What can musicians teach you about your next pop-up?


Five years ago, Beyoncé took the music industry by storm when she released her fifth, self-titled album. Beyoncé was so unique because each song had an accompanying music video and that the album released unexpectedly. The recording process was secretive and the album itself suddenly appeared on the iTunes Music Store without any promotion. When asked about this strategy, Beyoncé said she wanted to revitalize album releases.

The surprise album release, first implemented by Radiohead in 2007, became a popular tactic for recording artists. It allowed them to regain control of their product, rather than follow the traditional format of distribution. Pop-up retail is no different. Its mobility and convenience serve as solutions to those who want to break away from brick-and-mortar to engage with their audience in a different way. It brings the experience to your customers, inviting them to develop feelings about your product(s) or service, just as Beyoncé did with her fans.

How can you use guerrilla release strategies for your next pop-up?

First and foremost, let word-of-mouth be your friend. Give your customers a small bread trail (in the form of a tweet, for instance) and let them spread the word. This ambiguity might seem counterintuitive, but on the other hand, it generates curiosity and speculation that converts into excitement. What does this look like? In 2013, David Bowie released the single “Where Are We Now?” out of the blue. Fans began to speculate that the pop star had not retired and would soon release his first album in ten years. Rather than confirm or deny the suspicions, Bowie let his fans do the talking. And sure enough, both the single and subsequent album topped charts on their respective release dates.

Your location needs to be purposeful. One of the benefits of pop-up retail is that it can go anywhere. In the case of our work with Adidas, the activation site was a boardwalk on Venice Beach. Nimble designs mean you have the freedom to set up nearly anywhere, but with that freedom comes careful consideration. In other words, how does the location help to build excitement around your pop-up?

Finally, the experience you create is the “music” your consumers will remember. Just as music resonates with listeners, experience resonates with your customers. We listen to Beyoncé, David Bowie, and JAY Z because of the strategic approach to writing, producing, and releasing music. They speak to a person’s soul in ways that listeners may not fully understand. Similarly, your customers line up for the product(s) or service and experience you provide them, not just where you decided to set up. The element of surprise is important, but in the grand scheme, hype is temporary. True and enduring excitement lies in the experience.