As, I write this piece, the
marketing world is changing;
and with it the imminent
change in conducting business.
This change is being demanded
by savvy, empowered
consumers who is not swayed
by the big media instigated
"brand essence". Today, the
elusive consumers want
relevant and on-time messages.
The best way to covey it to them
is through experiences that are personally relevant, memorable, sensory, emotional
"Return on Experience" is the marketing buzz word of the 21st century. “Experiential marketing is leading the way into the new marketing paradigm.” Know your target demographics. Deliver a memorable experience at every touch point. You are bound to succeed.
Prof. Bernd H. Schmitt, director of the Center on Global Brand Leadership of Columbia Business School writes, “Today, customers take product quality and a positive brand image as a given,”........"What they want is products, communications, and marketing campaigns that dazzle their senses, touch their hearts, and stimulate their minds – that deliver an experience.” In his book Experiential Marketing, Prof Schmitt discusses 5 strategic experiential modules of Sense, Feel, Think, Act and Relate that form the basis of experiential marketing.
(At the risk of being shamefully aggressive), with pride we may say Skyline Mirage is the perfect back wall for busy trade show exhibitors who are penetrating in small vertical markets. The experience is delivered in the ease of set up. Developing this product some 30 odd years ago, Skyline related to the multifaceted challenges of an exhibitor and since then, Mirage has undergone various evolutionary phases to evolve in its final form as self locking Mirage Plus.
Companies that deliver the right experience to customers will succeed in this tough competitive market place. Trade shows are great venues where your prospects and your clients get to feel and experience your brand. To deliver a memorable experience, use innovative approaches to engage your visitors in creative and interactive ways. For example, ask your customers to write down in a white board (which very well can be part of your back wall) the defining verbs that come to their mind when using your product.
Cause-marketing activities is another proven way to deliver a memorable, soul soothing experience. Allos Therapeutics Inc., a biopharmaceutical company specializing in anti-cancer therapeutics, crafted its philanthropic, in-booth activity around a quilt donation to cancer patients. Eager to support cancer patients, attendees happily completed the activity — adding messages such as “Life is a gift!” and “May hope, faith, and courage be your guiding light today and always.” Allos would sew the completed squares into as many quilts as possible, each one of which would be donated to a cancer center for distribution to patients.......A compelling marketing campaign that touched hearts and inspired minds.
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In the summer of 2007, the US stock market plummeted by 5%. In the same week FTSE lost about 5.6%, Israeli TA 25 Index dripped 7% and Australia exchange shed 3%. This was mirrored across the global stock markets. Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, India and China all followed suit. As the financial instruments of the developing and the developed countries have started to look alike "we have voluntarily narrowed our options to the point of jeopardizing our ability to survive."
Nature, does not condone singularity. It leads to extinction.
Rebecca Costa in her book, The Watchman's Rattle: Thinking Our Way Out of Extinction, says, in evolutionary terms, diversity acts like a genetic insurance policy—to guard against the complete eradication of species. This is reason why there are 17,500 species of butterflies in the world, and around 750 species in the United States (Encyclopedia Smithsonian). A species that develops a broad range of characteristics and behaviors—wide diversity—increases its odds of surviving a broad range of environmental challenges. In December 2004, when the great Tsunami claimed more than 150,000 lives, the stone age tribes of the Andaman and Nicobar islands escaped unscathed because they took to the forests and higher ground well in time.
Dr. Yaneer Bar-Yam of Harvard University exposes the critical role diversity plays as complexity in business grows: "A system performs well in facing complex challenges when it has high variety. We can understand this in the case of the modern economy and technological and corporate innovation." The greater the diversity of ideas, products and services, the more effectively businesses can respond to dramatic shifts and changes. For that reason, Apple has products that ranges from defining nano life style to the dream machines of the 3D designers and artists. For that very same reason, the latitude of Skyline products range from extreme portability to custom modularity and not to mention more than 30 elastic product lines in-between. For that very same reason, exhibit designers of our times should incorporate the essence of the brand in the visuals, architecture and of course, need-less to say in the interactivity that is the hallmark of face-face-marketing.
Socio-biologists confirm that some 5 million years ago, with the development of two-legged locomotion, our brains experienced intricate adaptation to an "avalanche of new sensory complexity". If that is true, we are yet again undergoing paramount changes in the frontal cortex, the area that processes complexity. We are on for an interesting ride!
