Getting permanent value out of temporary spaces

Pop-up spaces give marketers free rein to experiment with design and new commercial concepts, while giving people a taste of brand values.

Temporary spaces and pop-up venues are an increasingly popular way for brands to bring their personality to life and connect with consumers in new and exciting ways. 

Design is critical to these projects. Whether it is a restaurant, bar or shop, the interpretation of the space has to link to the brand’s values and campaign objective and can determine if the wider marketing concept succeeds.

Drinks giant Heineken has completed a year-long design project that culminated in its vision for “the ultimate lounge bar” during the London Design Festival. One aim is to devise products and concepts that could become commonplace.

“We are always trying to come up with new ways to enhance the beer experience,” says global head of design Mark van Iterson. He believes such events are critical to the development of the brand as they provide a “true creative playground to explore and experiment”.

In the same way that automotive manufacturers develop concept cars and fashion houses design haute couture collections that most people will never wear, Heineken wanted to explore unencumbered the future of the bar experience and all it can offer.

Heineken luxury bar
Futuristic graphics and angular patterns featured in Heineken’s Pop-up City Lounge

To create the Heineken Pop-up City Lounge, which has been developed as part of its Open Design Exploration series, the brand asked consumers to post pictures of their ideal lounge setting on Instagram. It then recruited 20 up-and-coming designers from across the world to create the final concept based on the insight it gained.

“Most brands in the beer category play on their heritage or history but we try to be forward-looking, which is a big differentiator,” says van Iterson. “The challenge is that beer never changes; we have had the same recipe for over a century, so [initiatives like this] enable us to stay relevant.” They are a way of bringing new interest, and therefore new customers, to an established brand.

The bar is housed in two 40-foot shipping containers. While some features allude to the brewer, van Iterson says the idea is to convey the brand’s philosophy in a subtle and implicit way that adds “emotional value” (see Q&A, below).

‘Conversation cocoons’ are at the heart of the lounge and are in various sizes to accommodate both large and small groups. The cocoons offer privacy while letting occupants see what is happening elsewhere in the bar.

The way drinks are delivered has also been considered, as the excitement of receiving an order was one of the moments that consumers singled out as key to their bar experience.

The challenge is that beer never changes; we’ve had the same recipe for over a century, so initiatives like this enable us to stay relevant

Mark van Iterson, Heineken

Heineken created a range of ‘hoptails’ – beer cocktails – and bespoke trays made from blocks of ice with sockets for bottles to slot into, so they are delivered at the perfect temperature and in a visually appealing way. 

Such elements could be easily replicated in bars across the world, says van Iterson. “We don’t expect every Heineken market to start building bars in 40-foot containers. That could happen if it is a super successful concept, but it’s more likely to be features such as the trays that we replicate.”

Futuristic graphics and angular patterns feature in everything from the architecture of the bar to the outfits worn by staff and tie all the elements of the lounge space together, which again could influence the brand, he says.

Mini vision

Dominic Wilcox Car
Car marque Mini and Dominic Wilcox explored how design, technology and science shape travel trends

Exploring design concepts with future commercial uses is also central to car marque Mini’s latest exhibition, which explores how design, technology and science are shaping travel trends.

Taking inspiration from the new Mini Hatch model, six designers from various disciplines, such as performance art, architecture and film-making, showcased their vision during the festival.

Designer Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg conveyed her belief that car manufacturers will increasingly use natural and genetically-modified materials in car design. She suggests that the cars of the future could be like living organisms that mutate to suit the requirements of the driver and adapt to the surrounding environment.

Inventor Dominic Wilcox played on the safety aspect that next-generation cars will incorporate by creating a vehicle made entirely of stained glass to demonstrate the scope for creative car design.

Pop-ups for down under

While Mini and Heineken have tried to bring the future vision of their brands to life, Tourism Australia was keen to show off its heritage in food and wine through a series of pop-up restaurants.

Over six consecutive nights at the Australian High Commission in London, the tourist board enlisted world-renowned Australian chefs, including Shannon Bennett and Maggie Beer, to represent each region and give diners a taste of what it has to offer.

Australia House was transformed to reflect the characteristics and charm of each territory using iconic images and experiences, as well as flowers and local produce that were flown in for the event.

“Each chef created a meal inspired by their memories of holidaying in Australia,” says Denise von Wald, regional general manager of Tourism Australia. “It’s part of our Restaurant Australia campaign, which tells the story of Australia’s food and wine experience to potential holidaymakers.”

As part of the initiative, Tourism Australia teamed up with the Mail on Sunday to reach affluent Britons aged 50 and over. The campaign reached 3.5 million consumers in the UK ahead of launch and more than 15,000 people entered a competition run by the newspaper to win one of 12 trips to Australia, surpassing the tourism body’s goal of 6,000 entries. In addition, it enabled Tourism Australia to sell 70 per cent of restaurant tickets ahead of the opening night.

“Events like this give people another reason to consider Australia,” adds von Wald. “More than 620,000 people from the UK travel to Australia every year so even if we could increase that figure by a couple of per cent, it would have a big impact.”

