WASHINGTON, D.C. — Colorful balloons, Rent the Runway window decals, a free cup of coffee and a pink interior are what await customers who happen to go to one of six Compass Coffee stores in Washington, D.C. this week.
The apparel rental service has been popping up in a different location every day since Tuesday, and the small promotion will continue through Saturday, when the retailer plans to show up at two different Compass Coffee shops to plug its Unlimited membership one more time. Why pair with a coffee store to raise brand awareness about a membership that already exists?
"Unlimited choices for fashion, unlimited choices at the coffee bar," Rachel Gross, event producer at RJG Productions said, who worked on the promotion with Rent the Runway. She added that coffee shops are an ideal environment to talk to potential customers. "This is a great way to have conversations with us. You can learn about Unlimited in the time it takes to get a cup of coffee."
Though, admittedly, the time it takes to get a drink has been a touch longer than usual thanks to the free coffee perks.
The brand has taken advantage of the lines of coffee-starved customers to ask if they've heard of Rent the Runway, offer them $100 off a 60-day trial of the Unlimited membership and otherwise raise awareness of a retail startup that just joined the unicorn club in March after a $125 million investment round.
At the time, the brand cited subscription growth as one of its focuses, and this type of local marketing supports that aim with a light-hearted takeover that includes mugs with "Good vibes brewing" on them (free with the purchase of an Unlimited membership) and tables that say things like: "‘You got this.' -Coffee."
Even the more overtly promotional aspects of the store, like the racks of clothes on display, were hand-picked to fit the casual, work-wear vibe Rent the Runway wanted to get across.
A purple dress is displayed with a sign that says "Lavender Latte" above it, a signature drink at Compass Coffee, while a cream-colored outfit sits beneath a sign for a flat white. Everywhere a customer looks, they're reminded that Rent the Runway is sponsoring their free coffee, whether through the rainbow on the takeout coffee cups, the pink T-shirts baristas are wearing with a cheery: "Own your day. Rent everything else" on them, or the smattering of handbags displayed throughout the store.
Gross said highlighting accessories was purposeful because many people don't yet think of Rent the Runway and accessories in the same breath, and the brand wanted to promote its more casual looks rather than the formal wear it's become associated with.
"They don't think about it so much as workwear," Gross said of customers, explaining why they brought the outfits they did to each store. "We didn't bring any ball gowns. We didn't bring any bridesmaid dresses."
Choosing D.C., a city with a serious workforce, to advertise makes a lot of sense, and not just because of the huge working population. Georgetown is one of five physical store locations listed on Rent the Runway's website, with the others in New York, San Francisco, Topanga, California, and Chicago.
"D.C. is a big investment … it's a big market for us," Gross said, noting that in some ways it's also a less self-conscious fashion market. "It's a community where people aren't afraid to say it's rented."
It's also a city that, judging by the lines, seems to appreciate the after-hours teardown and 3-hour set-up the brand is doing every day to move from spot to spot. Or maybe it's just the free coffee.