Fried and tested: experiential beauty pop-ups turn to food

Feb 07, 2019

Applying eyeliner with hands covered in fried chicken grease doesn’t sound like the ideal setting for a beauty retail experience but this is exactly the scenario cult beauty brand Benefit has engineered for its latest pop-up in partnership with London based purveyors of gourmet fried chicken Mother Clucker. Innovation Researcher Harriet Cox went along to investigate.


No stranger to a pop-up, Benefit is well versed in creating engaging brand activations that land well with its target audience. Working with experience-led event production agency The Persuaders, previous activations have included The Good Ship Benefit (a triple-deck beauty vessel dedicated to pampering services and beauty treatments), pop-up pub experience Gabbi’s Head (created to coincide with the 2014 FIFA World Cup) and a travelling Brow Mobile bar, which toured the UK offering brow tips and treatments.


Its latest venture combines a fried chicken shop and the craft of creating the perfect winged eyeliner under one roof in a pop-up aptly named ‘Just Wing It’. Decked out in the brand’s signature kitschy colours the first thing you notice on approaching the entrance is the smell of fried chicken drawing you in.


Inside visitors can place an order for wings – of the chicken or vegan variety ­– at the bar and grab a can of Benefit-branded soda. Whilst waiting for your order to be prepared the menu displayed above the counter also provides handy tips on how to create the perfect wing – of the eyeliner variety.


Set up like a diner, the space has plenty of seating for visitors to dwell, making this a fun and social experience designed for groups and friends. An area to the side of the bar is dedicated to the product launch of the liquid eyeliner. Here visitors can interact with the brand’s make-up artists and get their eyeliner done by an expert – no need to use your own greasy hands. Phew!


Pairing fast food with beauty

With this approach Benefit is joining a host of other brands creating hybrid experiences that bring together fast food and beauty. Last year we reported on US brand Glossier partnering with cult San Francisco cafe Rhea’s to create a month-long pop-up. The space, inside and out, was rebranded in Glossier pink and replaced dining space with product tables and makeup displays, which ran throughout the restaurant. Customers could sit at tables at the rear or on the street to eat, eating lunch and drinking wine and beer, while all Glossier’s products were on display and available for testing and purchase.


Glossier at Rhea’s Café


We have also seen this approach from established high-end beauty brand Chanel. Its touring  pop-up café, Coco Cafe, was designed as a more accessible entry point to its luxury products. As this shows, offering food alongside beauty products creates an opportunity for brands to engage its fans in a memorable way. Facilitating a shared experience around food that shoppers can do with their friends positions them as fun and sociable.


Coco Cafe


Another Benefit activation running simultaneously in Los Angeles is the Roller Liner Diner. A much bigger production, the 1950s diner-style pop-up features roller skating waitresses handing out ice cream, and make-up touch ups. The bar area serves as a trial space for Benefit products featuring light-up pink mirrors and there are plenty of Instagram-friendly moments too encouraging visitors to share their experience on social media.


Benefit Roller Liner Diner


Maggie Ford Danielson, Benefit’s chief beauty ambassador explained the approach in a recent interview with Eater, saying: “Now people are wanting more than one thing out of an experience.”

Summing it all up, Ali Weiss, SVP of marketing at Glossier says the key to creating a successful beauty activation is creating a communal experience, explaining: “People don’t just visit Glossier to buy products. They hang out, create content, chat with our editors, and make friends with the stranger trying Boy Brow next to them.”

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