Last week saw the opening of Benefit’s Curl’s Best Friend Pop-up Parlour on Greek Street in Soho. In previous lives this Greek Street space has been a pop-up port bar, a pudding-only restaurant and an interactive storefront, this month it’s a deluxe 1950’s beauty parlour with a cocktail bar to top it off!
The agency behind the project are the The Persuaders. We caught up with their Creative Director, Andy McDonald, to find out more about how they brought this project to life and gain some insights into how they create tailored experiences for brands that range from Diageo to Samsonite.
What exactly do The Persuaders do?
I started the Persuaders 18 years ago as a creative and also practical resource. I had worked with a lot of talented people, like choreographers and people from the fashion industry and I wanted to bring that sort of creative thinking into a brand world.
Who are your main clients?
It’s those brands that want to go with an idea, want to do something outstanding and are willing to go on a journey with us to create something really impressive.
Do they share a common goal?
I strongly believe that people need to have real experiences. I like Billy Bragg's quote “you can download the experience, but you can’t experience the download” and I really believe that you have to create something live and tangible that is worth sharing.
The goal of most brands we work with is to express the personality of the brand and to create a space where you can interact with the consumer. Such experiences bring you closer to the consumer, you can see how they react, how they feel in the space, how they immerse themselves into the world the brand has created for them. With my craft I always take into account what people are thinking, what they are feeling and what they are taking away from these experiences. When they leave an event they should take the brand experience away with them.
Can you tell us a little more about the Benefit project?
Benefit is a great brand with a very strong brand identity, they come to you with the seeds of an idea and are happy for us to go on the journey with them. They are great team players, and so we sat down with them and the other agencies involved in the project and started thinking about the pop-up concept last August, then we spent some time finding the right space for it. From a construction point of view it took us 3 weeks to build it. Our attitude is that pop-ups don’t have to look temporary. The pop-up idea is that it’s fleeting, it’s only there for a while and then it’s gone - that’s what makes them so special, so in a way they should look even better than permanent stores. We pride ourselves on the production value and detail of the experience we bring to the project.
What was the brand’s main aim in launching the ‘Curl’s Best Friend’ pop-up?
The whole idea is about the launch of the Roller Lash mascara, of bringing the Benefit universe to life in a unique, disruptive way.
How does it compare to the Gin Palace that you did for Tanqueray on size and scale?
Tanqueray hadn’t done anything in the UK for a while, The PR agency SLAM had come up with the idea to create a modern take on a Gin Palace. They wanted to generate coverage and to highlight the heritage and how important it is for the brand to tell a story. When we created it people thought it was a new bar that was going to stay there but it was only on for four days! So the purpose was similar - to impress and interact with your customers. The physical build for the project wasn’t as big as the Curls Best Friend bar, however with all brands our attention to detail remains the same.
Is there a certain type of space that works best for these experience-led projects?
Location is of course important as these experiences are attended by the press. We are looking at the venues that allow you to build the brand environment, so that the client can take full ownership of a space. These need to have a degree of blank space but also have character elements that lend themselves to the brief and brand.
What’s the most memorable project you worked on?
Its difficult to say really because they are all genuinely bespoke, we've had people running down the walls of the Tate Modern, Naked people in glass boxes in Selfridges, Gardens in skips for Pimm's, fashion shows in every imaginable place, elaborate built dresses stuffed with chocolates for Boucher exhibition. And of course all of the Benefit projects are memorable as they have been so varied - from creating a touring training prison, to a pub for women to watch the World Cup in and of course creating the Curl's Best Friend Parlour.
Curl's Best Friend Pop-Up Parlour runs until the end of March at 26 Greek Street. Open Tuesday to Saturday between 11am-11pm (Noir bar open from 7pm). To book appointments and reserve tables, call 020 3620 4747 or via the free Curls Best Friend By Benefit mobile app on Apple/Android.
Find shop space to rent in Greek Street, Soho