2014). An event that is unique like all others and therefore enabling customers to get excited about a new experience.' Robertson and Frew  (2008) show that a 'massive increase in media output that typifies an information economy has led people to be more selective in their choices'.

Pine and Gilmore (1999) the 'experience economy' mention that 'a recent business trend has been a new emphasis on experiential marketing and the 'experience economy', with companies seeking to influence their potential customers through the provision of memorable and enjoyable experiences. Drucker (1999) states that the 'purpose of business is to create and keep customers' and so business has two general functions, 'marketing and innovation'.  Marketing is 'the process by which organisations create value for customers to receive value from them in return', innovation is the 'process of applying or implementing something new and useful'. (Boddy, 2014). To understand the value of marketing it is important to understand customer satisfaction which is how a customer perceives a product or service and whether it matches their expectations. A common way to categorise marketing is known as the 4p's-product, price, promotion and place, this is a tool for managers to be able to try to meet customer's needs, create satisfaction and retain customer lifetime value. Experiential marketing falls under the 4p's of promotion and is an approach to engaging customers and allowing exposure to a much more meaningful and deeper level of interaction resulting in positive emotions and outcomes. A report on experiential marketing, events and sponsorships state that by 'using one or more senses such as touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing, it establishes a touch-point or connection with consumers in the form of experiences that are personal, memorable, and interactive.' An experiential marketing approach mentioned by Schmitt, 2000 is that of strategic experiential modules (SEM) ,that  include, sensory experiences, affective experiences, creative cognitive experiences, physical experiences and entire lifestyles. Comfort, detergent brand created the Comfort Intense Garden an immersive experience featuring flowers made from clothes and washed in the new comfort product range, as a one off experience, 6,000 people attended and the event gave customers a positive and engaged, theatrical experience.

 It is important to consider in this paper that London alone as the capital city is now home to more people than at any time in its history. More than 8.6 million people are now living in London with estimations that by 2050, 11million people will call the city home.   Pops ups have enabled the re-development of unrecognised spaces. After all, 'the experience a city offers are a critical metric of its success'it's not enough to simply 'work well', it must also feel good and attract people to come...' (Brancato, J 2015So why talk about cities? An article by Brancato (2015) says 'To accommodate the growing population, while not just maintaining but actually improving quality of life, we must transform underutilized infrastructure to create new and more relevant uses. Updating and adding public spaces that provide relief in an increasingly dense city enables growth while enriching the human experience.' Shopping habits and social attitudes have changed. To remain relevant  to communities and businesses as they have been in the past, the centres of our towns and cities and our high streets have to change with them. (Foreword from Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, and Grant Shapps MP, Minister for High Streets). The fast growing trend of the 'Pop-up' has created a new generation, not just in terms of business and re-development but have also broadened the customer's role in these types of events, it is said that a 'customer experience depends on what a customer can and is willing to do and how much an organization allows the customers to actually do themselves' (McColl-Kennedy et al, 2015). The California Management Review (2003) states that 'Developing this understanding requires that companies shift their views of potential customers: to stop viewing them as consumers and instead view them as producers' who are 'engaged in seeking a good life'. Traditional methods of marketing such as price, features, quality and service are considered to be losing the ability to distinguish companies, so therefore there is a need to develop great experiences, it has been assumed that the 'customer experience is the next competitive battleground.' (Shaw and Ivens, 2002). The author suggests that 'Pop up events' themselves could be the creators of this new experience that customers are seeking. Pop up events enable customers to immerse themselves and also have benefits such as to motivate and have incentives to encourage consumers to a location otherwise not visited. The new trend has created an environment for connecting with friends, engaging with uncertainty of the event and therefore producing excitement for the consumer.  By encouraging pop-up events in areas of the city that are not traditionally invested in privately, it is able to demonstrate a continued dedication to communities, even when significant financial resources are not available. The popup events also works to attract visitors into the area and promotes a community, in some cases pop-up events are considered more spontaneous.

Media and technology means that people now have access to a range of influences, lifestyles and cultures than ever before. People seek to actively self-define their identity, meaning that identity itself is becoming increasingly diverse. A paper shows the implications of this for the arts are: that 'People will dabble more, 'snacking' on bitesize pieces of culture organisations therefore need to offer experiences appropriate to this mode of consumption.' This paper was found in the national archives named 'Audience knowledge digest' and discusses what can be done to attract customers to museums and galleries and is also very relevant in showing that pop-ups are just that, a small piece of culture that consumers can get excited about visiting not only because it is new but because it has a short life and it can be there one day and gone the next.