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In a radical socio-genetic paper that was published in 2003, it was indicated that 1 in 200 men of this planet owe their DNA to Genghis Khan. Profoundly progressive than his European or Asian counterparts, Genghis Khan swiftly conquered, abolished torture, granted universal religious freedom and squashed feudal systems of aristocratic privilege. Genghis Khan acheived this by accurate targeting, disciplined structure and seamless integration.
On a galloping horse hitting his target, armed with the technology of bows and arrows he conquered the largest empire in history. Alexander and Caesar pales in comparison. LaRae Quy, a former FBI undercover agent, says Genghis mastered his art of conquest, retention and expansion by perfecting three things. Sounds familiar. It is all about market share.
First, he developed the power to pull back the thick bow so he could aim his arrow.
Step back – take a broad survey as to who your clients and prospects are. Include age, gender, income, ethnicity, experience and affilation. Be sure to include the non-tangibles: personality, likes & dislikes, reputation and their trigger points. This will help you to decide who you want to deliberately go after.
Second, Chengiz Khan understood the movements of the horse he was riding. When a horse is galloping, there is a moment when the horse is air-borne and all four hooves are off the ground. In that split-second, as he sat in his saddle and sailed through the air in smooth flight, he could shoot his arrow with enough accuracy to hit the target.
A persona gives your team a more tangible, living target to aim for when you create different marketing messages. You can create and target several personas. For example, a car company may have car buyer personas that are driven by status, or economy, or hauling family, or sustainability. In the words of our very own Mike Thimmesch: "When you understand your buyer personas, you can tailor all marketing aspects to better appeal to them. " The key word is targeting with accuracy.
And third, Chengiz Khan understood not only his own strengths and weaknesses, but the strengths and movements of his horse as well.
Unlike, the common perception that the Mongols were ruthless nomadic savages, the reality is; in nearly every country the Mongols conquered, they brought a revolutionary rise in cultural communication, expanded trade, and a blossoming of civilization. The key lesson here: Do not shove your products or services down your clients' throat. Understand, and articulate the problems that are keeping your clients up at night. Armed with this information, target your messages. You will be astonished at the positive performance of your marketing campaigns.
“How relevant is our message for this person, at this point in the customer lifecycle?” This is the DNA of Persona Marketing. When you cultivate personas into your marketing program, you’re understanding the people that drives your market. This will empower you to make your product or service relevant to them at any specific buying stage. "This knowledge, which informs meaningful and persuasive value propositions, is not only the foundation of integrated marketing but also a powerful transformer of product development."
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"Can you tell me, Socrates, whether virtue is acquired by teaching or by practice; or if neither by teaching nor practice, then whether it comes to man by nature, or in what other way?" The year was 350 B.C.E. The day was just like today, one cold sunny afternoon. [I can only imagine!]
Plato, who documented every move of this magical sage writes that Socrates tells Meno that "he not only does not know if virtue can be taught, but does not understand the nature of virtue." Meno shudders, his conviction challenged, he tastes the dialectic method for which Socrates sacrificed his life.
For ages, Socrates has been revered as the grand master of intellectual eloquence and inquiry: the ideal critical thinker. It is not one idea that earned him this seat of distinguished honor. It is his method of questioning and cross-examination of opposing views that leads to illumination of ideas. Engaging in the Socratic Method makes us confident about the experience of questioning anything including our own ideas and beliefs. By constantly asking critical questions, dynamic brands are in a perpetual state of flux. Brands like Southwest Airlines, Zappos, Google, Virgin or Starbucks constantly align themselves to the questions of the times. They are courageously passionate about doing business in a more "virtuous" fashion that brings value to the clients and adds momentum to their balance sheets. Their "brand virtue" goes through the high standards of Socratic questioning time and time again. (“Virtue” is not a term that marketers use, yet as a concept it explains growing consumer expectations toward brands and companies.)
The prevalent coffee drinking culture is the result of some adventurous minds who questioned the idea of black beans. When you walk into Starbucks every morning, you are walking into a culture of comfort, free wi-fi access and a brand that exudes happiness, social responsibility and confidence. The coffee is only a very small part of the scenic setting: it is a "well placed treat in the bigger context of the story you walked into. Why else would people pay $4.00 for a $.038 cup of coffee?" - Seth Godin
In July 2008, when a barrel of oil rocketed 140 US dollars, Southwest Airlines was sitting on a pile of cash and fuel hedges. It was way ahead of the curve. In time of massive crunch, when the virtue of the brand could have been diminished, it soared higher gaining rock-hard customer confidence and securing its survival in the hyper-competitive world of air travel.
