Pop-Up Shops and Airports: The Perfect Match

Airports are becoming modern marketing hotbeds due, in part, to pop-up shops and other experiential activations that aim to turn terminals that are still comprised of white and grey palettes in many cases into vibrant and stimulating destinations. The trend has exploded in recent years, particularly with luxury retailers that have identified a unique opportunity to flex their branding creativity and connect with the diverse consumer profiles that airports offer up.

Marketing in transit hubs is an obvious win-win for both airports and the brands that are popping up in them. While the former increases its profile and bolsters its aesthetic and reputation for forward-thinking, the latter can deliver its key messaging and brand story in an innovative way outside traditional brick-and-mortar or e-commerce retail. Additionally, it’s a valuable avenue for companies and airport operators to obtain consumer insights and data that can then be used to service consumers more efficiently.

Tiffany & Company at JFKAirport Beautification and Interactivity

The draw for airports is obvious when it comes to welcoming pop-up shops and similarly interactive marketing experiences to its gates and terminals. Rather than the traditional run-of-the-mill traveller experience of arriving for a flight and sitting idly in communal areas waiting to board, guest experience is significantly elevated. Pop-up shops are generally more robust and well thought out than airport kiosks, with organizations spending more time and resources on delivering one-of-a-kind brand experiences. For example, Tiffany & Co. launched a pop-up at New York’s JFK airport in 2018 made to look like the brand’s traditional packaging and featuring the signature teal-blue colouring that has long been synonymous with the jewellery company. The activation helped launch Tiffany and Co.’s Eau de Parfum fragrance and featured two large televisions broadcasting lifestyle videos, polished white marble accenting and stunning backlit ads of the new perfume.

Along with Tiffany and Co., many other luxury retailers have been getting in on the pop-up craze in airports worldwide. As 2018 drew to a close, Italian luxury brand Bvlgari launched a pop-up shop at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport, inviting patrons to disconnect from their devices and reconnect with nature by visiting the activation, which was adorned with beautiful plants and other natural elements. World-renowned vodka brand, Grey Goose, also got in on the pop-up market in 2018, launching a French Riviera-themed pop-up at Mumbai Airport that delivered visitors the look and feel of the South of France while walking through one of India’s busiest and bustling airports.

In all of the aforementioned cases, global brands contributed to the beautification and overall aesthetic of the airport terminals and waiting areas that they popped up in. More and more, businesses are recognizing the value in these types of activations; Moncler, Johnny Walker, IKEA, Ray-Ban, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and others have launched airport pop-ups in recent years, clearly validating the concept that started out as a trend but has now become a marketing mainstay.

Endless Marketing Possibilities

One appealing draw for brands popping up in airports is the infinite opportunities for marketing creativity. Unshackled from the confines of tight square footages and condensed storefronts, retailers are able to utilize vast common areas in airports in which they can build-out unique pop-up fixtures that often occupy large common area footprints. An example of this type of activation was the collective beer garden that opened in Melbourne Airport in November 2018. Not only did multiple beer brands deliver their products to a global audience, but a beautiful green space was erected to relax and enjoy the drinks in, complete with lounge chairs, benches and lush plants.

Burberry at London HeathrowIn the summer of 2017 at London Heathrow Airport, designer brand Burberry constructed a hot-air balloon pop-up that instantly transformed the terminal it was housed in into a buzzworthy, Instagrammable wing of the airport. Italy-based luxury fashion house, Armani, has also recognized the demand for such activations, bringing its “Armani Box” concept featuring a primary red colour scheme and its signature hulking gorilla statue to airports across the world from Bangkok to West Hollywood.

Airports are a natural fit for luxury retailers and robust brands in particular, as many of these companies are highly profitable and have sizeable and determined marketing budgets and teams behind them. While many opportunities also exist for small- and medium-sized companies to also join the space, it takes added creativity and strategic thinking on their part, as they must determine how to make an impact amongst their larger counterparts despite operating within smaller budgets and with less resources. But, regardless of company size, airport spaces give participating brand’s exceptional leeway to think outside of convention and deliver lasting and legendary results for both their own team and the airports they collaborate with.

International and Affluent Clientele

The marketing opportunities afforded by airports extend far beyond large activation spaces and promotional creativity. Marketers also know that their brand’s products will be introduced to significant foot-traffic made up of international consumers that have expendable income for flights and other travel expenses. Additionally, airport pop-ups provide an excellent window into consumer behaviour and the means to obtain information that can be used for business development and forward-looking planning.

The Airports Council International (ACI) indicated in its 2018 annual World Airport Traffic Report (WATR) that a staggering 8.3-billion passengers hit the friendly skies in 2017. The governing body also reported that that number would grow by 4.3 percent between 2017-2040, highlighting the fact that air travel isn’t going anywhere as the most utilized means for long-distance travel. Furthermore, in a survey conducted by the International Air Transportation Association (IATA) over the course of 2018, at least 32 percent of respondents said they’d spent money on either hotels, insurance, transportation or car rentals in addition to their airfare. Even more importantly, airport retail itself is expected to grow to a $9.9-billion industry in the US and Canada alone by 2020, according to a 2016 report by MicroMarket Monitor. All this to say, airport visitors are plentiful across the globe, financially above ground and often prepared to spend heavily while travelling.


Linda FarhaLinda Farha
Founder, pop-up go

Linda Farha is Founder and Chief Connector of space connector and pop-up facilitator, pop-up go. A brainchild of her marketing and communications company, Zenergy Communications, Linda was able to foresee the growth of temporary retail and experiential marketing events to create a platform to help both landlords and brands.

Linda is well-versed in the marketing, retail and property management landscape, working with some of Canada’s most respected brands. With an insider’s perspective of the pop-up industry, Linda knows what it takes to connect the right people at the right time.