As mentioned before 'the massive increase in media output that typifies an information economy has led people to be more selective in their choices' (Robertson and Frew, 2008). The demand for consumer escapism is on the increase, customers are seeking occasions that allow them to let go of the burdens of daily life to be able to enjoy totally new experiences of culture and development. 'More consumers want to lead active, varied lives away from work, lives that can respond to their every interest, instinct and indulgence and cast them in the very best light in front of friends, families and networks alike' (Felitti and Fiore, 2012). Experiences that are able to boost cultural knowledge and personal achievement to the outside world are growing in appeal. As mentioned in a study by Eventbrite on   The Rise of Pop-Up Dining Events and the Experiential Diner in 2014, has found that customers are demanding ; unexpected locations, personal interactions with chefs, and unique menu's or themes, these Pop-up events cater to the 'Experiential Diner''who craves not just an amazing meal, but a new and dramatic dining experience.' This shows the trend in pop-up events is in demand,  people are rejecting the inactive encounters and seek more depth and meaning for active participation, customers are becoming more 'sophisticated and,more interested in different cultures.' (Yeoman, 2013). 'It has become less and less fashionable to broadcast the fact that one's personal entertainment options are focused on simple, easy-to-access pleasures.' Focus on embracing hedonism , ' sensory pleasures, daydreams, emotional response and aesthetic enjoyment.'(Joseph'Mathews et al, 2009). Pop-up events can therefore provide an upgrade of the leisure experience irrelevant to social class or financial advantage. (Yeoman, 2013.)

Trend spotting is 'where customers are interactively involved in both production and consumption of new services' (Kelley et al, 1990) It has 'emerged as a tool for marketers to monitor changes in the technology and market environment and to adapt their actions accordingly' (Porter et al., 2011). People are seeking 'optimal benefits from their time allocation' (Andreassen et al 2015) therefore in an age of fast experiential marketing people have become attracted to innovative events such as the 'Pop-Up'. Durgee in 'The Journal of Consumer Marketing' states that 'advertising's purposes are to excite and to inform', consumer research 'regards a product as a drama, with setting (where is the product most enjoyed?), mood (how do people feel when using it?).' This brings the author to ask does this have relevance to the customer experience, and the new trend of the popup?

 Trends such as the Pop-up can lead back to the notion of the 'experience economy' mentioned by Pine and Gilmore, 1999. It is understood that consumers don't just want convenience, instead a more underlying notion of satisfaction and 'ones that take not less time but more.' (Norton, 2009). Instead of ownership, they desire experiences that give their lives meaning, in turn this can result in customer life time value.

There has become a cultural shift across all markets driven by the internet it has been shown to have become part of everyday life. The 2011 Customer Experience impact report states that; 'With globalization and the internet providing nearly unlimited choices, power has shifted from corporations to consumers. This shift makes it nearly impossible for companies to sustain differentiation based on price or product alone. The only option that remains is the customer experience.' In today's market, greater opportunities for growth lie in creative experiences that provide time well spent. Pop ups can be very much a day out for consumers they also entail the psychological feeling of the 'fear of missing out' (FOMO). For example, if consumers know that the event is only at a location for a small amount of time, never to return again, the urge to go is impulsive and increases as fear of missing out overcomes them.

Popups are seen to be by the author an experiential marketing approach used to exceed a customer expectation, it is a phenomenon in which marketing managers can implement innovation and change due to the needs, wants and demand of the consumer. They are a powerful tool which can be shared not only when the event is at location but also shared through social media, which leads the author to another question is experimental marketing more effective than a, tweet or Facebook? Revolutionary changes such as, social networking provide 'a communication channel for people who want to share their interests with other member of the online community' (Boddy, 2014), considering this it is understood that social media has enabled experiential marketing to have a higher viewing once shared on platforms such as Facebook or Instagram. The future of experiential marketing relies on not only the immersive experience but having that experienced shared, 'companies need to address target audiences both directly and also indirectly through social media'(Palmer,2009).

From research in to marketing and the trend pop up it is suggested that the experiential approach that the trend has taken on, does not only show to be beneficial to organizations in terms of profit or to customers in terms of value but also has benefits linked to whole community's and even cities, adding social value. The Popup is shown to provide, the sensory experience and also creates a psychological 'fear of missing out', it brings excitement in to an ever changing consumer driven world and can exceed customer expectations. Providing the demand for experience, allowing customers to not just to be at the event  but to be engaged in the event in every way possible, it is a way of allowing customers to sense, feel, think, act and relate, this suggesting that the popup is not a new phenomenon but one that is here to stay and can take on many forms.


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2. Colin Jevons, (2005),"Names, brands, branding: beyond the signs, symbols, products and services", Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. 14 Iss 2 pp. 117 - 118

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5. Editorial Staff of the British Food Journal, (1989),"Food for Thought", Marketing Intelligence & Planning, Vol. 7 Iss 9/10 pp. 43 - 47

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