Constant examination of your marketing plans and your brand perception helps to reign in Focus, Motivation and Connection. Even before you decide to exhibit at trade shows bring in focus the entire company towards achieving its vision, mission, and goals. Align the company goals to that of your exhibit design. Your exhibiting space and your exhibit represents the tangible and the intangible worth of your company.
Motivation: “Changing The World” is a Growing Mandate; one with emotional benefits for consumers. Motivate your booth staffers to be “responsible,” “doing their part to change the world,” “smart and savvy,” and “resourceful”. People like doing business when brand ambassadors exhibit these qualities.
Connection: Brand Virtue Appeals To All Ages. While the trait of “forward thinking”, “cool and contemporary” is particularly relevant for youngest adults, collaboration is important to younger and middle-aged adults. Females are more inclined to push brand boundaries with respect to responsible behavior. 68% of women, compared with 57% of men, believe that brands “sometimes show real courage by standing up for issues that are not always popular..." In Plato's Apology, Socrates is defiant in defending his way of life. In one of the most forceful works in Western literature, "Socrates defends a life of constant inquiry and examination of beliefs and actions". He had prophecized that his death sentence would guarantee him the "heroic figure, one who died for the “crime” of thinking for himself and for encouraging others to do likewise."
Thank you Socrates. You have enhanced the evolutionary process of mankind.
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In the words of the historian philosopher, Thomas Berry: "We are not just passing into another historical period or another cultural modification.......But more specifically we are terminating the last 65 million years of life development." He says, it's all a question of story. "The old story, the account of how the world came to be and how we fit into it is no longer effective. Yet we have not learned the new story."
The Darwinian story about being stronger, bigger and better is no longer the story of survival. Survival of the Fittest is an exercise in agility and adaptibility. The flawless adaptation to your changing conditions now makes you the master in the Art of Survival. This is the age of knowledge. We are increasingly being rewarded not for our emperical know how of delivering facts but for our ability to make meaning - whether that is telling story about our brand DNA or our balance sheet make up. Management consultant Tom Durel, emphasizes again and again, "everybody thinks it's the return on investment that you're selling...but it's really the story about ROI that an investor takes away."
As we trend towards Type 1 civilization, we are increasingly defining ourselves to be a more homogenous race. When it comes to making a planetary cultural statement, denim rules as the fabric of our lives. To survive in the new post modern value conscious era, Levis Struass is a great story in adaptibility. I think in 2003 Levis Strauss came out with the Signature line. Notice the power of story and make belief at play. What visual cues and emtional expression do you get when you read Signature? Check out their label. Very similar to the vintage iconic label isn't it? What a marvelous way to harness the intangible into tangible.
We humans have been story telling since 100,000 or more so years. We seek out experiences that fire our imaginations and enchants our spirit. Stories are the pathway in. Start at basic. Who are You? Defining who you are is the abiding question for marketers including trade show design architects. Weaving a story along this question alone is an opportunity to create a brand for your company so powerful that your logo or mission statement pales in comparison.
Brian Tarcy, a journalist and an author reveals 5 secrets to the Mastery of Story Telling.
1. Think chronologically. Start at the beginning. A good writer can make the beginning be almost anywhere, but an obvious place to think about is the day the company opened/was formed etc.
2. Use philosophy, but don't preach. People want to learn who you are and what you stand for. Your story is more than just what happened in year 1, year 2 etc. There is something deeper in it. Bring that out. But be careful on your tone.
3. Tell stories. Remember the the events that created who you are. Details are crucial. Use your five senses and make stories come alive.
4. Don't only use your own words. Talk to your employees, board members, anyone invested in your story and see what they remember. Use these memories to paint a three-dimensional picture. Ask more than one person to remember the same event.
5. Make the sum bigger than the parts. You are not just telling your story to tell your story, although it is a nice memento. You want readers to believe in you the same way you believe in you. It should add up into one powerful thing. "Once people make your story their story, you have tapped into the powerful force of faith."--Annette Simmons, Author, The Story Factor.
Your brand belongs to you. Your story belongs to you. The stage that you stand on in a trade show venue is yours. Shape your destiny, build your mountain. "But start at the base and tell everyone who are you and how you did it."