Visitors from the UK were up 6 per cent last year, contributing to a market worth AU$3.5bn (£1.9bn), a 13 per cent increase on last year, according to von Wald.

The Johnnie Walker way

Johnnie Walker luxury event
Johnnie Walker are planning to use their design concepts around the world

Like Tourism Australia, Diageo has taken the key characteristics of its premium Johnnie Walker Blue Label brand and used design to bring it to life in a whisky tasting and dining experience.

Taking its cue from the six flavours of the whisky – fresh, fruity, malty, woody, spicy and smoky – a team led by director Hamish Hamilton at Done+Dusted, who produced the Oscars and Super Bowl half-time show earlier this year, developed a multi-sensory, immersive event called Symphony in Blue: A Journey to the Centre of the Glass, featuring music, dance, theatre and visual effects.

The four-hour experience guided guests through six rooms, each of which showcased one of the whisky’s characteristics, before a three-course meal that complemented the flavours of the drink.

As part of the experience, Diageo enlisted architectural foodsmiths Bompas and Parr to create The Flavour Conductor, with each pipe tuned to highlight certain flavours.

James Thompson, global managing director of Diageo Reserce, says: “Through the Johnnie Walker deluxe portfolio, we establish salience and unlock growth with the stories we tell and the experiences we provide. Symphony in Blue is an example of how we merge our stories with branded entertainment experiences.”

The event took two years to execute, culminating in three shows over two days to an audience of around 600 people in London last month. Diageo will now be taking the experience to other cities including Toronto, New York, Johannesburg, Kuala Lumpur, Mexico City and Berlin.

Earlier this year, Diageo outlined its intentions to push its luxury brands up the agenda and events such as this illustrate how marketing in the luxury sector is evolving, says Thompson.

“Luxury is one of those elusive, subjective qualities; it means different things to different people. Ultimately, luxury is more of a mind-set, an appreciation of the good and the positive, and leading a life well-lived,” he adds. “Those who live well understand that luxury can be about an intelligent, curious, even soulful attitude that makes life more rewarding. We call it ‘living luxury’, a point of view that we use to guide our approach to next-generation luxury marketing.”

Martini’s just to your taste

Grey Goose luxury van
Grey Goose used a restored Citroën for private cocktail consultations

Conveying a feeling of exclusivity and luxury was key for Bacardi-owned vodka brand Grey Goose when developing its martini bar experience.

The travelling venue, which the brand calls ‘the world’s most intimate martini bar’, is a restored Citroën van that uses marble, leather, bronze, brushed metals, etched glass and bespoke lighting to showcase its luxury status. 

Developed as part of the brand’s Boulangerie François campaign, the bar, designed by branding agency Ragged Edge, aims to bring the Grey Goose story to life through a private cocktail consultation (it accommodates only two guests and one mixologist at a time).

The brand’s wider story is communicated through a window on the outside of the van, on which a video shows bread being made from the same wheat used to make Grey Goose, while a peephole provides onlookers a glimpse of the bar inside.

Whatever the concept, design of temporary spaces can play a critical role in conveying a brand’s personality and giving a taste of why consumers should become loyal customers.

Q&A: Mark van Iterson

Global head of design, Heineken

Marketing Week (MW): What value can design-led projects such as Heineken’s Pop-up City Lounge add to the brand?

Mark van Iterson (MVI): The attractiveness of Heineken and its value in general is created by projects like this, which build the brand and add emotional value. Of course, advertising and sponsorship are both important pillars, but design features on every touch point of the brand, whether it’s a bottle, a glass or a pack on the shelf. This pop-up helps us better understand what that might mean over the next couple of years to make sure we do the right thing. It’s what drives the business.

MW: How much do you look to invest in these types of projects?

MVI: It is relatively low cost compared to making a big TV commercial or our sponsorship of the UEFA Champions’ League, but in that respect we’re lucky as it gives us more opportunity to do these projects.

MW: Which teams have been involved?

MVI: Around 90 per cent has been done by the design team. I’m on the management team of the Heineken brand alongside the heads of sponsorship and communication, so together we build the brand and the strategy. There are, of course, overlaps but this has been a design driven exercise, which keeps it simple.

Top three pop-up lessons

1. Design takes time

Don’t underestimate how long it takes to plan and develop large-scale projects. Diageo spent two years designing the Symphony in Blue experience for Johnnie Walker Blue Label and Heineken took over a year to put together the Pop-up City Lounge concept.

2. Test and learn

Temporary spaces can be used as a platform to try new concepts. Heineken’s Pop-up City Lounge features an array of angular graphics and shapes, which it plans to test alongside its fixed brand icons to see if they could work for future above-the-line marketing activity.

3. Think global

If the fit is right, temporary spaces can be replicated in multiple regions. Grey Goose, Heineken and Johnnie Walker all plan to take their concepts global, but Tourism Australia has developed its Restaurant Australia concept specifically for the UK market, so will run different activity in other markets such as South Korea, Singapore and China.

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