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Everyone Is Doing a Pop-Up; So Can Design & Branding Agencies

by Jonny Westcar on 07/10/2019 | 4 Minute Read

Without ever going to Japan, do you reckon you could get a pretty good sense of sake bars over there? Not just what the top brands are, but how the drink gets consumed as well as its broader role in society? What about how Brits drink beer in the capital on a Sunday? Or how and where people enjoy street food in Mexico? 

You can imagine, research, predict or read, but there’s no substitute for being there in person to soak it all in. 

The critical nuances of markets need to be understood on the job, and the more specific the details, the better. It’s this detailed knowledge that strengthens the brand design, but it isn’t always possible for agencies to have quality time on the ground so they can experience the market firsthand and learn consumer behavior. 

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A brief research trip from an agency followed by ongoing communication can be informative and get the job done in some instances, but brands and agencies need to demand more to drive better results. If an agency wants to break into international markets, a greater understanding of them is needed. 

The issue is not every brand is within commuting distance, and it’s hard to find an agency to get close enough. So how are brands dealing with this, and how are agencies getting quality work done for a market on the other side of the globe? 

There’s a new model emerging, and it’s a dynamic solution that gets design teams close to the audience they’re designing for—the Pop-Up Agency. 

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Simple Method, Strong Results 

Now, a team fact-finding mission to research a market isn’t a new concept. It’s practiced often, but typically this features a few team members – often the same people - going abroad for a brief trip and seeing the highlights before feeding back to the rest of the team.  

There’s a couple of problems with this. For one, it’s a challenge to communicate the essence of a place and market to those who haven’t experienced it. Secondly, a flying visit is no substitute for ongoing immersion. 

With a Pop-Up Agency, a creative team works in an overseas market for an intense design sprint, living and breathing the culture of a place, and seeing first-hand how consumers experience a product. This can be anything from two weeks to three months, anywhere in the world. Think of it as a working holiday. 

To make a start is easy. You need a bunch of apps which you have on your phone already—Skyscanner, Google Maps, Airbnb—an eager team of talent hungry to travel, and a client keen to work closely with you to challenge perceptions and embrace new perspectives. It’s about the right skills taken to the right place, for the right amount of time.

It’s harder than it sounds to get this perfect trinity. Often, organized chaos is the result, yet it’s so effective that here at StormBrands we’re averaging one trip roughly every quarter. 

Let’s get into the details of why. 

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Unparalleled Insights & Client Connection 

One of the benefits is better, quicker work; being on the ground alongside the client make the whole process streamlined. The practices can be traditional - client workshops, market research groups, visits into stores – but the simple act of being there for a length of time is radical. 

In today’s hyperconnected world, with Skype and Slack producing instant communication and data available at the click of a button, there’s real value in human, emotional connection. It shows the client you’re going that extra mile to produce the best design work possible. Take our two-month stint in Kuwait, Pakistan for Peek Freans, the biggest biscuit brand in the country—75 million biscuits are sold daily. 

From our desks in London we wouldn't have fully understood the fundamentals of the role of that brand within the market nor that biscuits are not just a treat but for some, an essential, safe and accessible source of daily nutrition. 

But, the strength of the work and happy clients is not all that the model has to offer. 

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Creating a Stand-Out Studio Culture 

Studio culture is more vital than ever. It’s essential to recruit top designers, and it helps keep valued talent. The Pop-Up Agency offers something new, the chance for an entirely fresh experience that many crave but rarely get the chance to act on since their gap year abroad. 

It has a positive impact on working relationships and fosters a deeper understanding of each other; how each member ticks, and how they can work more effectively as a team. A change of scenery is vital for creative stimulation-think about that off-site brainstorming session and how many ideas were fired about, and imagine that as an ongoing sense of renewed vibrancy. Benefits continue long after the team got back to their desks. 

So, consider if the Pop-Up Agency is right for you. It’s a model for implementing and applying to multiple brands, projects and sectors. It’s a case of adapting, and it’s a growing trend for a reason; when done right, it’s a win-win for both brand and agency. 

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