What You Need to Know About Viral Pop-Up Shops!

Close your eyes, and try to image how many times you have been scrolling your facebook news feed and have stumbled upon a shared video of a brand-consumer interaction, or how many times you may have seen aesthetically pleasing instagram backgrounds, settings or accounts and wondered – ‘where was that picture possibly taken?’ while clicking the location tag. Whether it’s the John Lewis Christmas commercial, Drake’s ‘Kiki’ dance challenge, or Gangnam Style, virality is memorable, risky, unique, effective and an ever present strategy across all marketing channels.

When opening pop-up shops, brands have a unique opportunity to create an exciting and emotional experience that will have consumers leaving the premises feeling something – anything, and associating that with your brand.

Perhaps it’s a grand gesture, perhaps a prank, or even a photo worthy and experiential atmosphere. If your audience can physically arrive at your store and leave with a memorable experience – there is a chance they can spread the word to attract others. Viral pop-up shops are a sure fire way to reach your goals – if you can manage to go viral that is.  Let’s break down some goals to have when attempting a viral Pop-Up shop, and look at a few household brands like Glossier, Payless, and Diesel that have recently popped-up shareworthy campaigns and shops.


Establish clear goals for why you want to go viral

Photo by Nik MacMillan on Unsplash

In attempting to open a viral pop-up shop, the goal of your campaign/shop has to be established right off the bat. Some viral pop-up shop goals might include:

  • Increase brand awareness
  • Establish emotional branding and perception
  • Boost sales
  • Increase social following
  • Regain relevance
  • Reposition in the market
  • Create positive brand association with a cause


Choose your Type of viral Pop-Up

Photo by Joshua Coleman on Unsplash

Some Types of viral Pop-Ups Include:

Create an emotional video from the pop-up experience like the Febreeze pop-up experiment commercial

  • Demonstrational
  • Mysterious
  • Relatable
  • Relevant

Play a ‘prank’ on your unknowing audience like Payless tricking influencers with ‘Palessi’

  • Humour
  • Reality Check
  • Later gratification

Collaborate with another brand to draw in a larger audience like J. Crew & We Work

  • Brand X Brand Collaboration
  • Celebrity Endorsement
  • Collaborations supporting a cause

Introduce a ‘surprise’ effect for excitement like Kim K surprising fans at her KKW Beauty pop-up shop

  • Surprise Pop-up
  • Surprise discount at ‘this’ location only
  • New Release
  • Special Guest

Create a memorable / sharable atmosphere & setting like The Museum of Selfies in LA

  • ‘Instagrammable’ Spaces
  • Props, seating, and takeaways
  • Sensory environment


Know your Target Market

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Assuming that this is always a marketing given – it’s only fair to mention the importance of knowing who your market is and how they behave while shopping. By knowing your market’s data and demographics, you can make assumptions about what they (and other like minded shoppers) will react positively, and emotionally to. You need to plan your campaign around your target market, understand where (what social media platform) they are spending their time and therefore how they will share or engage with your pop-up campaign, and also where your target market lives – physically. As always, and once again – it’s just best to know your target market inside and out before you launch your pop-up shop.


Be Unique

Photo by Cody Davis on Unsplash

Adventure into the unknown – it could be worth it. The more unique and ‘new’ of an idea it is, the better. Start with your goal, and further explore the type of viral pop-up works best with your goal, then get creative and encourage social media engagement amongst the participants or those who experience your pop-up shop in the flesh! The more outrageous, risky, different, and ‘not done yet’ your pop-up shop campaign is, the more it will blow up IF it goes viral. High risk – high reward!


Learn from experienced brands that successfully launched viral pop-ups


Photo: Kris Tamburello

The popular NYC based online beauty and skincare brand launched their ‘Glossier You – The Offline Experience’ pop-up shop in NYC. Known for their beloved packaging and aesthetically pleasing instagram feed, Glossier’s theme was focused on their branding escaping it’s online confines and continuing a parallel ‘in the flesh’ universe to their online life. This space is extremely sharable being deemed a ‘totally instagrammable’ location in various blogs and has successfully gone viral across instagram in particular as influencers utilise the backdrop for their own posts, promoting the location and it’s namesake product the ‘Glossier You’ perfume.

Payless – ‘Palessi’

Sourced from: www.palessishoes.com

Payless opened its first of 9 holiday pop-up shops in NYC this past month. Having experienced significant loss from their traditional brick-and-mortar locations, Payless was hoping for these pop-ups to go viral, where they are offering a large selection of shoes, accessories and handbags for sale throughout the holiday season. But how would they do it? Well Payless opted for the ‘Prank’ style of viral pop-ups for one of their LA shops, masking their regular inventory against luxury backdrops and applying an absurd markup – just to see how much influencers could be convinced to pay for a pair of ‘Palessi’ shoes – a brand they’d never heard of. The ‘brand’ even comes equipped with it’s own website – that links back to Payless when you click the ‘shop’ button. Payless of course didn’t keep the money (making upwards of $3000 off of their products within the first few hours according to AdWeek) returning it to the influencers and giving them the free shoes! Their goal here was clearly not to turn a profit off of this shop, but to resurrect their brand and expand awareness around the holidays. And here we are… writing about it!

Diesel – ‘Deisel’

Sourced from: Diesel’s Youtube ‘Go With the Flaw’ campaign video

Italian retailer Diesel came up with a similar ‘prank’ style pop-up to go along with their Fall 2017 ad campaign ‘Go with the flaw’, celebrating the power of beauty and imperfections. The campaign consisted of ads featuring young adults sporting uniquely beautiful physical characteristics and eclectic outfits expressing personal style. To embrace or ‘Go with the flaw’, Diesel opted for a genuine Diesel pop-up located in NYC that deceptively was selling Diesel ‘knock offs’ with their iconic logo spelling D-E-I-S-E-L (pronounced die-sul). Consumers are filmed entering the fake store and not ‘buying’ what the salesmen are trying to tell them as genuine Diesel! The shop pulled out all the stops with neon signage, ‘Buy-2-get-1-free’ offers trying to seem ‘authentically inauthentic’. The following morning after Diesel announced that the shop – as disorganized and fake as it seemed – was filled with genuine products, which led to a long line of shoppers flowing down the street. The ‘fake’ collection was an exclusive and temporary line that fashion influencers and aficionados were eager to get their hands on.

If you intend to open a pop-up shop that may go viral, keep these tips and tricks in mind – and let us know how it went! Be sure to check out www.popupshops.com for more information, and to browse thousands of spaces available worldwide for your next viral campaign.