Why is big food turning to pop-up stores to tell brand stories?

Image: Kellogg's NYC Facebook page
Aug 08, 2017
Dale Buss

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the e-zine, CPGmatters, published twice monthly.

Kellogg, Pure Leaf and Chobani are among a number of CPG companies that have been sprouting “pop-up” stores that tell their brand stories. As well as fashioning “stores within a store” in larger retailers, CPG brands are putting these pop-ups into semi-permanent locations on street fronts in New York City and other heavily populated locales.

The reason: CPG brands see grocery retailing undergoing unprecedented competitive pressures that stress store chains to promote themselves and store brands, a development that could make it harder for brands to promote themselves in supermarket aisles.

What’s more, pop-ups create a new prong in experiential marketing that seems to appeal especially to millennials in search of the next great encounter with food that they can photograph and post to Instagram and other social media. Pop-ups also are a way for brands that have been around a while to demonstrate some of the same sort of street ambition that has helped start-up companies upend the established order in CPG.

“You can’t do this in a grocery store,” Pure Leaf senior marketing director Laraine Miller told the Wall Street Journal, speaking of the PepsiCo-owned brand’s elaborate tea house in New York that incorporates museum-style installations featuring the history and uses of tea.

Kellogg operates Kellogg’s NYC, a cereal café in Times Square where bowls of the morning favorite are served all day in a wide range of unusual preparations. Among other things, the pop-up allows Kellogg to test out-of-the-box flavor and texture combinations, such as Corn Pops paired with lemon zest, Pop-Tart milkshakes, and Eggo sandwiches with toasted marshmallows and chocolate.

John Grace, president of BrandTaxi, told CPGmatters, put it, “What many tactics [in retail stores] can’t successfully communicate is the underlying meaning and essence of a brand – what it stands for and why it is different from its competitors. One of the challenges of our times is how to create consumer ‘brand experiences’ in a digital world,” Grace said. “Pop-up stores are one ingredient in the mix, particularly in high-population markets and cities. If done correctly, word gets out very fast.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think of pop-ups as an engagement and marketing vehicle for CPG brands? What should be the goal of such temporary, experiential-marketing efforts?

"A pop-up store allows the brand to shine and promote its best qualities without the competition breathing down its neck."
"People love stuff to “do” and this type of retail gives brands a stage that shoppers can share while experiencing a brand."
"CPG brands are smart to be spending money to attract customers at the top of the purchasing funnel (the awareness stage) compared to the middle..."

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18 Comments on "Why is big food turning to pop-up stores to tell brand stories?"

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Jon Polin

Kudos to Pure Leaf and Kellogg’s. They happen to have products that lead to a natural pop-up experience and they should be embracing that. CPGs that continue to play by the old rules — in-store promos, FSIs, same ole’ trade dollars, etc. — are quickly becoming irrelevant. You want to build a resonant brand today? Be ready to constantly test and learn. You won’t succeed with every experiment but, in most cases, your consumers will appreciate you trying.

Zel Bianco

This is a must in the age of “Alexa, order me some yogurt and some more cereal.” The role of pop-up stores is for the brand to tell its story so that when ordering from Alexa or when walking down the aisle, the brand pops out on the shelf where there is very little differentiation.

A pop-up store allows the brand to shine and promote its best qualities without the competition breathing down its neck. In a world where the shopping will increasingly be done virtually, it is absolutely critical that the brand have a place to be seen, evaluated, tested and gather necessary feedback.

Nir Manor

Pop-ups are great tactic to create customers engagement with CPG brands. The main goals are to communicate brand values and to let consumers interact with and try the products in a fun and compelling way and get a holistic brand experience. Pop-ups should be used as a part of an omnichannel strategy to pull consumer from off-line to online and vice versa.

Sterling Hawkins

Customer engagement for sure and also to establish a direct relationship with the customers. Yes, having a direct route gives consumers a chance to experience the brand. The brand can then collect feedback to better understand the customer for marketing, product development, etc. It’s a win on all sides for most brands.

Adrian Weidmann

Crafting and sharing your brand story is critical in today’s community of digitally empowered and connected shoppers. Brick-and-mortar retail where brands have limited real estate provides limited time and space to tell a brand story. The popularity and success of pop-ups (and stores-within-a-store) allows the brand to control the shopper experience. Designing, activating and measuring these concepts is a great way for brands to test, learn about and optimize their shopper experiences before any scaled roll out.

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)

I look forward to seeing many more pop-up stores in all pedestrian locations. From H&R Block meeting tax time needs in malls to food wagons and trucks, consumers have grown to trust and appreciate pop-up commerce as points of discovery, brand identity and need fulfillment. Pop-up flexibility can provide useful analytics related to consumer opinion at minimal investment while driving brand awareness. As cityscaping with its information locations grows, pop-ups can enable mobile consumers in their life patterns.

