Luxury fashion and beauty brands don’t often dabble in hosting consumer pop-ups. But when they do, you can expect them to go big with the scale and creativity of the experience.
Gucci’s cosmetics line Gucci Beauty recently held its first-ever consumer pop-up to celebrate the launch of its new mascara, Gucci Mascara L’Obscur. In partnership with Sephora, the brand created Gucci Beauty Network Studios, which took over a vacant event space on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles from March 6-7.
The brand themed the pop-up around a TV screen test, inviting guests to be a “protagonist” in a self-led tour of Instagrammable spaces where they could test out the new mascara and other Gucci Beauty products. These included a Gucci Guilty diner with fragrance centerpieces; a branded ‘80s-style reception desk for photos; and a backstage dressing room that had touchscreen vanity mirrors with video tutorials on how to apply the mascara.
Gucci Beauty is the latest high-end fashion brand to host a pop-up, joining the likes of Coach, Chanel and Louis Vuitton that have all executed their own activations in the past few years. Notably, most of these brands often decline to offer details behind their strategy to the media, according to spokespeople for Gucci Beauty and Chanel. (Louis Vuitton didn’t respond to Adweek as of publication time.)
However, according to experiential agencies that frequently work with luxury clients, they often use experiences less as tools to generate new revenue, and more to connect with existing customers as well as attract new fans by showing off unexpected sides of their brands and providing spaces for content creation.
Jack Bedwani, global business director and co-founder of The Projects, a brand consulting and experiential marketing agency, helped Coach launch its first external brand activation in 2018 called Life Coach, a weeklong experience in New York inspired by self-expression and astrology, specifically to engage a younger audience rather than sell products.
Bedwani, who has also helped create pop-ups for Calvin Klein, said luxury fashion brands tend to have more time and means to deeply invest in their “brand DNA,” from products to packaging, the in-store experience and their aesthetic.
“When we’re tasked to produce a pop-up for a luxury brand, we start with understanding everything about their brand DNA, and then we look to evolve it in a way that’s new, interesting and culturally relevant. Their brand aesthetic is the starting point, not the end goal,” Bedwani said. “We wanted to explore the cultural context of something up-and-coming at the time, which was new world spirituality.”
Located near Coach’s flagship store in SoHo, the experience spanned several rooms that creatively brought the brand to life, such as a Coney Island-themed space with carnival games and a mystical “forest” with booths for tarot readings. The pop-up, which also traveled to Japan and Hong Kong that year, purposely had subtle branding and no physical Coach products; instead, Coach opted to integrate symbols and icons synonymous with the brand into the set design, such as a unicorn cutout and its classic “C” logo.
“Ultimately, the space enabled us to create a new relationship with a younger customer that saw Coach in a new light, and not in the same way Coach does their retail experience or fashion shows,” Bedwani said. “Introducing a brand experience to a younger, fashion savvy customer was the priority, and we were able to drive success metrics and results for Coach without having overt branding or product in the room.”
Although the Coach pop-up had nothing to sell, its SoHo flagship, located a seven-minute walk away, saw a 300% increase in foot traffic in the week after the experience, according to Bedwani (he also noted that social sharing and an out-of-home billboard campaign helped drive results, too.)