Color is a channel for non-verbal communication.
It communicates to us at a cellular level. Zara Stender, chair holder with the Color Marketing Group (CMG) professes the power in color to influence moods, emotions, hunger, aggression—and buying decisions. “Color increases brand recognition by up to 80 percent, and it can be up to 85 percent of the reason people decide to buy,” as Stender mentioned in the Global Shop Conference 2012.
Trade show exhibitors and designers use color to create a visually pleasing environment, and color used purposefully communicates with customers and prospects. To build a welcoming space, Stender recommended avoiding high-contrast colors—such as yellow and black, which she calls “danger colors”. Complementary colors, helps to balance the eye. However if you want to convey a message of subliminal concentrated focus use high contrast colors. Also important is to anchor the space in true neutral; which can be created by mixing the designs' entire palette and adding white. “Color is not only useful in designing a space, but also in knowing your customer,” Stender said.
Interestingly, as Stender explains; color is correlated with socio-economic status, with more complex colors associated with higher economic status. For example an orange sports car will be referred as “bronze” or “copper.” Alternatively, primary colors are often associated with affordability. (Think the subliminal message that IKEA portrays)
Of course, colors across cultures carry different meaning. For example the color purple signifies royalty and spirituality in the Greco-Roman culture of the West. However, purple is the color of mourning for widows in Thailand in some parts of India.
On an individual level, Stender explained that introverts tend to gravitate toward soft, muted palettes, while extroverts are happier in vibrant environments. Using color strategically, designers can create a balance that plays into both of these personalities in any environment. “The earmark of an extrovert is that they can’t focus,” Stender said. “When dealing with them on a sales floor, blues can help them to focus.” An introvert, on the other hand, might be inspired by just the right proportion of color richness.
Some color associations, according to Stender:
Red: Lust (has the power to alter time)
Purple: Spirituality (inspires loss of impulse control)
Brown: Dependability (especially in business)
Blue and green: Focus and concentration
Burgundy and dark green: Tradition and authority
Red and purple: The “I’ll buy anything” color combination, according to Stender. “Red being lust—‘I wanna spend’—and purple being associated with loss of control.”
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"Always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed." (Mahatma Gandhi). To this wise adage if I may add, aiming harmony in design is crucial; I do not think I will be too far off.
Harmony pulls the pieces of visual elements together. It drives at achieving visual rhythm at trade shows; notoriously known for clutter and chaos. Adjacent colors, related textures, similar shapes and of course the golden ratio are the principal attributes in fostering balance and congruity. Start with a limited color palette. Use tonal contrast as the key element to emphasize focal point. You might want to play with formal balance or an informal balance for the overall movement.
If the sentiment of your brand is dignified, restraint and conservative you might want to go with formal balance. Elements on the right side of your display mirrors the left side in size, placement, shape, and color. Usually banks and retail sector might go with this kind of a structured layout.
If the brand is conceived as exciting and playful, informal balance is the way to go. There is imagination, randomness and discovery at play here. If you wish to promote activity, excitement, and variety use informal balance but nevertheless there needs to be some kind of connective tissue that unifies your exhibiting space.
Harmony in your booth design is bound to amplify the voice of your brand. If some contrast is weaved in this spatial harmony it makes the brand exciting and memorable. Understatement is always better. Sometimes a tiny bit of contrast is all that you need. Be it flooring, lighting or perhaps interjecting some curvacious furniture is all that you need.
The principles of harmony and contrast may seem completely contradictory, but it is the fine balance between these two that dictates the dominance of brand.
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We are Digital Citizens in an Age of Digital Commerce. We would rather do business from the comforts of out own home and tweet about the cheapest gas price of the day. We have evolved into Digital Consumers. Research shows that recommendations from friends and colleagues hold higher weight in the digital world specially amongst Generation X, Y and Z, more so than high-flying paid advertisement. Very soon Facebook and, increasingly, the Pinterest pinning site will be major forces in driving online sales and digital validation.
In response to this diverse multi-generational needs "nimble" and "flexible" are the coveted words in environment design. For example, new retail store features dressing rooms that can be moved to make way for fashion shows, moveable floor fixtures that tuck away for in-store concerts and DJ booths that pop up behind cashwraps. “The integration of digital commerce across all channels of customer engagement allows for the opportunity of enriched, broader, more diverse and more animated assortments in smaller stores,” says Jack Hruska, executive vice president, creative services for New York based Bloomingdale’s Inc. “It is one of the key trends I see going forward. The challenge is to be a fantastic curator, so as to target the right customer and not overwhelm her with too many decisions, and always stay true to ones’ brand DNA.”
If you are a trade show marketer, it is safe to say that the larger portion of yur target audience will comprise of Baby Boomers, Gen X and some Gen Ys. According to experts here are some marketing tacts to reach effectively to these very distinctive audience.
Marketing to the Baby Boomers
The Boomers value individualization, self-expression, optimism, and “Be Here Now.” They want quick fixes that require little change and instant improvement. Focus on building value. They will be less price sensitive if they believe they are getting a superior product and good value. Boomers prefer open and direct but not controlling body language and communication. Questions should be answered thoroughly. It is good to take the time to explain how doing business with your organization can give them a competitive or positive advantage. Realize that more information is better for Baby Boomers. Use positive, emotionally meaningful concepts, words, and images. Paint a visual story.
