"Twenty years ago, the annual US spend on food and beverages was $614 billion; $2 billion was spent on computers – a ratio of 300 to one. Today, that spending ratio is at parity. We spend as much on technology as we do on our nutritional needs."
- Cheryl Swanson, principal managing partner, Toniq
Let's face it.
Navigating today’s digital marketing landscape can be a daunting task. It is a complex world of mobile, SMS, QR Codes, banners, video, social media, rich media, email ….. you name it. New Media has forged new opportunities to reach consumers anywhere, anytime in stunning ways. One wonders if New Media happens to be the norm of New Marketing, are trade shows still of value in today's economy.
A recent report published by ceir.org confirms that the top-ranked important reasons for attending exhibitions is a blend of coming to see what is new and having a chance to interact with experts. The highest-importance scores are achieved for: see new technology, have the chance to talk to experts and gain industry insights. The research further confirms that exhibitions are doing well in meeting the needs of attendees, with more than a majority of attendees saying their top-ranked important needs are met.
Empowered by such analytics we may now move on to some digital trends that is gaining traction in the world of trade shoes and events. It is a phenomenal way to educate and to entertain the visitors of your booth.
Virtual graffiti wall is a powerful in engaging your audience to realize their inner artist. It allows attendees to literally “paint” on a digital canvas. These interactive art walls encourages laughter and conversation and soon becomes the life your booth. User generated, unique pieces of art can then be leveraged across all your marketing promotions. www.tangibleinteraction.com
Digital signage: It has been pretty popular at trade shows and events. Using your brand visuals across multiple screens creates the high impact and high touch that is needed to entice your audience. Take a signature visual and break it up across multiple moving screens to create unexpected wonder that will enthrall your audience and leave a lasting impression.
Tablet Phenomena: Tablets have changed the way we engage one-to-one and one-to-few. With iPad mini and PaperTab (as thin and flexible as paper), you are no longer confined to the parameters of your floor space. It is a portable branding message on the go. Projection Walls: Has been with us for quite some time. Now, with the flip of a switch you can transform your environment from morning keynote to lunch breaks to an evening reception. Projection make it fun, attractive and memorable.
Interactive Media: High touch, high technology, high design goes into play for this compelling experience. Interactive product and brand messages is programmed to respond to motion-based body gestures. stratacache.com/press.php?ID=369
Your booth is the stage that anchors your space. It is your show. Make it fun. Make it memorable. Make it interactive.
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The common phrase, "united we stand, divided we fall" has long been used by nations and leaders to inspire people in presence of clear and imminent danger. However, when it comes to laying out the floor plan for your trade show booth design in a limited space (e.g 20' x 30' as shown above), distinctly dividing the floor space in to two unique areas, 'Love' and 'Work' might be a good idea to propel your brand into action.
I was reading a great post the other day that spawned the idea for this article. The HBR blog post suggest that the age of snarkiness is behind us and now we are in the era of sweet love. The post successfully points out as to what is wrong with the Sonic commercial and dubs it as ineffective since it hinges on sarcasm not sweetness.
Sweetness is back. Sweetness is big. Sweetness, against all odds, and quite against character, is having a celebrity moment. Brands gain huge currency when leading with sweetness. This trend in exhibiting sweet love is evident in the amount of space that are devoted to lounges and the so called hang out areas. Grant McCracken, writer and anthropologist, in his book Culturematic, talks about brand that makes headway are the brands that fosters co-creation. He says we want brands that are works in progress, engagements in and of the world. Brands need to be about becoming, not about being. The carefully designed hang out areas in your space can be a Culturematic cluster– a bundle of experiences, "investigating the world in a variety of ways, defined with enough intellectual generosity that several outcomes—some of them quite different–are possible". And if you are exhibiting at trade shows with horizontal target audience 'Cuturematic' might just be the way to go. After all, "culturematic is a little experiment that in a playful counter-intuitive way, broaches a kind of what if." It is a great way to keep the engagement going both at the show floor and after the show.
If one half of your exhibit design is an ideal setting for Culturematic cluster devote the other half for customized demonstration. Demos at trade shows are essentially futile unless it is designed to solve specific problems that customers encounter. To help better cater to your clients and prospects, do your research and find out what are the attendees trying to accomplish by coming to a specific event. What are their pain points. Heck, send out tweets asking them about it. Find out what solutions are being adopted in other industries or other countries to solve similar problems. Armed with answers you then design few presentations that talks about solving targeted problems.
