Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.
Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.

Tradeshow marketing

Creating Tension with your Tradeshow Marketing

What is tension in a business sense, or to be more precise, in a marketing sense?

Briefly, it’s the concept of conflict. It’s the process of creating a situation where a visitor can’t immediately reconcile one concept with another.

Think Coke vs. Pepsi.

Nike vs. Adidas

One brand vs. another is one source of tension.

And understand, tension is not fear. You could say it’s the opposite. Remember in high school when you were attracted to another person and the tension that was created around it. You wanted to be with that person, but since the very thought of expressing your feelings created tension, it made you, well, tense! But in a good way, because you really did want to get to know that person and spend time.

Another would be telling a story, but not giving away the end. Maybe harder to do in the chaos and quick turnover of a tradeshow, but I’ve seen it done. At the National Association of Broadcaster Show this year in Las Vegas, Adobe (and many others) had huge classes going on teaching their new software. That is a great story to tell: those that use the software want to know how things have changed and how they can use it, so they sign up for a free class to learn the story of the software and its changes. I’ve seen larger exhibits steer visitors through a maze where you don’t know what you’re getting into until you’ve seen the maze all the way through.

How do you tell the story of your product or service? By asking questions:

  • What is it?
  • How does it work?
  • When can I get it?
  • What does it taste like?
  • When will it be available?
  • Where can I get it?
  • What does it cost?

The price of something is a story in and of itself. Are you positioning your product against another similar product by offering it at a lower price? What tension does that create? What if you price it much higher than your competition? How does that affect the tension people feel?

Is your product something more or less “off the shelf?” In other words, do you simply manufacture it and put it on a shelf? In that case, price is a point of tension. Deciding to like the product or not is pretty straightforward and deciding to spend the money may come down to the perceived value.

But what if what you offer is customized? That means the customer has a number of choices to make, such as in the case of creating a new tradeshow exhibit. And having to make a lot of decisions can freak out some people, either in a good way or a bad way. Ideas can come pouring forth from some people. From other people, having to come up with a lot of ideas may mean they freeze up.

Many people are looking for something quick and easy. They want a “push-button” solution to their problems. That’s why “turnkey” solutions are often presented for more complex situations. Which is why customized products create tension and demand a lengthier decision process.

By creating tension in a good way, you’re making your product or service attractive to people. What tension can you create with your tradeshow marketing and story-telling?


7 Questions You’ll Never Ask Your Exhibit House

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Keep the Tradeshow Alive with a Post-Show Webinar

The tradeshow’s over. It was a success! You made a lot of contacts that you’re ready to follow up with, and hopefully that will lead to new clients down the road.

Then you realize that out of the thousands of show attendees, only a small percentage of them actually stopped by your booth, or if they did, they didn’t spend as much time as they might have liked because, well, the other few thousand exhibitors.

Bring them a post-show webinar to show them what they missed.

I’ve detailed the idea of using a pre-show webinar to outline the various products and people that would be in your booth as a means of engaging and inviting people to stop by.

But what about post-show? Hopefully, you have a lot of photos and video from the show. And of course, lots of information about how your new products were received by your booth visitors. While the photos and video aren’t critical, they might come in handy. And as far as information, one place to start might be to address some of the questions that came up about your products at the show.

Assemble all of those into a webinar and promote that to your email list, and throughout your social media channels.

This just happened to me. The NAB Show ended almost two months ago, and today I got an email from one of the exhibitors that invited me to one of two webinar sessions this week. The objective of the webinar? To give attendees a chance to go over the details of the new software products they launched at the show. Brilliant. And why not?

Hosting a post-show webinar is an effective way to do three things:

  1. Remind attendees about your appearance at the show. It puts your company back to a ‘top-of-mind’ position if only for a moment.
  2. Reminds attendees that you launched new products.
  3. Gives them an opportunity to take a more relaxed look at the product, and if the webinar is designed properly, gives them a chance to ask questions.

Again, to my mind it’s a brilliant concept.

You should give it a try!

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6 Ways to Increase Your Tradeshow ROI

Calculating your tradeshow ROI is pretty straightforward. Know how much you spent to do the show. Know how much you made off the show. Do the math.

There are any number of ways to increase the ROI, but it mainly comes down to controlling the main two numbers as much as you can: how much you spend and how much you make.

