In this industry, it’s vitally important to keep a finger on the pulse of whatever’s new, trendy and happening on the events scene… and it’s fair to say we’ve been more than impressed by the rapid growth of pop up events across the country in recent years.
Once the domain of hipster start-ups and arty crowds, pop-up venues have seemingly become more and more commonplace - so much so, in fact, that their unique look and vibe has had a major influence on more mainstream and established events and event planners.
The influence of pop-up culture is now everywhere. We’ve seen a vast increase in interest in local art, street food (especially Asian and US roadside style casual dining), unsigned musicians and performers, artisan coffee - all of these things and much more have come about as a result of pop-ups influencing the events industry as a whole.
It has brought a welcome breath of fresh air to the scene, and many people have been keen to get their fingers into this growing and vibrant pie.
It’s important to bear in mind, however, that despite their seemingly organic approach, ‘unplanned’ and spontaneous feel, and temporary, transient nature, pop-up events and pop-up venues are highly effective as brand ambassadors and at spreading brand awareness.
Their mastery lies in the combination of seeming like the easiest thing in the world to organise, while also requiring some real skill and events organising management to pull off effectively.
Want to organise a pop-up event that manages to appear spontaneous, natural and serendipitous, yet which goes off without a hitch and pulls in a crowd? It’s easier said than done…
The Characteristics of Pop-Up Events
The perfect pop-ups effectively combine both the expected and the unexpected. They need to offer something new - or at the very least, something on-trend - while also being familiar and accessible enough to draw in a decent crowd.
A good example would be something like a craft beer festival: on the one hand, everybody knows more or less what to expect from such an event. On the other, when you throw in a bunch of radical, young, local breweries trying to show off their produce in a unique way, you can end up with something truly extraordinary.
Add a trendy and unusual venue, with music by top-name DJs and the hottest indie bands, and you have a pop-up classic that is going to pull in a fresh and vibrant crowd, such as we saw at the London Craft Beer Festival 2017.
Variation and Range
Pop-up events cover a very broad range indeed, and despite being categorised under one umbrella term, they really are just as varied as any traditional or conventional event type. The key difference is their ephemeral nature - the likelihood is, they’re a one-off event which, even if repeated in some form or other, is likely to be a totally unique happening.
To get some idea of their variability, take a look at the growing dining pop-up scene. This covers a vast range of different ideas and options. There are the supper clubs, where a meal (often themed) will be hosted in an unusual location or even in a private home, and kitchen takeovers where a chef or team of cooks will take over a restaurant kitchen for a week or so to showcase their talents and bring in a fresh crowd.
There are temporary and secret restaurants opening in everything from cargo units to abandoned industrial spaces, and 1920s style speakeasy cocktail bars holding lavish parties which vanish as abruptly as they appear. All require an enormous amount of planning and preparation, and all rely on the idea of something fresh, new and temporary descending upon a location for a limited amount of time.
Check out chic examples such as The Candlelight Club - a now legendary London dining pop-up event.
Punters sign up, and are told of the top secret location on the day of the event, along with the strict dress code and information about the entertainment on offer. By doing this regularly, this pop-up company have managed to amass a truly dedicated following via word-of-mouth, and can guarantee sell-out ticket numbers for every single event.
Pay to Play?
Whether or not a pop-up event organiser decides to charge entry for their event depends largely on the goals and nature of the event itself. Some pop-ups benefit from being free - such as festivals full of vendors, as the organiser will take a cut from the profits made by those selling their wares.
Other pop-ups, such as flash-mobs, promotional events and the suchlike, also benefit from being free as they exist as huge marketing opportunities. Check out how UK retail giant John Lewis is cashing in with a promotional free pop-up rooftop restaurant.
On the flipside of this, there are plenty of times when ticketing a pop-up is not only sensible, but would be totally expected. Fans of pop-up dining, for example, would expect to pay for a ticket for a couple of different reasons.
Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, ticketing would be expected due to the fact that it adds an air of exclusivity to the event - not everybody would be able to go, and as such, the diners who do make it feel as though they are part of something truly special. Secondly, pop-up dining generally has a theatrical element - done properly, it is an experience in itself - and this is something millennials in particular are more than happy to part with their cash for.
Thoughts on Marketing
Every event has a marketing component to it, but few take this quite as far as is commonplace with pop-up events. In order for a pop-up event to be successful, by its very nature it must generate plenty of buzz. There are few more effective types of ‘buzz’ than word-of-mouth recommendations, and cultivating this is central to any pop-ups success… especially if you’re going for that organic, spontaneous or secret vibe.
When considering setting up a pop-up event, it’s highly important to think about how you’re going to market it. Are you going to focus your efforts on social media, rope in some influencers to tweet about your plans, or go down a more traditional, or totally different route? This decision should be influenced and inspired by the nature of the event itself, and the marketing of the event should chime with the feel of the happening. Here’s a great guide to marketing pop-up shops and venues, and the tips here could also be used for other types of events, too!
Are Pop-Up Events Right For You?
The monumental shift in the events industry that has arisen from the rise of pop-ups has brought plenty of benefits to businesses, marketers and events organisers alike. However, the key to their success is a sense of authenticity, which, although this can be imitated to a certain extent, does not work for everyone or every business.
The important things to bear in mind when considering organising a pop-up are:
- Having realistic goals. Pop-ups need to be ideas-driven, and have an enormous amount of focus. They should be based around a single key notion or idea, and should have a singular selling point. As a result of this, they might not make the same huge profit margins as might be expected from more traditional events.
- Legalities. Unusual events require unusual locations, and pop-up venues should be researched fully to ensure they comply with laws and licenses. Failure to research this properly might result in your event not going ahead after you’ve worked hard to generate the buzz you need!
- Budgeting. Pop-up venues can be pricey, especially if they are in locations which aren’t commonly used for events. You’ll have to figure in catering costs, as well as the cost of a team which can make the magic happen.
Top Tips for Pop-Up Success
Ensure flow with a consistent concept
You want the concept of your pop-up event to permeate every aspect of the event itself. As such, think carefully about what you want to communicate, and make sure that this is reflected in the decor, the food and drinks you’re serving, and the entertainment you’re providing.
Serve Finger Food
This is especially important for pop-up shops and marketing events - dirty plates and stains everywhere is not the look you’ll be going for! Finger buffets which fit with your concept are the perfect solution to keeping things clean, and keeping your guests happy!
Get a local brewery on board
Craft beer and pop-ups go hand in hand, and plenty of local, independent breweries would jump at the chance to sponsor your event and provide the booze your guests need. By working together, you could ensure a mutually successful event that will benefit everyone!
Employ People to Keep Your Space Looking Great
It shouldn’t eat into your budget to ensure you have a couple of extra members of staff making sure the venue is looking as good as it should. Glass collectors and diligent staff members can ensure there are no breakages or spillages, and can guarantee a smooth, tidy event that gives the best impression.
POP-UP EVENTS: A BRAVE NEW WORLD FOR THE EVENTS INDUSTRY
There’s no doubt about the fact that pop-ups have transformed the events organising landscape, and it’s an exciting time to get into the industry and chance your arm at something new. Furthermore, for established brands and businesses, the ‘organic’ vibe that such events provide are the perfect way to spread your message.
We’ve been at the forefront of this growing trend since the start. If you’re looking for any help, advice, or assistance in organising a pop-up, we’re ready to work with you and ensure something wonderful happens!
We hope you’ve enjoyed this article, and we’d love to hear about your own experiences in the world of pop-ups.