Float Interview Series: Julia Haber on Reaching the Valuable College Demographic with Pop Ups

WAYV CEO Julia Haber

Pop ups are sprouting up everywhere, from the Museum of Ice Cream to 29 Rooms and everything in between. We now live in an Instagram world and the value of physical spaces that people want to be “seen” at is beyond what most marketers ever imagined.

Naturally this has every brand asking what their pop-up strategy should be to capitalize on this trend, and how they can possibly implement a pop-up strategy with little to no experience managing a physical space.

Whenever this question is asked, an opportunity is there for the taking. We sat down with Julia Haber, who’s company WAYV is solving that problem for brands, with a focus on the college demographic.

What is WAYV and what problem are you solving for brands?

WAYV provides brands with a curated and tailored opportunity to form deep/meaningful relationships with the hard to reach college/gen z demographic. WAYV experiences are short-term pop-up environments built out of trailers or shipping containers designed with students in mind, providing an opportunity to learn more about brands, A/B test products, capture meaningful data and so much more.

Why are you targeting the college market specifically?

Approximately 30% of all colleges are placed in remote areas across the country making it physically challenging to find ways to create relevant ways to build relationships with this incredibly powerful demographic. As a turnkey experience we design, customize, build, promote and deploy all experiences on our partnered campuses, making the solution highly valuable for brands.

Should every brand create a pop-up strategy?

No, definitely not. The reason “pop ups” have become a bit taboo is a result of every brand trying to create these experiences, even if it is off brand or not relevant. By nature, pop-ups are short term environments where brands can try new things with lower risk, but in order to create a successful pop up, you must understand whether your consumers truly want or need these moments. As best practice brands should consider:

The larger KPI’s at hand: beyond just Instagrammable content (how will this enhance my brand) What should my customers walk out feeling? How is this moving the needle in my business (beyond sales)? What elements make this unique in the paradigm of the pop up? Is this more than just a PR move?

What value do you bring brands as an operator and expert in the college demographic?

As a business focused strictly in the college space, we have a keen understanding of students backed by data and a network of WAYV student influencers. Our database consisting of thousands of students and dozens of campuses allows us to stay on the pulse of this market, with a unique understanding of the best ways to speak and be heard as a brand.

As a turnkey business one of our most valuable assets is our relationships with colleges. By working closely with student organizations and sponsoring entrepreneurial, retail, technology, marketing, and business clubs we have access to the campuses in a unique way.

Through the data we have on campuses and our boots on the ground we can tailor each experience not only to the brand- but school to school, ensuring a high level of customization and therefore market-brand resonance.

WAYV Rent the Runway Pop Up

What role should data play in the pop-up experience?

Data should always be at the forefront of consideration for brands. Thinking about ways to create experiences more intuitive, tailored, and enjoyable can be achieved through the intelligent use of data. There is a difference between knowing a consumer’s digital footprint and leveraging behavioral data to influence a physical space. Leading brands are being discerning about what is value and what is fluff to allow them to create a connection that feels as personal as a gift you buy for your best friend. Most brands are still not optimizing the way they use data to inform their experiences, which is a major opportunity to ensure a successful pop-up.

What are you doing to differentiate yourself from being the more common “Instagram playground” experiences?

One of the downsides of the pop-up phenomenon is that most are being designed with sharablity at the forefront of the experience, which keeps consumers hidden behind the screens of their phones, consumed in the perception of others. This makes it difficult to build relationships because the consumer is only half engaged, not discovering but rather passively making quick judgements to enhance their personal brand. I firmly believe if you provide the consumer an experience that offers more than millennial pink and aesthetically pleasing backgrounds, you will be surprised by the kind of relationships you can foster.


WAYV is certainly onto something, and brands need to by hyper focused on creating a physical footprint that revolves around experiences. It's not enough to just have a physical space, the interaction with consumers must be authentic, and the experience must be built around creating value for both the consumer and the brands overarching marketing strategy. When executed correctly pop up experiences can become a platform in themselves, as brands like Refinery 29 and Essence are proving to the world.


San Francisco, CA