Whole books have been written about how to put on a great tradeshow exhibit, train your booth staff, use social media to beckon attendees and more. But for the purposes of this article let’s focus on keeping your costs down.

Let’s start with booking your space. By booking early, show organizers will give you a discount. So book early. Book the booth space. Book the electricity, rental carpet, internet, cleaning, whatever. Several months before the event, check the show website and put critical dates in to your calendar. By knowing when the various services are to be booked to get the early discount, you can save a substantial amount of dough.

Bring your own. Exhibiting pros know that when you’re onsite, some of the most expensive things are the cheap things that you should have in your tradeshow survival kit. Extension cords, scissors, felt pens, business cards, phone chargers, extra cables, and so on.

Plan to ship to the advance warehouse. While this is generally a money-saving exercise, it’s not always the case so you may have to do the math. But by shipping to the advance warehouse you’ll often get discounted rates.

Ship only what you need. Here’s where you may have to work with your exhibit house. Many exhibits these days are designed and built to be reconfigured into more than one size. But to make it effective, make sure you ship only what’s going to be set up at the specific show. Your warehouse can help coordinate the proper items. Nothing is more frustrating than setting up at a show knowing that there’s an extra crate that got shipped and you won’t be using what’s inside. Another note on shipping: be scrupulous about how to use the space in your crates. Many times a client will ask us to build some extra compartments into custom-jigged crates so they can ship extra products or samples.

Get rid of items in storage you no longer use. Yes, it may be great to think that you’ll reuse that exhibit from 2011 someday. But probably not. No reason to pay for storage for something that you’ll never use again.

Print only the graphics you need. Tradeshow graphics have a short life. If they last more than one show, it’s because they’re generic or the marketing team is lazy. Or maybe there’s nothing new to promote. In any event, you can save money on graphics a number of ways. Plan on having some of your exhibit graphics designed to be reused for at least a few shows. To save more money, have banner stands or other graphics produced at the show’s city to save shipping costs.


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How to Get Ideas for Your Next Tradeshow Promotion (or Exhibit)

Are you faced with authors call “writer’s block” when it comes to coming up with ideas for your next tradeshow promotion? Or need to come up with a unique exhibit design or presentation that perfectly fits your company brand?

I wish I had an answer. You know, like the Staples “EASY” button. But it ain’t that easy. Not if you want an idea that can be fully executed and give you remarkable results.

So where do ideas come from? Ideas that actually work?

There are several places to look for and generate ideas, so let’s go over a few.

What have other people done?

At your next tradeshow, whether you are an exhibitor or an attendee, take some time to walk the floor and see what others have done. There are going to be so many ideas that you won’t be able to capture them all. And to take it one step further, if you see an idea you like, imagine how it would work if you folded that presentation idea into your brand and products. And you know that anything you see at a tradeshow had to go through a lot to make it to the floor. It had to be created as a concept, then discussed at length to see what would work and what wouldn’t. Then a 3D designer had to determine how to put that concept into the real world. Then, once all parties had signed off on the idea and concept, it had to go to fabrication, where the builders had to figure out how to build it. Not always easy, especially if there are some unusual or outlandish ideas that need to be brought to life.

What other exhibit ideas are good enough to borrow or get inspired by?

But remember, just because it was brought to life and used at a tradeshow doesn’t mean it actually worked, that it actually achieved what the creators thought it would achieve. Which means it’s also worth asking “how well did that work?” Probably the only way to find out for sure is to ask the exhibiting company after the show how it all went for them. But by doing that you might be tipping your hand that you’d like to use their idea for inspiration!

What gets written about?

To see what is creative and actually works, pick up a copy of Exhibitor Magazine. To my way of thinking, all tradeshow marketing managers should get a subscription to this bible of the exhibit industry. Nearly every issue there is an in-depth look at tradeshow exhibits. Not only that, there is a breakdown of how the idea worked, how it fit with the company’s overall goals, what the results were, and often the cost. Even if the idea doesn’t exactly fit with your product or brand, use it to kickstart your own creative thinking.

Beyond Exhibitor Magazine, search online for creative tradeshow exhibit ideas. There are a lot of them floating around, and any one of them might be the inspiration you’re looking for.

Talk to others in the industry.