Trade shows and are fertile grounds to ignite new brand culture. Wouldn't it be great if you knew the kind of content that is being shared by the attendees of these events. You can then gauge the commonly held beliefs and behaviors of your clients and prospects. Very soon you will find out if there is a contradiction of some sort. Once you detect it, your brand will gain transformational traction on a evolutionary scale. Of course, you will highlight the preference to build recognition. But what is really enticing is tapping into the collective anxiety and achieving a status that transcends functional benefit. One great example that comes to mind is Google. In the age of digital clutter, Google offers empowerment “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
Question to ponder: How do I humanize my next trade show exhibit?
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Ask yourself this question: What has been your best-ever brand experience?
Maybe it was staying at the Belagio Hotel - the multi-colored, multi-shaped large hand-blown glass flower ceiling in their signature lobby, or perhaps owning your first iPad - the thrill of opening the package and the anticipation of accessing world wisdom in the palm of your hands. Or simply a vivid memory of opening a cold Coke on a hot day - the ultimate satisfaction of quenching your primal thirst!
Today brands like Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have permeated our waking hours. They are seamlessly integrated in our digital lives. They have brought forth all the benefits of connectedness and immediacy. By doing so, they have subtly shifted our worldview and our brand priorities. Maggie Jackson, in her book Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age, believes that the never-ending stream of emails, instant messages, text messages, and tweets stifles creativity and leads to less critical thinking and less fulfilled lives. We are hyper-connected, yet we have lost the real true meaning of connectedness. In the rush to be digital, brands have overemphasized these channels at the expense of real human interaction. "The risk is that consumers become desensitized. That’s why there is now the beginning of a move the other way–not a backlash, but a turning toward more real, human, and
Image: Cirque du Soleil
In this ceaseless climate of detachment, fragmentation and distraction multisensory branding is gaining much traction as brands are being challenged in their expansion of consumer memorability. Sensory branding - the idea that humans are more receptive when all five senses are engaged is a field of major study in the field of cognitive neuroscience. "It’s clear that no amount of time on a Mercedes-Benz website will give consumers a true sense of what it feels like to close a car door, smell the brand-new leather interior, or run their hands over the dashboard." These memorable, multisensory experiences are critical in engaging with a brand. When they do, the rewards are phenomenal. NIKETOWN, Apple Stores, the Samsung Experience, Mercedes-Benz World, Disney Stores, and LEGOLAND are all testimonies to the power of multi-sensory brand experiences around an existing product. Granted all brands does not have the prowess of the mega brands as mentioned above. Yet, these brands do set an example as to how to incorporate multisensory marketing examples in your trade show booth design. Imagine the richness of visuals that may define your space, the sound that defines the new product launch, the scent that evokes the memory of reliability or the color that gives your product a new dimension.
In his book, The End of Marketing As We Know It, Sergio Zyrman writes, "Mass Marketing has lost the ability to move the masses………Technology has given people many more options than they had in the past and created a consumer democracy……… Marketers increasingly need to find ways to speak to customers individually, or in smaller and smaller groups." Focused groups, trade shows and events are proven to infuse your brand with life and vigor. Remember, "marketing is a science. It is about experimentation, analysis, refinement and replication. You must be willing to change your mind."
Engage the five senses to create expectations in delivering your brand promise.
Marketing has gone through tectonic shifts, especially in the last decade or so. We have made the shift from print media to online media. We are witnessing the introduction of new tools (almost everyday) that make our communication with potential customers more efficient. We are in the organic valley of social media indulging in a relentless two-way communication loop. As a result, our addiction to real-time communication is simply voracious and our attention to focus is scattered. And, these are only a few of the recent changes that the marketing industry has gone through.
Given this technological dynamics, we as trade show marketers often question the viability of exhibiting at trade shows. The short answer to this concern is: Trade shows have never presented a better opportunity for an exhibitor to get in front of decision makers. Premium level decision makers now walk the show. They are there because they have a need that is not currently being met. I guess, technology has not yet managed to eradicate the desire for the high touch of human interaction.
Now, that we know who are our target audience, let's fashion a booth that will attract their attention and sustain their scrutiny. We have to become skilled in the art of attraction. Here are some few pointers that always work!
Design with a Themed Purpose: In the illustration above, we designed a 50's theme with a flair for high touch modernity. Nostalgic times in stride technologically advanced products! Don't just stop there. Use high appeal promotional giveaway, It is all about perception. How do you want to be remembered? This should be the end game of anything and everything that you do.
Design with a Presence: Your graphics must always be larger than life. Your architecture must be self defining. Always keep in mind of your target audience.
Design with a Flow: Keep in mind about the laws governing spatial arrangement in relation to the flow of energy. Have ample of areas for natural clustering. Have a sculpture or perhaps a multiple screen projection that wows the audience. Again, you are going for the memorability act. In the above illustration, the corner of the booth was highlighted with a car from the 50's.