Harley Feldman

Grocery brands are evolving to new branding methods as apparel and other categories have done in the past. Pop-ups are a way to distinguish the brand in a new and novel way to attract the attention of the consumer outside of the grocery store. A pop-up changes the attention from another version of a category offering to a total focus on the brand.

The goal of these efforts should be to understand and measure the power of the brand and what to do to enhance it. Also, versions of the product can be tested and evaluated as to consumer interest.

Art Suriano

I like this concept and see it as a great awareness opportunity to promote the brand and product. There is so much competition and allowing potential customers to experience products completely isolated from grocers and other competing brands gives the company a real shot to develop brand loyalty. If they are pleased with their experience, consumers will look for the products when they shop in grocery stores as well, so it should be a win-win for everyone.

Ben Ball

Pop-ups allow a more complete brand story to be told than a display in-aisle ever can. They also scream “current and relevant” to shoppers who expect brands to show more spunk than just sitting on the shelf waiting to be part of the “routine shopping trip.” It can’t hurt. It also can’t save failing brands — but it can be a positive for strong ones.

Dave Wendland

For CPG brands looking to resonate with shoppers and build stronger recognition, pop-ups may be the ideal solution. I wrote a commentary on this topic for Chain Drug Review earlier this year and continue to applaud such efforts. The best way to achieve positive outcomes is to ensure that the intended audience for the CPG brand aligns with the shoppers within the retail setting.

Kiri Masters

CPG brands are smart to be spending money to attract customers at the top of the purchasing funnel (the awareness stage) compared to the middle of the funnel (comparison/purchase) which is typically done in-store.

As the article pointed out, both online and brick-and-mortar stores are more interested in their own success metrics than helping brands succeed. CPG brands have to take matters into their own hands to etch their story into consumers’ minds.

Anne Howe

People love stuff to “do” and this type of retail gives brands a stage that shoppers can share while experiencing a brand. It’s great for brands that take the time to build an interactive two-way story. I don’t see this as a “save” strategy for an old brand, but it’s a great launching pad for newer brands.

Ralph Jacobson

These pop-ups are great ways to drive shopper awareness and build brand value and true loyalty. ’nuff said.

Lee Peterson

Given the fact that CPG companies will soon no longer be able to simply market to customers and may have to figure out how to sell their brand to an algorithm (Alexa), they had BETTER start to do things like this.

CPG brands must figure out the DTC equation. There’s an AI sea-change about to happen and to test pop ups or showroom stores or even permanent bricks locations should be the tip of the iceberg.

gordon arnold
We know that stores wishing to better manage inventory are creating unusable floor space. Pop-ups and third party, non competitive help to alleviate the financial burdens associated with these arid areas in the store. As for the CPG partners, they now have an opportunity to set themselves apart from the economy brands and attract more patronage. As time goes by and the same day delivery business figures itself out, the pop-ups for the commodities market will force tighter margins and no justification for this as a long-term solution. The pop-up may see a morphing into a temporary or part time solution to announce, show and tell new products by an assortment of new vendors products and services. Touch and see along with comparison information requirements will remain a consumer need for the foreseeable future. While financial returns for this consumer demand that requires visitor participation without charges or obligation remain evasive, they do indeed exist. The investment market, the travel market and the insurance market have found a way to provide quality assistance that is… Read more »
Ricardo Belmar

Pop-ups imply “new” and automatically give off an interest level that attracts consumers, especially younger demographics that seek out unique experiences. CPG brands that realize the old ways of product promotion in-store don’t work they way they used to and embrace new ideas like this are going to see new levels of brand awareness. Especially with coveted demographic groups like Millennials and Gen Z!

Elizabeth Meaney
4 months 6 days ago

Totally agree! And not just “new,” but temporary (“don’t miss out!”). I do think people miss that social and collective experience of, for example, watching TV live (instead of streaming on-demand whenever you want) and discussing. A one-time shared experience brings people together and generates good feelings around the brand.

Phil Chang

For years, marketers have wanted direct feedback with consumers. We used to have to do it via focus groups and surveys. One was costly, and the other presented a very narrow set of answers to pre-set questions.

With popup stores, brands can now get feedback direct from consumers. Not only that, but they can use these pop ups to engage fans and empower fans to share this with their circle of friends.

The one warning I have for CPG brands — each pop-up needs to be a memorable experience. You’re going to do it for data, your story and to build fans. If you’re not laser focused on these, don’t do it — people will talk about a bad pop-up faster than a good one.

"A pop-up store allows the brand to shine and promote its best qualities without the competition breathing down its neck."
"People love stuff to “do” and this type of retail gives brands a stage that shoppers can share while experiencing a brand."
"CPG brands are smart to be spending money to attract customers at the top of the purchasing funnel (the awareness stage) compared to the middle..."

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