Inspiration Retail Trends

Surprise! These 7 Pop Up Events Offered Unexpected Experiences

Photo: Google
Written by Tom Coleman

Opening a temporary retail store is about offering an experience you would never dare to try to have in a permanent retail store. It is this element of the unexpected that will draw people to your pop-up event and create a relationship with your brand that will secure customers for the long term. A pop-up event needs to offer surprises and exclusives to ensure people remember your brand.

Focus on hosting a fun, interactive pop-up event that gives your customer an impactful experience. Rather than force-feeding your customer with information about your brand, instead you can subtly educate them about your values and what you have to offer. That way, they’ll come away feeling better about your brand and more inclined to shop with you in future. These brands took this model and ran successful pop-up events that put the customer experience before immediate profits.

Photo: Coach

1. Coach

You might wonder why Coach would launch a pop-up event just a few blocks from their flagship New York store. However their last venture was launching an immersive experience to explore the brand’s relationship with the city itself, rather than trying to sell handbags to customers.

The space was designed to encourage self-reflection and interaction with the environment. There was an empty room recreating a subway station that participants were encouraged to graffiti, a carnival room made up of pieces of Coney Island found after Hurricane Sandy and finally an enchanted forest where Tarot card readers could tell you your future. The pop-up space was designed to encourage creativity and self-expression above all else.

Incredibly the pop-up event didn’t stock any merchandise and barely contained any branding linking the pop-up space to Coach. It was therefore wholly about the benefit of the experience, promoting the brand’s own values and affinity for New York. By surprising visitors to the pop-up in this way, they were more likely to gain an admiration from those who used the space and create life long customers.

Photo: Matteo Prandoni/

2. Hermès

Hermes wanted a way to show off the vast range of silks they had to offer, but in a way that would surprise and intrigue people. They chose to hop on the current vinyl revival and create an event that would get people to try new fabrics and listen to great music.

The Silk Mix wrapped each record in one of the 225 silk styles offered, and visitors to the store could listen to the records through turntables in the store. There were also 125 cassettes wrapped in different ties.  If a customer wanted to listen to a record, they had to touch the silk and feel its quality in order to listen to the music, meaning that the pop-up event encouraged engagement with both music and fabric.

The pop-up space offered the unexpected not just by avoiding the predictability of a conventional retail space, but also because it took two unrelated products and made them relevant to one another. This created intrigue and drew people towards the pop-up event and the products Hermes sells.

Photo: Google

3. Google

Google wanted to teach people about the Google Assistant available on the Google Home Max and Google Home Mini, and chose to do so through a fun game of mini golf at a pop-up event in the heart of New York city.

Each hole on the course represented a different room where the Google Assistant could help out around the house. Although there could only be one winner of the game of golf, all of the participants were entered into a competition to win a Google Home Max, a Google Home Mini or some Google branded golf socks.

Google took the mundane task of explaining how useful technology is, and made it fun. Although they put their own products at the heart of the experience, the pop-up event was centered on providing a fun mini-golf experience in the middle of New York. By taking a more subtle approach and focusing on how they could use the unexpected to make their own brand more appealing, Google created a better relationship with their customers.


4. Guns N’ Roses

The music industry is just starting to realize the power pop-up shops can have for promoting artists as powerful brands. Guns N’ Roses are one band who used pop-ups mostly as a chance to unite and reward loyal fans, rather than just sell music or merchandise. They used a pop-up event to offer one of a kind experiences to their most loyal fans.

Bands know that fans love a blast of nostalgia, so the pop-up event had a screen playing their 1988 gig at the Ritz in New York. They employed a tattoo artist to ink any willing fans with their logo, and most importantly opened a bar in the space with Guns N’ Roses branded alcohol. This helped to create a space where fans could socialise, share memories and shop.

While the pop-up shop undoubtedly wanted to sell records and merchandise, it prioritized fan experience over profits. By holding a range of surprising activities, the pop-up shop gave fans something to talk about and made them feel appreciated by the band, ensuring their loyalty in the long term.

5. Nando’s

While Nando’s is famous for its succulent chicken and unlimited drinks machine, they are less well known for honouring their South African heritage. To address this, and surprise chicken lovers, Nando’s turned their Notting Hill restaurant into a pop-up gallery.

Any visitors to the restaurant could access the gallery of 5 South African artists handpicked by Nando’s themselves. They could learn more about the artists through VR headsets, and all artwork was on display so that people could buy anything that inspired them. The pop-up gallery also held a series of workshops on mosaic making, macrame and zine making.  

While the restaurant was still open and offered a special menu, the focus was certainly on the artwork rather than the food. The event may have driven more people to the Notting Hill restaurant, but the pop-up gallery was designed to prove their dedicated to South African food and culture rather than selling chicken wings.

Photo: Moët and Chandon

6. Moët

People love drinking Moët not just because of the taste, but because it’s a drink that exudes class and sophistication. Moët and Chandon decided to open a pop-up private members club to help enrich their customer’s experience of the drink and create positive memories attached to the brand.

The members club was the definition of opulence, set overlooking Grosvenor Square in Mayfair. Across the weekend, the club was host to a great number of activities, including pub quizzes, meals prepared by Michelin starred chefs and ballet. Singer Paloma Faith came to the event to be be interviewed, while visitors could also see DJ Edith Bowman record a new installment of her podcast.

While all the events were supplemented with Moët and Chandon’s drinks, the pop-up was built around the lifestyle that drinking Moët could provide you with. The calibre of events hosted at the pop-up event was so high that it helped to create the impression that you could live the dream by drinking Moët.

Photo: Tom Usher

7. Mundial

Football lifestyle magazine Mundial came into existence because of the 2014 World Cup, so it was fitting that for the 2018 World Cup it launched an exciting pop-up event in London’s Brick Lane. They sought a pop-up event that would celebrate not just the World Cup but the very culture of football, creating a space that was a physical representation of the magazine.

Mundial created a social space perfect for football fanatics to enjoy and discuss the World Cup. There was a huge TV screen ideal to watch games, a bar and slushy machine selling drinks to help you unwind and relax in the sweltering London heat and a Playstation where attendees could challenge each other to a game of FIFA. The pop-up was a great space to hang out, talk about football and celebrate the success of the magazine.

Visitors to the pop-up space could outfit themselves out in a range of merchandise such as hats, scarves and shirts from around the world. Copies of Mundial magazine were on sale as well, yet selling the magazine to customers there and then wasn’t the point of the event. Instead, the space was designed around selling the lifestyle that the magazine offered.  

By going above and beyond what football fans and fans of the magazine expected, Mundial created the ideal pop-up event space to celebrate the world cup and appeal to a whole new audience. This approach will help them secure interested customers not just for World Cup season, but all year round.


These pop-up stores are the perfect examples of why your temporary retail store should offer the unexpected. They created an excitement and buzz that permanent stores alone can’t generate, and provided the customer with a great experience that strengthened their relationship with the brand in the long term. If you are looking to launch your own pop-up event, these stores should definitely be the model you follow for it to be a success!

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About the author

Tom Coleman

Storefront Contributor - Tom Coleman writes about the retail industry, specialising in the pop-up sector. Currently an undergraduate at the University of Exeter reading English and History, he splits his time between Hampshire and Cornwall, UK.