Networking can do a lot of things. One thing it does well is spread good ideas. By talking to other exhibitors, designers, managers and executives in the industry is that no doubt they’ve all seen some memorable tradeshow exhibits along the way. Ask them what they recall, what they liked, and how it worked. Make notes. And if you get a great idea that leads to something, be sure to thank ‘em!

Brainstorm.

Creative thinking can often be generated in-house with a handful of people. You may have even been in a brainstorming session or three in your career. If done properly, they can be brief and productive.

Combining ideas from other sources.

Pick up a book on creative thinking and see where it takes you. One of my favorites is Thinkertoys by Michael Michalko. Worth the price no matter what you pay.

Any other books or ideas you like that help you creatively? Make a note and share!

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In Tradeshow Sales, Focus on the Moment

Tradeshow sales is a much different beast than any other kind of sales.

Picture this: you’re standing in your tradeshow booth with dozens of competitors lining the aisle, selling to the same market. They’re all trying to convince visitors that they’re the best solution. The goal is to talk to as many people as possible, because if you do that, you can gather more leads. And the more leads, the better off your sales team is. That’s the common knowledge, and generally it’s correct.

But step back a moment. Let’s examine that interchange a little more closely.

“Less haste, more speed.”

Instead of doing your best to gather contact information, such as scanning a badge, or writing down names and numbers and email addresses, take the time to qualify. I’ve been to tradeshows recently where it seemed like the only thing that was important to the booth staffer was to gather as many scans as they could. Maybe it was a contest. But it was one in which they ultimately lost, because they no doubt ended up scanning dozens or hundreds of people that have no interest in buying, are not qualified, are not the decision maker or don’t have the money.

Even though you’re trying to get as many leads in a limited time, let’s remember a few things.

Are you qualifying visitors properly?

One, most of the people at the show are qualified to a certain degree. They may not specifically be in the market to purchase your product, but they are in the market, otherwise they would not be there. If they’re not a potential buyer, there’s a good chance they know someone who is.

Two, a majority of them are decision-makers or can influence a buying decision.

Three, given the volume of people walking from booth to booth, you will not talk to everyone. It’s not possible.

Four, knowing that you can’t talk to everyone, take enough time with the ones you do talk to to qualify or disqualify as soon as reasonable.

Now that you have the right perspective, understand what you are really trying to do: qualify the leads, and gather as much information as necessary for a productive follow-up on an agreed-upon date.

What you want to know

Here are the items you’ll want to uncover:

Are they interested in your product or service?

If so, when? If not, do they know anyone that is?

At this point, you will make an A/B decision: if they’re interested, uncover more information. If not, and if they don’t have any one they can refer you to, politely thank them and move on to someone else.

If they are interested, ask further questions, as if you’re peeling back the layers of an onion:

When do you plan to make a decision? Next week, next month, next year? This tells you the urgency of the situation.

How is that decision made? Is it one person, or is it a collaborative decision?

Does the company have the funds committed to the purchase?

The follow-up questions

Once you have qualified them by getting the right answers to these questions, quickly move on to the follow up questions:

When would you like us to follow up with you? Find a date, and if appropriate, get the time and date scheduled in both yours and their calendars.

How do you want us to follow up? Phone, email, in-person visit (if feasible), sending something in the mail?

That’s the simple, straightforward way to qualify and get enough information for your sales team to follow up.

Yes, there is a good chance that your visitor will have a lot of questions about your product or service, especially if it’s a complex product, such as software or some technical hardware. In that event, answer their questions on the show floor – take as much time as you need to determine if they’re a real prospect or not – and then move on to the confirmation and follow up phase.

Once you’ve confirmed the follow up, thank them and move on to the next.


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Is Your Tradeshow Marketing Funnel Leaky?

The marketing funnel. It’s something I learned about years ago, but it’s interesting to reexamine now and then. Recently I attended the NAB Show in Las Vegas as a blogger and was asked by a few dozen companies if they could scan my badge. Once they scanned, I was put in the top of their tradeshow marketing funnel, even though they did exactly zero qualifying. See where this is leading?

When it comes to tradeshow marketing, the funnel does indeed get interesting. As in any type of marketing, there are things you can control and things you cannot. Scanning the badge of every person that comes through your booth does indeed capture name and contact information and will likely mean they’ll soon be getting emails from your company.

Let’s look at the tradeshow marketing funnel starting at the very top.

The first step – the top of the funnel where its widest – is the number of people attending a particular tradeshow that you’re setting up an exhibit. For the sake of argument and easy math, let’s say it’s 100,000 people.