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Commanding over 10 million Twitter followers and over 33 million Facebook fans, Lady Gaga, is also the creative tour-de-force and a key player of the Polaroid team. Her fame is sensational. She gracefully glides between the worlds of technology, music, artistry and marketing. She is the fearless, daring marketing scientist that we all applaud and strive for!
As [trade show] marketers, we are constantly working to leave behind a blazing trail in a crowded industry. Lady Gaga was trying to do the same thing in the over-crowded music industry. Gaga won where others lost.
Here are 3 "gaga" lessons that intrigues me.
Marketing is a Core Belief System: It is a Lifestyle: Gaga has made fame and marketing her lifestyle. Every performance or song release has marketing as a part of its DNA. It is the mindset of the "Gaga" brand. In her very own words: "I used to walk down the street like I was a f*&^ing star... I want people to walk around delusional about how great they can be - and then to fight so hard for it every day that the lie becomes the truth.”
Marketing needs to be in the DNA of your company. Employees in all departments should create content and aid in the company's goal of market domination. Integrate marketing into your business culture.
The Marketing Bedrock: Humility and Appreciation: Gaga has worked tirelessly on accumulating her fans. She drives loyalty by tweeting her fans directly (sometimes on an hourly basis). If you have watched any of her shows you will know how the pop diva keeps re-defining humility in a profound way!. [Watch the video below: you will get the drift] Treat them well and they will make you a superstar is her marketing mantra. Professional photographers are barred from her concerts but she allows her fans to record and distribute videos of her live performance on YouTube.
Appreciate customers and fans for their support. Conduct surveys to ask for input and demonstrate how that feedback is reflected in your business changes. Offer free training, education and surprise gifts for customers to show your appreciation for their business.
Take a Marketing Stand. Drive Your Purpose. Be Fearless. We all target and segment our markets. We do so, because we simply cannot be everything to everybody. Lady Gaga takes it a step further. She does not mind annoying people that she knows she cannot please. It might not be politically correct but being a people-pleaser is just plain boring. Again in her own words, “If you don't have any shadows you're not in the light”
In your business, being controversial isn't about taking risks. It is about doing something unexpected and out of character for your industry. Take a different stand on a topic than most others in your industry would take. Imagine dialogues. Imagine talking with a role model to gain new perspective and insight. Or you can imagine how some role models would discuss your problem. Think about how things originate. Take an object and think about what elements are involved in its creation and how. This will open doors to thinking differently.
Above all, face fear.
What Gautama Buddha preached more than 2500 years ago, Lady Gaga undertakes a contemporary evaluation of the same precept. The whole secret of existence is to have no fear. Never fear what will become of you, depend on no one. Only the moment you reject all help are you freed........Gautama Buddha
“All that ever holds somebody back, I think, is fear. For a minute I had fear. [Then] I went into the [dressing] room and shot my fear in the face..........” Lady Gaga
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I believe it is our "collective consciousness" that leads us to follow trends. The simplest way to think of this phrase is to gauge an idea or style that we all share, whoever specifically "we" or the "tribe" might entail. A very good example is the Apple brand. It is associated with high design and intuitive purity. This trend has now made its transition into experiential marketing as well.
White is now the leading-edge sensation. Freshness, purity and new beginnings are the under-tone connotations of white. It is no wonder that white is the dominant color of choice in some trade show venues. It seems that the emerging Intersolar 2011 is a prime case study of white in the third dimension. The exhibiting brands were so focused on expressing cleanliness, clarity and wholeness so much so that they sacrificed their individual potential to be remarkable and distinctive. All to be part of a "trend". And that is outright feeble.
Trade shows and events are advantageous arenas for rendering your brand uniqueness. Like humans, each brand has it's unique DNA. In marketing terms it is called "Unique Sales Proposition". Designing a space that speaks to this uniqueness is a major advantage in developing a great messaging platform and a memorable encounter.
Over the ages, designers, artists, philosophers and thinkers have been guided by the Spirit of the Time Design Value. This design value is based on the conception that every age has a certain spirit or set of shared attitudes that should be utilized when designing. Clarity and transparency is in the collective consciousness of our current times. Hence, the dominance of white is profound. This is the reason why the challenge to be different is equally pivotal. Introduction of surfaces, textures, hand-illustrations and lighting that confirms to this common consciousness but strides to be peerless is one way to foster brand memorability.
Always remember: your brand is a singular expression. It is unique and unrepeatable.
