Howard Johnson, the hotel chain, popped-up in NYC’s TriBeCa area, showcasing the brands largest refresh in more than 25 years. The pop-up event, called “HoJo’s Sweet Escape” was held over two days and was open to the public, displaying 450 pounds of candy to showcase the first-ever all candy hotel room.
Storefront: Talk to me a bit about the design of the pop-up space. What goal did you hope to achieve with it?
Rob Myers: Today’s hospitality landscape is more crowded and competitive than ever, which means hotels and brands need to be laser focused on how they’re adding value while at the same time, distinguishing themselves from the pack. Howard Johnson hotels coast-to-coast are investing more than $40 million in a major room refresh, elevating the guest experience while giving a playful nod to our nostalgic past.
This is the biggest thing our brand has done in more than 25 years and we needed to celebrate in a way that was both fun and memorable—because that’s who we are.
Not only has a hotel room made out of candy never been done before, [the pop-up store] was the perfect creative vessel for us to share our vision for Howard Johnson’s future while helping families create amazing memories together.
Why did you decide on this specific space for the campaign?
When working closely with Storefront, we were really looking for a space to serve as a blank canvas that we could transform into an experience that is truly Howard Johnson. 393’s venue was the perfect clean, modern and flexible space that lends itself to an immersive, large-scale activation like ours. Since the event was consumer facing, it was also critical for us to activate in a location with high volumes of foot traffic. 393 in SoHo was ideal–just steps from multiple subway line stations and in the neighborhood that is known for its pop-ups.
What sorts of things do you wish you knew before booking this pop-up space?
There were certain considerations we needed to take into account for our unique event. For instance, we needed AC to run 24/7 to prevent candy from melting.
Was the pop-up a success? Why or why not?
Definitely! Hundreds upon hundreds of New Yorkers, as well as members of the media, came through the space over the course of two days. During that time, we were overwhelmed with positive responses—with guest after guest sharing their fond, childhood memories of Howard Johnson and their renewed excitement for the brand’s new, yet nostalgic, direction.
What sorts of marketing/PR did you do to help promote and drive traffic to the popup?
Our strategy around promotion was an earned-first approach—leaning heavily on EventBrite, local news and calendar listings to drive attendees. We also hosted a VIP media preview, ahead of the space opening to the public, which drove strong national and local media coverage and in turn, even more foot traffic and awareness for HoJo’s redesigned rooms.