Short-term gains to ease the long-term pain? Guerrilla marketing
is continuing to test the boundaries of brand behaviour by giving
recession-busting opportunities to both small and big players. But,
could it have a more selfless future?
I'm due for drinks at Prada's latest collaboration experiment, the Double Club (below), next week. Now usually it's best to visit new places before you review them. However, in fashion terms, I'm already probably way too late. The Double Club is the latest club/restaurant/bar to open for a six month only period as part of the guerrilla or pop-up phenomenon.
At the heart of these brand experiments is the covetous appeal of not only the products, but the involving nature of the experience. For consumers, it's of a temporary nature, unique and available only through the effort of location (the ease of which differs depending on the audacious nature of the brand) and the feeling of participation and involvement. For brands, it's the opportunity to experiment with new directions and with non-committal exposure. Many stick to their principles, tailoring environments and experiences to create an edgy or revitalised extension of themselves. But it also gives the chance to flirt outside the usual boundaries.
The pop-ups also sit in close company with brand collaborations. The Milan Furniture Fair a couple of weeks ago saw Veuve Clicquot roll out its orange (not red) carpet to welcome its guests to installations by Swedish design collective Front, which featured a sofa the same shape as the Veuve Clicquot box and Tom Dixon's Comet Light made of new eco-cardboard champagne boxes, rumoured to be available soon as a limited edition release (both below).
But the downside is that pop-ups can also result in an excuse for a brand mid-life crisis. Although I'm sure they mean well, my heart does sink at the sight of corporate brands handcuffing themselves to urban festivals, even those "down with the kids" telecoms should sometimes know their place. Yes it's vital to continually introduce yourself to new audiences, but there is a whiff of "dad at the disco" about some of these associations. The reason these people found you is because they are inquisitive and are spurred on by that age-old thing: the thrill of the chase. Once you have these bright sparks as your coveted new audience, show them a good time by all means, but just don't go blabbing your tired old corporate message everywhere. This new age of consumerism is about inventiveness, creativity and discovery and not blindsiding them with logos. Speak their language and create a new pop-up for the new brand experience.
Saving the day, and fronting the future of this movement once again, is the fashion industry and it is initiatives such as the aforementioned Double Club, that will hopefully set a new and valuable kind of precedent. Created and run by Fondazione Prada artist Carsten Holler and restaurateur Mourad Mazouz (of Momo and Sketch fame), its impressive introduction of the concept states: "Prada creates experiences: a singular mode of invention runs through Prada's global projects that unite fashion, design, art and architecture in the production of new realities. It tests the power of art in the realm of entertainment." The real revelation, however, is the fact that it donates half of its profits to UNICEF and The City Of Joy, a Congolese charity.
New concept store in Paris, Merci (below), runs on a similar altruistic principle and, although existing at a permanent address, has a constantly changing stock of limited edition homewares, fashion, vintage books and haberdashery donated by famous benefactors. All profits go to children's charities allowing the founders, Marie-France and Bernard Cohen of kidswear brand Bonpoint, to say thank you or "Merci."
Sophie Maxwell's fashion background as a graduate and now guest lecturer at London's Central St Martins is put to daily use in her role as Head of Creative Insight at Pearlfisher.