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The Story of the Aluminum Can.
The aluminum can was fairly content containing the magic potion inside and exhibiting the power of Amazon Açaí berry outside as its prized label. Thanks to the wonder of technology: the can chuckled; "now I can, no pun intended, provide some value to the stressed out robotic race that is always on the look for the next elixir with the promise to cure all that ails them" what a bunch of naive species.
Nonetheless, the can was was happy to be of use. Afterall, once upon a time it lived lived in the earth crust in the form of Bauxite. It had to wait for billions of years to be mined in either Australia, India, Jamaica or in areas in or around the equator. Once mined, Alumina had to be extracted from Bauxite, electrolyzed in dissolved crystal to generate aluminum metal and then transformed into what we commonly know as the aluminum can. Boy, that was certainly a long journey!
One day the can thought about traveling to the Amazon. It just made sense. It had heard so many stories about the mystical Amazon rainforest. So it mustered up all its strength and proposed it to its master Zola. The master, with a nose for business decided to take it even a step further. Zola thought, wouldn't it be great if we created the Amazon environment in a 10' x 20' linear space, in a trade show market place to introduce our new product to the rest of the world!
The can, the master and the Açaí berry all settled on it.
Not the best, but at least a berry berry big home run for now!
[edited by T. Anderson]
In an age when board rooms are no longer the birthing cavity for brands, when facebook and twitter seems to be establishing and expanding or diminishing the brand perception, trade shows and specialized venues seems to hold the secret to your brand experience. Today, a brand is defined as your reputation built off, of your promise to your customers and the sum of all of their experiences with you. Trade shows happen to be an unique arena where your prospects gets to touch, feel, breathe and explore your brand. For this, you need to be Bold and Dauntless. This is one place that your brand must stand out from the noise of the crowd. The strategy that you embark upon is the key. It is the only "SureStep" way to your brand victory.
All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved. Chinese Military General: Sun Tzu
SureStep has done exactly that. Designer, Greg Matheison has incorporated the strategy of Adventurous Creativity and established the brand on high grounds. A company with patents for children with low muscle tone having trouble with stability due to pronation provide bracing for normal movement and function. In an effort to paint a picture of a child's normal life using SureStep, the booth stand design was anchored in the center field by a conceptual tree house. It is Bold. It is Defining. It is Purposeful. The purpose of this messaging is not about the product. It is about bringing fun and adventure in a child's life. The brand has now secured victory.
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The great Italian polymath, Leonardo da Vinci comes to my mind as the master of subtle suggestion. He aggressively exploited the technique of sfumato (the fine shading that produces soft, imperceptible transitions between colors and tones to form a smoky effect) to bring forth this power of subtle seduction. His fabled work, Mona Lisa is a masterful manifestation of this technique. Da Vinci was well versed in the seductive power of limiting knowledge. He recognized that when things are open to interpretation, we are driven by our imaginations and our creative interpolations. The result: the bliss of an eternal enigma; Mona Lisa.
Mathew May, author of Shibumi Strategy says "Leave something to the imagination by limiting information". He says, because human spirit is indefinable the power of suggestion is exalted as the mark of truly authentic creation. Finiteness—dotting every "i" and crossing every "t"— is thought to be at odds with nature, implying stagnation and loss of life. In Zen terms this is the principle of Yugen. As Mathew puts it Leonardo Da Vinci and Steve Jobs both recognized the power of Yugen in art and business. The mysterious smile of Mona Lisa seduces us to arrive at different interpretation every time we look at her because, of the missing definition of her mouth. Leonardo was a master in blending light and shade. He used light to define forms, model them and create the illusion of depth. His softened sfumato contours dissolve into the shadows and into light.
May goes on to mention, when Apple launched iphone, Steve Jobs only demonstrated it once at Macworld 07. It did not go on sale until June. In between there was this long silence. The bloggers and Apple loyalists took over and interpreted with creative modulations. The iPhone "tipped" over even before it went on sale. Rest is history.
The seduction of suggestion is very evident in the design of Pivot Point Regatta Pop Up trade show booth. It seduces the viewer into fancy contemplation. It creates a sense of informal restlessness. It entices the viewer and acts as a silent prompt to engage in a conversation with the booth staffer.
The Art of design now becomes the Art of Business!
In my writings I am often an explorer, a map maker, sometimes a voyager of the human mind and other times: a creator who is tormented by the inner longing to expand, express and delight !