Design for a Motion: As Tony Robbins says: emotion is always moved by motion. Movement attracts our eyes and turns our bodies. Implant a juggler, blow bubbles or simply play with a yo-yo. Integrate it with your value statement.
Design for the Limbic System: Our sensory receptors reacts to the stimulation from our environment. Make clever use of this proven method for your booth design. Lavish your space with texture, light, sound, smell and color.
Design with color because, "colors answer feeling in man;", design with unique shapes , because shapes answer thought, design with motion, as "motion answers will."
"There’s a collection of Zen koans called the Gateless Gate. Among other things, koans transcend dualism. The traditional sales process is fully dualistic - there’s a buyer, and there’s a seller. We are witnessing the dissolution of the traditional sales role, as recommendation commerce evolves and storefronts become wherever you happen to be, doing whatever you are doing. Which brings us to the Storeless Store and Saleless Sale." Valeria Maltoni.
And my friends, this is the new face of trade show marketing!
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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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Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute, explains, “…Tangerine Tango is an orange with a lot of depth to it…sophisticated but at the same time dramatic and seductive…” She goes on to say, “Tangerine Tango marries the vivaciousness and adrenaline rush of red with the friendliness and warmth of yellow, to form a high-visibility, magnetic hue that emanates heat and energy.”
A perfect choice of color, to contrast the year of the Black Dragon. 2012 happens to be the domain of the Water Dragon and according to the Chinese Five Element Astrology, black is relates to water. Thus, it is safe to infer that the overarching message for this year is the dance of fire and water: a rhythm in contrasts.
As designers, we often play with the principles of rhythm and contrasts.
Rhythm is the movement of our gaze to scan the message for understanding or gain information. Rhythm is usually achieved through repetition of objects, colors, and placement in the composition of design. A serpentine is a perfect example of rhythm in motion in a 3D design architecture. Contrast on the other hand stresses the visual differences in size, shape, angle and color between the elements to elevate the awareness of an intended message. It is the quickest way to shower visual treat and to draw attention to your exhibit design. It leaves a hypnotic trail in the minds of the trade show attendees.
However, the principle of rhythm in contrast is much like a dance of tango. "Movements are sometimes slow and slithery, and other times sharp and stacatto, such as a quick foot flick or a sharp head snap to promenade position" Yet there is an intoxicating rhythm to it. "Warning: tango contains highly addictive ingredients, such as pain, pleasure, passion, excitement, connection, freedom, torment, and bliss. In seven out of ten cases it takes over a person's life."
In the world of exhibit design, the rhythm in contrast plays a dominant role in the integration of the vivacious curves of lounge furniture with the angular purity of the display architecture.
Two opposites coming together to create the "fantasy of a harmonious whole."
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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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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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In his 1993 essay, The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era, professor, science fiction writer and Hugo Award winner, Vernor Vinge mentions: Within 30 years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended. According to him, Homo sapiens will become dull bystanders in history of evolution. This view is in contrast with the famous futurist Ray Kurzweil, who believes that while artificial intelligence will make humans obsolete, it will not make our consciousness irrelevant. The singularity won't destroy us, Kurzweil says. Instead, it will immortalize us.
Perhaps, this is the reason why virtual trade shows and events have not kept up the same pace of acceleration as the digitization of our lifestyle. And according to the recent research, sponsored by Lynch Exhibits Inc., Impact Unlimited Inc., and Altus Corp, virtual events are unlikely to replace live trade shows and events anytime soon. In fact, 68 percent of respondents who have participated in virtual events say they’d rather host a live event, most notably because they “miss the energy of a live event“ and “attendees seemed less engaged during virtual events.”
"Whereas even a few short years ago, many exhibit and event professionals claimed virtual events were the future of our industry, it seems the novelty may have worn off — or perhaps the hurdles outweigh the perceived payoffs." 47 percent of the respondents personally felt that virtual events offer only “little” or “moderate” potential, while 10 percent believe they’re nothing more than a hype. I believe, this is where human consciousness come into play and virtual reality will never be able to simulate actual human interactions. In his 1989 book, The Emperor's New Mind, Oxford physicist Roger Penrose claims that the classical physics ruling neurobiology cannot explain consciousness. The mind, he declared, relies on the baffling mechanics of quantum physics. Most recently, physicist Efstratios Manousakis at Florida State University showed that certain peculiarities of visual perception are most easily explained by quantum mechanics.
If consciousness is indeed a quantum phenomenon, then virtual reality will have to wait for a long while for engineers, scientists and trade show exhibitors to get the hang of it.
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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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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