By Craig Patterson
Now more than ever, brands are launching pop-up activations in an effort to create buzz and drive foot traffic. In Canadian cities, lineups are common — such pop-ups utilize a psychological strategy where scarcity creates demand, and the best concepts are also experiential and memorable in order to create positive brand recognition.
Candy brand Skittles is the latest brand to launch such a pop-up, and it will be doing so on Christmas Eve in Toronto for only one hour. The company says that it is doing so to service the ‘last minute procrastinator’, as most stores will be closed at the time (other than 24/7 retailers such as Rabba Fine Foods). Skittles has hosted similar pop-ups in the past and they’ve been hugely successful, and the very limited duration of this pop-up will be a test to see how many people will rush to the space during such a short period of time.
The Skittles ‘Last Minute Gift Shop’ pop-up will be hosted at unit 112, 423 Queen Street West (near the corner of Spadina Avenue). Gift items in the store will be on-brand, including a skittles-covered ukulele and other novel, giftable-items.
The Skittles pop-up on Queen Street West opens at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, December 24, and stays open until 12:59 a.m. on Christmas morning. The one-hour duration of the pop-up is remarkable and we’ll report back in January after evaluating its success. The first 60 guests will receive free Skittles-themed gifts.
For an even shorter duration, the Skittles pop-up shop will launch an e-commerce site (www.SkittlesLastMinute.ca) which will be active for one minute. You read that right. The online store opens to the public at 11:59pm on December 24 and will shut down promptly at 12:00 am on Christmas Day. One of the offers is $2 off selected Skittles products.
As part of the branding initiative, Skittles is also donating $10,000 to the Ronald McDonald House Charities Canada, a charitable partner of Mars Wrigley Confectionary (parent company of Skittles).
Linda Farha, Founder and ‘Chief Connector’ of pop-up go, explained that her company has access to activation spaces nationwide, and even in Florida. “The requests for pop-up spaces has exploded in Canada over the past couple of years, as brands look to create buzz worthy experiences for a limited period of time.”
The return on investment for pop-up retail can be determined in various ways, including creating brand awareness as well as selling product. Given the extremely limited time span for the Skittles pop-up and e-commerce site next week, it would appear that Skittles’ goal is to create brand buzz as opposed to profit from sales, given the cost to activate versus potential return on investment. In many instances, pop-up retail comes out of a brand’s marketing budget, differentiating them from more traditional retailers that budget annually and look to sales as a primary indicator for return-on-investment.
At the same time, some buzzy pop-ups can generate huge sums for some brands, especially when products ‘drop’ that are of limited quantity and for a limited period of time. One of the most memorable pop-ups in Toronto was musician Kanye West’s three-day pop-up on Toronto’s Ossington Avenue in August of 2016, where thousands lined up to buy ‘Life of Pablo’ merchandise — some of which included stencilled Gildan t-shirts which typically sell for next to nothing, but were priced closer to $100 with the branded ‘Life of Pablo’ stencilled lettering.
Toronto has been on the forefront of pop-up activations in Canada, and lineups and high sales are an indication of their success. Elements of buzz worthy pop-ups can be integrated into long-term retail strategy as well, and it will be a topic of conversation in a feature article in Retail Insider in the New Year.