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A Pop Up with Purpose

The Heifer pop-up at Westfield Shopping Center in San Francisco, Calif. Designed by Gensler.

‘Tis the season for giving and buying—and, of course, the now-ubiquitous pop-up shop. Once considered disruptive, pop-ups are now the new normal, as brands from all sectors compete to find new, clever and “cool” ways to capture the attention of the next-gen shopper.

While savvy retailers have long embraced the pop-up, others are just beginning to explore the potential of this format. Like many traditional nonprofits, Heifer International, a nonprofit working to eradicate poverty and hunger through sustainable, values-based holistic community development, had yet to integrate a pop-up strategy into their marketing, relying largely upon direct mail to raise funding.

In order to attract a younger, next-gen gift giver, Heifer International engaged Gensler to create a holiday popup shop at Westfield Shopping Center in San Francisco. The pop-up shop, which launched on Dec. 1 (Giving Tuesday), is open through Dec. 31.

Kimberly Nixon, project manager for Heifer International, describes the group’s goals. “Heifer is working toward our 2020 goal to help 4 million families move out of hunger and poverty and into a livable wage. With that in mind, we needed to find new ways to tell our story and attract new donors. Heifer started as a grassroots organization over 70 years ago and this pop up experience touches on that sentiment. We are really excited about being in the mall because it allows us to engage potential donors while they are holiday shopping.”

Heifer was impressed with Gensler’s track record of helping brands shift customer perception by using design and outreach strategies to reach new audiences. They were interested in working with us to find out how a more experiential pop-up approach might engage a younger audience and broaden their future core giver base to include a powerful purchasing base: Millennials (or “Gen Y”) and the up-and-comers, “Gen Z.”

This is a critical shift for nonprofits, who need to build relationships with younger supporters. Millennials currently represent the largest consumer base in terms of annual spend, with an estimated $200 billion in direct purchasing power. And Gen Z is the group to watch when it comes to future purchasing power. According to J Walter Thompson Intelligence, “generation Z is highly conscientious, progressive and empathetic” and are looking to role models “with a social, political or professional message.” (JWT Intelligence, “The Future 100—Trends and change to watch in 2016.”)

The Heifer pop-up at Westfield Shopping Center in San Francisco, Calif. Designed by Gensler.

A participatory pop up

Gensler created a solution that delivered on the brand promise by feeling grass-roots and inexpensive—a core element of the design. The Gensler team recommended a simple, agriculturally inspired wood structure as the anchor for the display. By creating a design that encouraged participation and evolved over time, the team also provided a strong platform for a social media campaign. With the purchase of an animal, donors can swap a suspended copper cowbell for a “price tag” and personalize it with their reason for giving. Over the month-long engagement, the copper cowbells will be replaced with teal personalized tags—a visible statement that illustrates the donations’ impact.

The entire design process—from production to installation—took less than four weeks. Gensler created all of the pop up components—from the campaign to the structure, packaging and T-shirts. The team stamped gift boxes, tied twine around bells, and visually merchandised the display the morning of launch with the Heifer team.

As more brands seek alternative solutions and processes that can get ideas to market quickly, this project illustrates the impact we can have by being truly hands-on with the client and pushing ourselves beyond our traditional roles. For Heifer, this is just the beginning, as they look at more retail-focused marketing approaches and experiments to engage their future core audience. Creating a pop-up experience based purely around giving and not buying is a great test case for how more savvy retail-thinking and good design can help Heifer, and nonprofits like them, grow their giving bases.

The Heifer pop-up at Westfield Shopping Center in San Francisco, Calif. Designed by Gensler.

Janice Cavaliere is a Brand Design Director in Gensler’s San Francisco office, helping brands connect with people through compelling, well-designed communications and engaging experiences. Contact her at Janice_cavaliere@gensler.com.

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