Yesterday, in New York, Daniel (my husband) and I stumbled upon a popup. 

We had just hit Ess-a-bagel and were searching for a Mister Softee (we found it, thank goodness). 

Somehow, the only picture I took from bagels was of the cream cheese case which I really didn’t mean to do but here you are:

And I hate the way I look (fugly) in the Mister Softee pic so cropped really in on my ice cream to show you that as well: 

But back to the popup. So we were 30 seconds post Mister Softee and we saw a line. 

LANEIGE parked a cute little popup cart right outside of Sephora. As marketers, we were intrigued.

But, also really confused. Because this was the only signage that I saw.

More on that in a minute. But I signed up! Here’s what greeted me upon QR code scan…

An Attentive sign up landing page:

And then once I clicked the CTA on the landing page, I was sent this welcome text, popup specific: 

But remember when I told you WE WERE CONFUSED?

Let me explain. I knew that people would not be waiting in line for what seemed like a long time (long line) for a free sorbet. I just knew it. 

So far you see the comms from the sign (with the QR code), the landing page, and the welcome text… they don’t tell me if I’m going to get anything else by waiting in line. They just tell me I get to explore (explore what flavors, I do not know unless I zoom really in on the packaging on the landing page or looked really closely at the sign) and that I get free sorbet (great but the line tradeoff reaches a tipping point).

I told Daniel that there’s no way this is what’s being offered.

So I did what I do. I didn’t wait in line but I waited for the person being served their sorbet to walk away, and I quickly asked the brand representative (who was handing out the sorbet), “Sorry I’m confused. Can you please explain this to me. By waiting in line what do we get?”

She was beyond nice and she told me how it works:

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Wait in line

Get a free sorbet to match the flavor of the new lip 
They’ll hand us a flyer as we get our sorbet 

Take that flyer into Sephora and redeem for a free sample 

THAT MADE SENSE! None of that was clear in any of the digital or physical collateral. The key part that was missing from ALL of the steps so far was the FREE GIFT INSIDE! 

That’s worth waiting in line. More than sorbet. But wasn’t clear. I bet the line woulda been longer if they had 1 more person at the popup explaining the popup to people that were walking by, or at the end of the line, or near the line. I wish I wasn’t about to catch my flight, I would have stood there explaining it to the passersby and flagging them down to join the line. 

On the subject of making sure we made our flight on time, Daniel and I didn’t have time to stand in the line. But, we did of course go into Sephora to see what happens once you have the flyer and go to redeem it. 

I needed to see how this was working.

So we go inside. 

This is when things go from confusing to interesting to missed opportunity. 

Right when we get inside we’re greeted with ANOTHER LINE that wraps around the store now. This is a line of people holding their flyers, post-sorbet, pre-free sample.

I stand by the door trying to take in the signage on the booth and a lady in line (she doesn’t work for the brand or Sephora) yells at me that I need to get a flyer outside and that I can’t cut.

I get it. Most people don’t walk in and read signage for 2 minutes. I then explained to her that I promise not to cut and that I’m just taking pictures.

I’m sure that scared her but I didn’t have time to explain what Go-to-Millions is and I can assure you she wouldn’t have wanted to sign up LOL.

Anywho, so the free sample line is lining. I cut this person out of the picture I shared above of the booth inside, but there’s someone who is handing a free sample to each person waiting in line inside, as they present their flyer.


The person running the booth tells the person who is redeeming their flyer, “Here’s your sample. If you spend $50 today, you’ll another free gift. If you spend $80 today, you’ll get an even bigger free gift”.

Then she sends the person who has now waited in 2 lines on their way to shop. 

This is a big missed opportunity because what you get for waiting in line is not clear, or clearly mentioned at least, until the end. 

And even then, it’s not perfectly clear again!

Because what you’re waiting in line for isn’t sorbet + a free sample. You’re waiting in line for sorbet + a free sample + another gift with purchase on orders over $50 + a bigger gift with purchase on orders over $80.

And remember, it has still never been said what the gifts are. The person at the booth didn’t know (she wasn’t told).

So you’re then sent to shop and build your cart to $80… but does that need to be $80 worth of LANEIGE? What is the gift at $80? 

We don’t know!

I left. Flight to catch, and my work there was done. 

It then all becomes more clear to me today, Sunday. And last night, Saturday. Since I’ve left the popup (and New York), I’ve begun to understand what’s EXACTLY launching and WHEN.

First, yesterday afternoon at the airport (the afternoon of popup discovery day), I got hit with this TikTok from Nara Smith. (Who I love). It’s AMAZING. And was my first time seeing. I love everything about it. As do the million other people that liked this ad. It’s been running for the last 5 days (the brand announced their new flavor was coming 6 days ago on social). 

Then, this morning, I got this text and email series from LANEIGE (remember, I signed up for their list yesterday at the popup by scanning that QR code). 

I love the reengagement. I love that they wrote to me aware that I had been at the popup (I’m on the right list).

But, notice that both the SMS and the email were delivered at 9:09am. I would have staggered these messages. Moving on!

I love that I’m given a code to shop. That’s amazing.

But, notice how in the email creative there’s a watermelon pictured. That’s also the flavor that Nara Smith promoted.

I got this email today, Sunday, 6/9. Showing watermelon as available to shop and use the discount code (from the email) against. 

On the site, watermelon isnt’ available or featured in any way.

Because…. I went on the brand’s social, and Watermelon launches tomorrow, 6/10 on Sephora. 6/11 on the brand’s site. So, no watermelon at time of code sent. 

That’s what my entire experience has been. I’ve experienced the brand more closely than I ever have.

I’ve purchased from the brand before (the lip sleeping mask in both the pot jar thingy and the tube). Both in the original Berry flavor. 

But until yesterday I didn’t realize it was the #1 lip treatment brand in the U.S. (the cart at the popup said that, and that’s amazing). 

However, until today, I didn’t realize that the watermelon product launches tomorrow and launches first in Sephora and then on Tuesday on the DTC. Until the end of the popup, I didn’t realize how the popup worked. That means that a lot of people probably walked past that popup thinking it was just free sorbet and not worth the line.

But I didn’t know the launch date until I went online today – the popup never told me in any of the materials or any of the convos I heard. 

HOWEVER!!! Tomorrow I will buy the watermelon lip treatment (at Sephora). Mostly because I’ve now seen the brand in person, have talked or thought about it or written about it over 2 full days, and well, I like watermelon. 🍉

In summary, I think activations like this are awesome. I think they also need clear signage and enough people working the events to explain how it works to whoever might not understand. 

Those things can be true at once, and this is how the #1 lip treatment brand in the U.S. did it. There are still notes! Still missed opportunities. 

So that means we can do it like this or better when we host a popup. We have to. Because we can’t all afford Nara Smith and we can’t all activate at Sephora. So we need to get it 100% right. 

And we will! Because popups are expensive and we only get so many opportunities. We will get it right when it’s our turn. We will check our signage at the very least, right? Right!!!! 

Ari Murray
Ari Murray

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