Never-ending enjoyment (for a limited time only)

Consumers are craving the unique and brands are catching on…

— the following article is a trend-spotting piece that I wrote which ended up not being used. It is published here, with permission, and totally unchanged. Enjoy —

In this time-pressured digital age, the modern city-dweller has to be militant with their time allocation.

Friends (and family? maybe) come first; obviously, but how can brands break into the hallowed ground between 7pm Friday and 6am Monday?

Word of mouth marketing has never been stronger, yet while false scarcity isn’t any new kind of rocket science, all across the globe brands both big and small are coming ‘round to the idea that to be there today, you need to be gone tomorrow.


Time Pressure
“Time Pressure is an almost universal experience for residents of modern cities” says Associate Professor at the School of Physical, Environmental, and Mathematical Sciences, Dr Paul Tranter – and he’s not wrong. Cities everywhere suffer from the same issue: scarcity of time. There is simply never enough time for consumers to do or see everything. Commuting, working, commuting, sleeping; the cycle never ends.

They are in what the New York Times refers to as ‘the busy trap’.

The race to be ‘different’
‘Be different’, ‘the Amazing, every day’, ‘Challenge everything’, ‘Make the most of NOW’ – Brand taglines are constantly falling over themselves to be unique, to stand out – two brands share at least one of the slogans above.

Been there, done that
Ever connected, the global village is now smaller than ever. Finding that one cool venue, or that amazing trip, that no one on Twitter or Facebook has seen or done is now more difficult than ever before. Consumers not only want the amazing, but they also want the kudos of discovering the remarkable – a thirst for being first, if you will.

Combine these three elements and you find yourself in a whirlwind of one-off experiences that are continually attempting to better what’s gone before…


1. The rise of the Speakeasy
From New York to London or Sydney to Shanghai, knowing what secret door to push at exactly what time and on what street is the true mark of a local’s ‘knowledge’. You can find whatever you need on the streets of the world’s busiest cities, from Cocktail Clubs to Breakfast Clubs; the speakeasy of 2012 has it all.

The Mayor Of Scaredy Cat Town, London
Situated behind a fridge door of a greasy spoon in London’s Spitalfields district, this underground cocktail bar serves up Bloody Marys and bites for those that ask for a meeting with the Mayor upon arrival. He’ll be seeing you shortly.

Crif Dogs, NYC
A greasy hot dog takeout store somewhere off the East Village is the destination. Cunningly named ‘Please don’t tell’, the bar itself is hidden through a hidden panel inside the restaurant’s phone booth. Once inside, the drinks are classic and the crowd are cool.

Eau-de-vie, Sydney
Hidden away at the back of the Kirketon Hotel, is a similarly themed destination. Deriving its look and feel from the prohibition-era United States of old, getting down down-under has never been easier (or more incognito).

2. The pop-up shop, bar, restaurant, hotel, play
The ‘pop up’ is king (and already fairly well-known in the retail space). However bigger brands are getting involved and the retail trend is evolving into other spaces, spreading its unparalleled wings and setting course for the exclusive.

— Branded stores
Coca-cola, Marmite, IKEA, Louis Vuitton – all these brands and many more have each experimented with temporary locations. Mainly located in areas distinctly matched to their audience (Apple’s iPad store at SXSW springs to mind), they all deliver in very much the same pattern: iconic style, on-brand personal experiences and, more often than not, high-end transactions for consumer of today, keen not to miss out on what’s before them.

— Theatre: You, Me Bum Bum Train
A play for the individual, sold out within 10 minutes of tickets going on sale late last year. Each audience member is sworn to secrecy, and then taken through their very own version of ‘the bum bum train’. Designed to provide the epitome of unique experiences – the train’s passengers never have the same experience twice. Ever.

— Hotel: Papaya Playa Project
85 cabanas make up this Mexico-based, eco-friendly pop-up hotel. With its ‘stay’ only scheduled for five months of the year, bookings are drying up fast and, as with nearly all examples here, the attraction is in the unique. A Berlin-based ad-agency has been brought on board to fill the cabanas with stories… but only while it stays.

3. The one off, to never be seen again
‘Did you see that?’ – ‘Did you hear about this?’ – ‘Wait, you actually WENT there?’ – these are the questions that’ll be asked about our next batch of examples. The crazy, the out there, the experiences that everyone wishes they were there to experience. Instead, they just read about it on Facebook and hope they make the next one…

— British Airways Olympic Restaurant, ‘Flight BA2012’
While this example should probably be in the ‘pop up’ section, the sheer exclusivity of the execution has pushed it into the ‘one offs’. Only open for a mere six days in April 2012, the 54-seater British Airways ‘cabin restaurant’ served food from celebrity chefs and based its dishes on the menu from 1948, in homage to the year the country last hosted the Olympic Games.

— Bompass & Par, Truvia
B&P, jelly mongers by trade, are becoming known for their food-based brand tie-ins. As recently as last summer, they flooded the roof of London department store Selfridges for the launch of a calorie-free sweetener known as ‘Truvia’. 45min trips to the top of the building (pre-booked, WAY in advance, naturally), promised a true ‘journey of discovery’ the likes of which have never been seen before and will doubtfully ever again.

— Projection Mapping Madness
From Nokia to Angry Birds, electro-cars to 80s pop songstresses – the use of Projection Mapping is almost passé in its usage. But nothing signifies the ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ nature of the one-off experience than really well executed piece of projection mapping. The Vivid Light Festival at Sydney Opera House is a recent favourite…

Be there, or watch it on YouTube.


Without a doubt, brands are experimenting with experiences. While they might seem like just more YouTube fodder to the cynical, unique branded encounters are what today’s consumers CRAVE. They strive to be different and, to cater for this hunger businesses are getting in on the act.

If Apple is getting into the pop-up marketplace, then one may wonder if this trend has already jumped the shark. But, as the research shows, the notion is already evolving; cross-category, cross-market and cross-borders. Brands will work harder, and innovate further to get into the eyeline (and mindshare) of the paying customer.

Which brings us back to our consumer: time-poor, cash-rich. Give them something special, premium and – dare we say it again? – unique, and they’ll cancel tea with their own Grandmother just for you.


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Author: James Whatley

Chief Strategy Officer in adland. I got ❤️ for writing, gaming, and figuring stuff out. I'm @whatleydude pretty much everywhere that matters. Nice to meet you x

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