Digital Natives are Popping Up

Category: Ideas, Strategy, Trends

Digitally native brands are turning their offerings loose via marketing installations. In the age of social media, it is commonplace for start-ups and retailers to seed messaging and launch products online with the help of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Installations, fueled by data targeting influencers and customers have become a powerhouse for gaining traction and increasing sales. Brand managers outside of retail are moving away from traditional media too.

Brands are moving messaging in this direction and working with experiential marketers to get the best of both worlds. Major cities, malls and other high traffic retail environments are fertile ground. MC² has been tracking this trend and working with our clients to harness the power of the experience to the audience with the most impact. Let’s take you in for a closer look at digital and heritage brands in the world of experience.


The Mall With It All

The mall, a long-hallowed institution for commerce and social interactions, has lost big as the retail economy has shifted.  High priced leases aren’t in demand. Empty storefronts are the new normal and high-powered developers are looking to fill space.  While long term renters are the preferred choice, pop-ups have filled the void and brought new life to these spaces.  

Eyeglass brand Warby Parker is a one-time digital-native brand that initially tested physical retail through pop-ups. Its experiment was so successful, the company opened several storefronts, and now has nearly 90 retail locations. This just goes to show you how digital brands combined with a well thought experiential campaign can compete and win.


Pop-up shops, whether they are promoting a new digital brand or a new Netflix show, will be a permanent part of the retail landscape going forward, said Garrick Brown, vice president, retail intelligence at Cushman & Wakefield.

Retail is undergoing its biggest period of change since the birth of the suburban malls in the 1950s and 1960s, Brown said in an interview, and pop-ups will be part of that change. Much of the current pop-up activity is being driven by the softness in the retail real estate market, making it the perfect place to bring digital brands to life. Pop-up shops require little upfront investment, which makes them a great testing ground for experiential campaigns.


Lux Level

There have been iterations of ephemeral, temporary shops throughout history, but recently luxury brands have started to invest more in their use. Pop-ups, when done properly, provide a chance to study consumers in their natural habitat – offering labels real-life insight into how shoppers interact with their installations, all while acting as canvases for creative talent. Hermes was not far as a trendsetter in this genre of pop-ups, as they showcased new ways for customers to create new looks with scarves. 

These high-end brands have everything to gain by betting on pop-up stores: they gain more flexibility, offer their customers a unique experience and capitalize on this buzzy concept. Thanks to many luxury brands – Hermes, Alexander Wang, Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Cartier – tons of innovative pop-up concepts have emerged over the years.

While many consumers may buy below the luxury price point, it creates a conversation.  By inviting the mass market into these high-end universes, they are highlighting an aspiration and starting this new audience on the path of invested pieces to work toward. As always in the luxury space, the experience is just as important as the product – and the numbers don’t lie. In the US and Europe, at least 50% of people look to “buy” a luxury experience over branded products. 


Product Proof

Digital brands can reach their audience, however, translating impressions into purchases can be a challenge.  As the retail market changes, so does commerce. Rentals closets, second-hand shopping and beauty brands need to build trust because there is no footprint.  Enter Rent the Runway, the high-end female-focused rental company.  While the company offers true value; a rotating wardrobe for special occasions without the price tag, there was a real leap of faith on the part of the consumer. 


Consumers are transitioning from traditional ownership to dynamic ownership—people want access to all types of fashion across the spectrum, whether it is for a day, a week, a month or a year. 

Using this real estate to create trust with the digital rental space is a homerun.  It lowers barriers to purchase and gives these brands a chance to earn trust. It also creates new channels for shopping and offers extensions into household names for future sales. Experiential marketing installations and digital brands are proven concepts.  Brands can combine new product launches with installations and create a PR feedback loop.  This keeps costs down, insights high and consumers happy.


Looking to recreate your next pop-up experience? Get in touch today and our experiential strategists will help amplify your next brand experience. 


MC² is an award-winning brand experience solutions agency.


Check out our recent activations and dynamic experiences.


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