Marketing to Generation X
Multiculturalism and global thinking is the norm of this generation. This generation has produced the 1990’s dot.com stars. They are highly educated even though they are pessimistic, skeptical, disillusioned with almost everything, and questions conventionality. They like initiatives that will make things more useful and practical. Give them a lot of stimuli, a challenging environment, and flexibility without long-term commitment. They demand trust to the extent that if your organization does not follow through once, then you are likely to lose them. They have a reputation of being incredibly disloyal to brands and companies. Generation X wants to hear the features of the product and how it will benefit them. This group is the most price conscious. They perceive products as commodities, unless the products and messages are designed uniquely for their tasks and lifestyles. Give them plenty of access to information and educate them into buying. Always ask their feed-back. They like to be kept abreast of the bigger picture. Use short sound bites to keep their attention. Do not use overly slick marketing pitches as they are skeptical of modern advertising. Be frank and use straightforward facts, candor, and honesty. Xers think communally and make decisions together. Make good use of social media, group events and word-of-mouth recommendations from their peers. Interestingly, they respond to direct mail.
Marketing to Generation Y
Gen Y individuals are well grounded and wise for their age. Eight key values have been described for Gen Y: choice, customization, scrutiny, integrity, collaboration, speed, entertainment, and innovation. Be sure that they know that your organization’s mission speaks to a purpose greater than the bottom line, e.g., globalization, global warming, and the advent of the “global citizen.” Feature your organization as an instrument of change. Give them systematic feedback because they value positive reinforcement at accelerated rates compared to previous generations and want more input into all things in which they participate. They value and are looking for brands that resonate with their peers. Their peers often guide product and brand choice. Generation Y is tremendously image driven. Take full advantage of technology and its allure for Gen Y. The key words for Gen Y are collaborate, connect, co-create, and control…mostly, with their peers. Gen Y pays little attention to quality. They expect competitive pricing. However, they are most likely to purchase prestige products.
Given the diverse topography that we are in, marketers of all mediums have to factor in the different characteristics and behaviors of the cross-generations, to build relationships, gain trust, and close business. In fact, creating ageless multi-generational brands is one of the top ten marketing trends over the next 25 years.
However, all these generations have one common touch point. Provide them with a holistic experience of a life time and they are guaranteed to follow the the path of your brand loyalty.
Sources: Himmel, B. (2008), “Different Strokes for Different Generations,”
"Marketing to the Generations" Kaylene C. Williams, California State University, Stanislaus
Robert A. Page, Southern Connecticut State University
Langford, P. (2008), “Gen Y or Boomer, They Think the Same”
Cohen, A.M. (2009), “The Emergence of a Global Generation”
Zaslow, J. (2009), “The Greatest Generation (of Networkers)”
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"An emotion occurs when there are certain biological, certain experiential, and certain cognitive states which all occur simultaneously." John D. Mayer: From EQ Today, Spring 1999
Emotional intelligence plays a dominant role in our daily lives. It goes on an over-drive in an experiential setting such as events and trade shows where we are subjected to massive sensory overdose. In such a setting if you are an exhibitor or a presenter you have to maintain a state of steady self-awareness. You have to perceive your emotions in real-time and use this awareness to stay flexible and act positively to direct your behavior, sometimes under challenging circumstances. This skill to sustain and direct your own feeling will enhance your ability to accurately pick up on emotions in other people and understand what is really going on. You will be able to monitor others' mood and temperaments and enlist this knowledge in predicting their future behavior and decision making, giving you an edge in the negotiating lounge. After all, that is all face-to face marketing is. Isn't it?
Perception, Reason, Understanding and Management are the 4 keys to unlock emotional intelligence as modeled by Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer. It is also interesting to note that there are 4 different personality types. Like 4 seasons, human personality broadly fall under 4 quadrants. Different psychologist have labeled them under different names. The one that resonates with me is the science of D.I.S.C. Published in 1928 by psychologist William Moulton Marston and the original behaviorist like Walter V. Clarke and others, the science of D.I.S.C is used across the horizon to study human behavior in any given environments.
D: DOMINANCE, I: INFLUENCE, S: STEADINESS, C: COMPLIANCE
"This is the element of an individual’s personality that indicates competitiveness, drive and a desire to win. Highly dominant people tend become angry more often than lower dominant types. Dominance is a task oriented trait so once a highly dominant person takes on a task, they become determined to see it through to the end.
These people often appear to be stern and severe. Once they have had an angry outburst, they forget the source of their anger quickly and move on to other things. Highly dominant people will often be seen as intimidating by others."
"This is the element of an individual’s personality that indicates optimism, trust, and a sense of humor. Highly influencing people tend to joke around a lot, talk a lot, and use other people to get what they want out of life. Almost completely people-oriented, they need to be in the company of other human beings as often as possible.
Highly influencing people like .... virtually anything they can show off. They are optimistic to a fault and trust almost everyone a little too much. Highly influencing people will often be seen as the life of the party by others."
"This is the element of an individual’s personality that regulates the pace at which they do things. Highly steady people tend to hold off on decision making until they believe the decision is the right one. They like to do research and get the approval of others before they do almost anything.
They are people-oriented and will usually be very sociable with everyone they meet. Highly steady people will take longer to do their work, but because they are very thorough, the work they do is generally of very high quality.
"This is the element of an individual’s personality that creates a need for rules and regulations in their lives. Highly compliant people tend to approach every challenge or project with caution and concern. Because they are task oriented, they tend not to fall for a sales pitch that is not accompanied by facts and figures.
Of course, we are a blend of the above, just the proportions vary. However, the key to remember is that there are certain experiences that exalts us while others irritates us. One thing is for certain. The unique blend of the head and the heart will give you an edge in the competence of social marketing.
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Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly. Franz Kafka