Why Pop-up Marketing Puts Social Media Ads in the Shade

Social media does not sell. No one wants to interact with brands, apart from the unhinged lunatics who enjoy “banter” with Pret a Manger on twitter. People use social media to interact with people. For the most part their friends and family.

This is generally accepted but it bears reiterating just to wipe away any lingering doubts. It has in part been facilitated by Facebook’s newsfeed changes which often mean that only 1% of people that “like” a company will see their posts organically, forcing companies onto their paid-for ads model, which I’ll come onto later.

Social media doodle

Social media is changing business; however…

It’s worth remembering that social media was going to change business for ever, old fashioned advertising would disappear and marketing would be revolutionised completely. Many agencies (who’s financial interest it is in, to sell intangible things that can’t be measured) will maintain that this “conversation” online via Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, whatever, is still happening, and still a worthwhile way for businesses to target their marketing spend and work hours. In all but a very few exceptions social media activity is not of any benefit to sales (retention of and generation of new) at all. As Ad Contrarian puts it so well “It turns out that the average consumer has a lot more on her mind than conducting online conversations about fabric softener”.

Today about 7 in 10,000 of a major brand’s followers will engage with a Facebook post. The number for Twitter is about 3 in 10,000. So you have to pay to promote your post or pay for a Facebook ad, which is much the same thing. That’s obviously the answer, and with all their whizz-bang next level genius boffins on board they will be able to put your advert in front of exactly the right person just at the point they make a decision about a purchase.

Well, that’s the sell but it’s very far from the reality.

More often than not the adverts that appear in my twitter feed are well beyond bizarre and entirely unrelated to the kind of things I choose to spend money on. Online ads generally are another level of incompetent. I can’t be the only person who, having bought a pair of shoes online, was followed around the internet by adverts for them (the exact pair I bought from the exact same shop) on every other site I visited for the next 4 months?

Plus, there’s growth of ad blockers, which admittedly don’t work in app, but are a very real threat to the business models of a lot of online publishers. It’s important to remember that not everyone is a hipster millennial permanently glued to their phone, an awful lot of people, especially the older people that spend the most money still seem sentimentally attached to their charming old-fashioned personal computers.

The good, old fashioned way FTW!

So how do you get your product in front of potential new customers, customers in the right part of the world, in the right town even. Customers who are already mentally preparing to spend money and can be broken down by very specific demographics. Well call me old fashioned, but perhaps you might want to try promotional marketing.

No? Well let’s rebrand it. “Pop-Up Promotions”, now you’re talking!

Pop-up bookstore
photo credit: La Citta Vitta / Flickr

Pop-up any things are buzzy as heck. But it’s essentially the same thing. It’s a really good return on marketing spend. They can help build and launch your brand, which is really important because without any brand recognition your Facebook ads will fade into the background noise of vaguely inspirational quotes over pictures of sunsets and online petitions to get some idiot Top Gear presenter banned from Wales.

So let’s compare the 4 key reasons why people use Facebook etc to advertise their business.

1. It’s cheaper

Well it certainly is cheaper than print and TV and other forms of traditional media, but it might surprise you to learn just what good value pop-up promotions are. For instance, (and it does depend on the venue) you could rent a good sized area of floor in the foyer of a supermarket with a weekly footfall of 50 000 + for £70 ($100) a day. You could spend that much online in 15 minutes and only get 20 clicks.

2. It’s easier to target your audience

That’s certainly a positive, although there is still an awful lot of debate as to how worthwhile these incredibly specific demographic groups are. Amazon for instance don’t target that way, they just look at what other people that bought the same thing bought and try and make you do the same.

With pop-up promotions you can target your marketing really well by geographic area, catchment areas for big-brand stores are really clear. You can also target specific types of customer, for instance, by marketing your home-improvement product outside a Garden Centre you know that the people you speak to will have a home to improve. They will even be thinking along those lines already, what with them buying things to improve their garden.

3. Mobile is taking over

That is very much the case, people are always on their phones these days. Except, it turns out, when they are buying something. Over 90% of retail activity is still conducted in bricks and mortar stores.

4. Tracking conversions is easy.

Again, that’s very true of social media ads. It is also very true of pop-up promotions. It doesn’t take a degree from Stanford to hand out flyers with a special offer “code” printed on to potential members of your new gym, or whatever other wonderful product or service you are selling. It also turns out that the bond created through the interaction with a customer is much more valuable than that they’d get by clicking on an advert. Who’d have thought?


Now, this piece started with the headline about putting social media in the shade, and so on. Which is obviously a bit inflammatory. But that’s the internet for you.

Where would we be without the online crack cocaine that is the List, or the trolling headline which tells you everything you believe is wrong? Probably in a calmer place, but hey-ho. Obviously, I don’t believe that all other forms of marketing are bunkum, and that you should give up all of your online ads to go and stand outside your local Tesco or Walmart singing the praises of your company.

What I’m saying is that you shouldn’t underestimate the power of traditional consumer behaviour, pop-up marketing works and it needn’t be naff. Amazon themselves are doing it through their pop-up book shops, which are far-far removed from shabby. It’s easier and easier to find the perfect venue online and pop-up promotions really should be a part of your marketing mix.