Success Stories

Howard Johnson Unveils Brand Refresh With A Candy-Themed Pop-Up Store in NYC

Marking its largest design-refresh in more than 25 years, Howard Johnson by Wyndham celebrates its newly redesigned retro-cool guestrooms while giving a playful nod to the nostalgic days of orange roofs, ice cream and family road trips at the pop-up event, ÒHoJoÕs Sweet EscapeÓ from August 22 to 23, 2019 in New York City. (Diane Bondareff/AP Images for Howard Johnson by Wyndham)
Written by Arielle Crane

Last month, Howard Johnson popped up in NYC’s TriBeCa area, showcasing the brands largest hotel 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 worked with agency Citizen Relations to book the event, and we recently sat down with Wyndham Hotels and Resort’s Sr. Director, Global Communications Rob Myers, to discuss its success!

Clem Bence, brand leader and vice president of operations for Howard Johnson by Wyndham, poses in front of a candy-made re-creation of the brand’s newly redesigned retro-cool guestroom at the pop-up event, “HoJo’s Sweet Escape,” on August 22, 2019 in New York City. The event celebrates the brand’s largest design-refresh in more than 25 years. (Diane Bondareff/AP Images for Howard Johnson by Wyndham)

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. 

Marking its largest design-refresh in more than 25 years, Howard Johnson by Wyndham celebrates its newly redesigned retro-cool guestrooms while giving a playful nod to the nostalgic days of orange roofs, ice cream and family road trips at the pop-up event, “HoJo’s Sweet Escape, on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019 in New York. (Diane Bondareff/AP Images for Howard Johnson by Wyndham)

 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.

Clem Bence, brand leader and vice president of operations for Howard Johnson by Wyndham, welcomes guests to “HoJo’s Sweet Escape” in New York City, Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019. Marking the brand’s largest design-refresh in more than 25 years, the pop-up event celebrates HoJo’s newly redesigned retro-cool guestrooms, which feature modern design with a playful nod to the nostalgic days of orange roofs, ice cream and family road trips. (Diane Bondareff/AP Images for Howard Johnson by Wyndham)

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.

Marking its largest design-refresh in more than 25 years, Howard Johnson by Wyndham celebrates its newly redesigned retro-cool guestrooms while giving a playful nod to the nostalgic days of orange roofs, ice cream and family road trips at the pop-up event, ÒHoJoÕs Sweet EscapeÓ from August 22 to 23, 2019 in New York City. (Diane Bondareff/AP Images for Howard Johnson by Wyndham)

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.

 

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About the author

Arielle Crane

Arielle is the Communications Manager at Storefront. Beyond offering up insights on the future of retail and pop-up shops, she also loves to write, travel and watch documentaries. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.