What beauty brands need to know about popups

By Kirsty Doolan

- Last updated on GMT

Barnes and his team oversaw NYX Professional Makeup's Barbie-themed popup in London's Covent Garden
Barnes and his team oversaw NYX Professional Makeup's Barbie-themed popup in London's Covent Garden

Related tags Marketing Cosmetics Social media marketing brand differentiation Beauty brand

Beauty popup expert James Barnes, founder of creative agency Backlash, shared his advice on what makes a good popup and revealed the recent trends he’s spotted.

The summer season is always filled with gloriously colourful beauty popups springing up in cities across Europe and the UK.

Founder of creative agency Backlash James Barnes has worked on lots of London-based popups for big-name brands such as Rituals, NYX and Paula’s Choice. He said the trend of experiential retail popup shops is showing no sign of slowing and that he's getting more requests than ever.

“As a result of the popularity and maturing of this format, brands are looking for new ways to standout and innovate the format, so their activation feels fresh, newsworthy, and ultimately attracts as many people as possible to visit,” ​he shared.

“Gone are the days when a popup is new news; successful brand popups need to have an exciting creative hook to entice existing and new customers to seek them out.”

What makes the perfect popup?

Based on several years of creating experiential marketing for beauty brands, Barnes and his team have concluded there are three points to the perfect popup: 

1. Creative concept is crucial

Having a highly innovative and exciting creative concept for the popup is by far the most important driver of success for the pop up. A newsworthy experience acts as an awareness multiplier, which massively increases the reach, so it not only lives physically, but also digitally online and in people’s social feeds.”

2. Be single minded

Don’t be tempted to try and fit every single item from your range into the experience to tick all the brand and commercial boxes. If it is a new product launch then really celebrate that by creating multiple physical and digital experiences that bring it to life. Including every product from across all ranges just turns into a standard retail experience and feels less special.

3. Clever ways to drive ROI

This is essentially two tips under one umbrella that make huge differences to the ROI of the project:

First up, be open to alternative locations that might have slightly less footfall or prestige; often these locations are a quarter of the price. If the creative concept is great, people will seek you out wherever you are!
My second tip is about the duration the popup is open for. If you can open for two weekends instead of one, then your average daily ROI figures will double or even triple. The increase in days only requires around 10% additional budget, but it means that your consumers will have more time to plan a visit, which results in increased footfall on a daily basis.

And don’t forget to…

Think outside of the big cities
As lover of the popup format and self-confessed popup geek I would like to see more brands activating these exciting retail experiences outside of London and other big cities,”​ said Barnes. “Having London-based media and influencers attend the popup is much easier in the capital, but we find that the consumers are much more engaged when in other cities, as brands hardly ever take their popups on nation-wide tours.”

Create an events programme.
“To maximise the value of the unique brand world you have created, consider developing a programme of event content that utilises retailing down-times such as Monday mornings or evenings,” ​advises Barnes. “Host exclusive community sessions for diehard brand fans, immersive product workshops, ‘meet the founder’ and other live programme ideas. We are always surprised at how popular these sessions are and the amazing content guests create.”

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