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April 8, 2019

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Five Things You Need for a Successful Pop-Up

At the start of the year, we listed a few PR trends that we wanted to see more of in 2019. One of those trends was pop-up activations. We love pop-ups. They’re fun to work on and they’re engaging for visitors. When done well they create genuine, positive, and lasting impressions for a brand, which is really the end game of all good PR and promotional campaigns.

We’ve broken pop-ups down into five main planning points. Here are five things you need to do to create a successful pop-up.

Pick a great location.

Some of the main things you’ll want to consider before locking down a location are accessibility, size, and neighbourhood. The concept of your pop up, the style of your brand, and your target demographic should narrow it down. Is your activation kid or family-centric? Perhaps an outdoor space or mall is best-suited for your goal. Are you looking to engage with millennials and trendsetters? Something downtown or closer to an entertainment hub will likely be better suited. Regardless of the city or neighbourhood, pop-ups are best set up in a location that’s easy to get to, with lots of foot traffic, and high visibility.

Depending on what your activation will entail, whether it’s an art installation, a shopping experience, a food tasting, an interactive playground, or whatever else your brand can imagine, you’ll want to make sure you have the square footage to accommodate the activity, any storage needs, as well as the anticipated foot traffic. If you’re planning a pop-up for a popular and well-established brand, you may want to consider extra space for lines and crowd control. Choose an appropriately sized space to make sure your pop-up is neither too crowded or too bare.

Earlier this year, the BT21 pop-up store that opened at Scarborough Town Centre drove thousands of fans to the suburban mall. While successful in the sense that merchandise sold out and that it created lots of buzz, the location alienated a number of vocal fans that could travel to the less-than-central location. The massive crowds also cause problems with crowd control within the mall, as can be seen by many social posts that looked like this:


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#Toronto is going crazy for the #BTS pop-up at @shopstc 🙀 #lineupsTO #videosTO #BT21 #BT21Toronto

A post shared by blogTO (@blogto) on

Consider your pop-up location carefully!

Create some advance buzz.

Despite the “pop-up” moniker, lots of planning and coordination go into promoting a successful activation than is initially implied. Even if you land an ideal location that comes with tons of foot traffic, you’ll want to actively promote it both in advance and throughout its duration to make sure that you’re driving traffic to your location. Consider teasing the appearance with geo-targeted ads in advance, or inviting local influencers to help spread the word through a social campaign. People will go out of their way for a unique experience or a once-in-a-lifetime photo for their feed. Make sure they know about the opportunity!

Adult Swim has done an amazing job promoting the Rickmobile, a massive model of one of the titular characters from the show Rick and Morty, perched on a truck that drives across North America, giving away swag and selling merchandise.




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  The #Rickmobile is in Canada to celebrate the first 24-hour Adult Swim channel beginning April 1!   A post shared by RICKMOBILE (@rickmobile) on

The Rickmobile has its own dedicated Instagram profile that teases its next location and documents daily life on the road. It currently has 67,500 followers that are all eagerly awaiting the day that the Rickmobile visits their city. The staff that run the pop-up actively engage with curious bystanders, assist with photos, and promote the #Rickmobile hashtag to encourage sharing and increase impression numbers.

Create something visually stunning.

There’s a reason why Instagram museums are currently a trend. Active social media users are always on the lookout for their next best selfie backdrop. The more visually appealing your pop-up set-up is, the more likely passerbys will stop in, and the more likely your activation will go viral. Even if you get visitors that aren’t remotely interested in your product, if you make the space eye-catching enough, they make come simply for the ‘gram and end up sharing it with their followers anyway. 

Warner Bros. Canada made a very eye-catching display to promote the release of their rom-com, Isn’t It Romantic. A street-facing storefront displayed a huge flower wall, oversized balloons, and a plethora of shiny products in order to draw attention from a busy downtown street. Inside the store, there were several larger than life backdrops for portraits and selfies.

Staff and signage all encouraged people to share their photos. Even when hashtags weren’t used, the flower wall branding was created to match the widespread movie poster for the film to create the connotation.

Do something interactive.

The most widely shared activations created unique and memorable experiences for those that visited. Beyond simply having a photobooth backdrop for photos, the activations that really get people talking are interactive and engage visitors with more than a photo-op. Find a creative way to have people interact with your brand or product in a unique way and you’ll create a much more lasting impression. A pop-up Game of Thrones exhibit allowed fans to take photos with a life-sized model of the Iron Throne. A Captain Marvel campaign recreated Blockbuster Video and asked movies fans to participate in an in-store scavenger hunt. Nintendo sets-up pop-ups so that gamers can try-out unreleased games and exclusive content.

Identify the things that make your brand unique and charming, and create something new from it! Nestle created a memorable experience for chocoholics in Toronto last summer with the KitKat Chocolatory pop-up in Toronto. Not only were shoppers able to get exclusive access to a product that was unavailable anywhere else in the world, but they were also given an interactive experience to create their own custom, gourmet KitKat bars with their choice of chocolate, toppings, and personalized packaging. There was a consistent line out the door for the entire week of its duration.   

Not only did KitKat give people a personalized experience and a chance to try exclusive products, but they also decked out their space to make it as Instagram-friendly as possible. Well-lit coloured backdrops, neon lights and an open view into the chocolatiers’ workspace gave people plenty of fodder to create their own like-worthy content.

Document it!

Now that you’ve pulled together an amazing pop-up, you’ll want to document it. From an ROI standpoint, you’ll want to keep track of metrics like the number of visitors you had, the number of times your hashtag was used, and the general reaction of your guests. This information will help you determine how successful your pop-up actually was. This information will also be particularly beneficial should you decided to do another pop-up or replicate the experience in a different market.

Another way that you’ll want to document the activation is through professional video and photography. Capturing genuine reactions to your brand and products is normally a difficult thing. As marketing professionals, you rarely get to see these reactions up close. Hosting a pop-up gives you just enough of a controlled environment to do exactly that. It will also give you great content to use for your social media feeds and for advertising down the line. Just remember to post filming notices and get any waivers you need signed!