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  • Owen Arundell

The FMCG Pop Up Shop – A Trend That’s Growing

What do Sainsbury’s, KFC, Walker’s Crisps and Pop Up’s all have in common?

They’ve all tapped into a growing and exciting experiential retail trend we’re seeing more and more across the UK – FMCG brands investing in pop up restaurants and stores.

Many of these activations have been centred in PR value – KFC in particular opened “The Colonel’s Arms” in west London specifically to coincide with the World Cup, and the activity was as much about generating headlines as it was about serving real customers. Something KFC is particularly good at!

But KFC aren’t alone in exploiting the power of the pop up as central to an attention grabbing and cost-effective experiential retail marketing activity. Sainsbury’s and Weber have just teamed up to offer free barbecuing spaces over the summer (take a look here) and Walker’s is even getting in on the act, opening a crisp sandwich shop to mark Sandwich Week (take a look here).

The power of the pop up for FMCG brands isn’t a new concept – I’ve created and executed FMCG pop ups for some of the best brands you can find on the shelves over the last 7 years. In fact, one of my first projects leading Agile Retail was to bring Merchant Gourmet to the high street in Islington, North London (you can see how well this went here).

I’ve been fascinated by the immense value that FMCG and CPG brands can extract from pop up’s, and I’ve seen some great results from brands that have invested in this space. It’s great that the trend is catching on!

Here are some of my top learnings of the benefits of pop up’s for CPG/FMCG brands:

Immense Marketing Value

When running our pop up for Merchant Gourmet, one of the best values we extracted was the asset; we had a living, breathing space that we could use to shoot content, bring influencers along to run competitions, broadcast live to social media, and generate PR and media content.

What’s fascinating is as an integrated marketing campaign, the pop up often represents the best investment a brand can make – think of all that content that can be created and used across multiple platforms and channels, over and over again.

When compared to digital marketing methods, the pop up is way more cost effective on a per-view basis than paying for advertising!

Consumers Love Pop Ups

The pop up is firmly anchored in the psyche of the consumer – in particular Millennial and Gen Z audiences, who associate “pop up” with independence, newness, limited edition, and uniqueness. As generations that crave experience, the pop up can often be like catnip drawing audiences to FMCG brands!

Consumers VALUE Pop Ups

Agile Retail conducted a survey of 2,000 consumers recently to understand what they really thought about FMCG pop ups. They reaffirmed the value of pop ups to consumers. Our top insights included that 83% of respondents had been to a pop up in the last year, average dwell time is 13 minutes (think about what you could do with 13 minutes of focused marketing time!), they inspired 79% of people to go on to buy from the brand, and they gave a positive impression of the brand to 95% of consumers.

But the story doesn’t end there. In addition to being great for consumers, pop up’s have a specific role to play in helping FMCG and CPG brands get on the map. I spend a lot of my time advising brands on how best they can utilise pop ups and the scenarios where they add most value. Here are some of the strategies that pop ups can most help with:

1. Launching a New Product

Remembering the above, pop ups are automatically associated with newness and limited edition. For an FMCG brand launching a new or improved product, a pop up is an unparalleled way of getting the brand in front of – and into the mouths of – consumers. Heinz once launched several new flavours of its famous tomato ketchup and asked consumers to literally write all over the store what their feedback was. Imagine the value in getting thousands of real-life consumers using the product and telling you what they think in real time!

2. Brand Immersion & Storytelling

FMCG brands exist in third party retailers. As a tiny, insignificant part of consumer’s lives with a very small % of shelf space. The pop up gives brands the opportunity to tell the story of the brand, and its provenance, in a way that no other forum, including digital, can.

I designed this pop up (see how it looked here) for L’Oréal’s Ultimate Blends brand a few years ago. Consumers had no idea that all the ingredients were natural and sustainably sourced, so I created live art installations that broke down the shampoo and allowed customers to see, touch and smell all the natural ingredients that went into the bottle. What better way for an FMCG or CPG brand to really showcase its specialness to consumers than a sensory pop up, in particular if the brand story includes really important sustainability or circularity messages.

3. Giving Customers a Real Taste / Experience

There’s no better substitute for giving customers a real experience with a CPG product. Pop ups are about getting real. Whether that be tasting, trying, or experiencing, oodles of research has shown the impact of sensorial experiences leading to greater purchase intent is undisputed. Connected to this, pop ups allow you to understand how consumers really interact with your product, what they like and what they don’t like, and create a stronger brand affinity.

4. Enabling Holistic Marketing

As mentioned above pop ups provide the content for digital marketing assets, PR and other industry content, buyer and other distributor engagement, and social media amplification. FMCG brands will never have a better opportunity to bring their product to life than via a pop up!


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