Do the Math

If you are one of 2000 exhibitors, that means you’re vying for the attention of those 100,000 people along with 1,999 other exhibitors.

If the show is three days, 10 am – 5 pm, that means the show floor is open for 21 hours. If each attendee walks the floor an average of four hours a day and manages to visit one booth every five minutes, that means they are visiting (again this is hypothetical and on average) 12 an hour, or 48 a day, or 144 over the course of the show. If every attendee visited each exhibitor at the same rate, you’d get about 13.9% of the 100,000 attendees to stop by your booth, or 13,900 people. That’s 660 per hour, or about 11 per minute. If a visitor stops by a booth every 2 ½ minutes, these numbers double. But since people are unpredictable, let’s stay with the five-minute visit on average.

Now – if those numbers are even close to real, what are you doing to get their attention?

Are you giving out samples to visitors, doing product demos, having one-on-one conversations? Or are you just randomly scanning badges of every visitor even though they haven’t expressed any interest in your products other than standing within scanning distance of the booth.

Every one of those interactions will mean that each person will go into the top of the funnel, although admittedly they can’t be treated equally because some will be more interested than others, some will be more prepared to buy than others, and some are just kicking tires.

But they’re all in the marketing funnel. At this point we can treat them equally.

For argument’s sake, let’s say that for every ten that visit your booth, one expresses interest, enough interest to let them capture their contact information.

That means some 66 people per hour have made at least an initial commitment to let you invite them to the next step of the funnel. They may have opted into an email list, agreed to have their badge scanned, or had a conversation with someone in the booth. Again, assuming the show is open for 21 hours, you have approximately 1386 at the second level of your funnel.

Move People Through the Funnel

What do you do to move them along?

Here’s where the marketing funnel gets more interesting. Do you simply email them? Or do you call them one-on-one to assess their real need (or lack) to find out if they are a “hot” lead, “warm” lead or just a “cool” lead that will be put on the back burner and perhaps inserted into a drip campaign? Do you send them a sample? A PDF report of some sort?

An ideal tradeshow marketing campaign will have a number of options available at the show, and each interaction should assess the visitor’s desires and situation.

And let’s add one more step to the math.

Let’s say the average profit of your product is $10,000.

By adding up all the costs of your tradeshow appearance, you’re spending $100,000 for this particulate show. That means you need to sell 10 customers to break even. If your average profit is $1,000, you’ll need 100 customers.

Anything more than those numbers, and the Return on Investment on your tradeshow marketing plan is out of the red and into the black.

But let’s take it one more step.

Improving Funnel Results

Let’s say that for every customer that purchases your premium product continues to purchase other products from you for an average of 7 years. The lifetime value of that customer acquisition just increased substantially, which means the money you spent at the tradeshow to come into contact with her means a lot more.

And if they’re a really happy customer, they may end up referring a handful of new clients to you. Which makes that initial cost look better and better with each passing year.

The more tradeshows you exhibit at, the more people you put your products and services in front of. If you’re doing things right, or at least learning from any mistakes you’ve made over the years and made adjustments, your tradeshow marketing funnel will become less leaky. You’ll retain more of the people that enter at the top.

We all have leaky marketing funnels. But by being aware of what works, what doesn’t and doing your best to maximize your returns, your results will keep improving. But it means paying close attention at every step. Keep asking your prospects what they need to learn, do they want to hear more, do they want a free sample or another product demo, or how they may want to interact with you and your company.


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Asking the Right Questions

On the tradeshow floor, everything is important, but one of the most important is asking the right questions of your visitors.

I’ve been at three tradeshows in the past 5 weeks: two large expos (Expo West and NAB Show) and a smaller regional foodservice show.

In every show, I’m curious to see what questions are thrown out by booth staffers.

Frankly, I’m not impressed.

Yes, some good queries are pitched. But most initial questions or statements aren’t of much use to the exhibiting company.

“How are you today?”

“Would you like a free pen?”

“Still raining outside?”

(Looking at my badge) “What’s a TradeshowGuy?” (at least it got my attention)

“Have you been to this show before?”

None of those have much zing. Or pertinence to the situation.

How do you come up with good questions?

Let’s harken back to previous posts on this blog. To pose a good question, first understand what it is you’re trying to find out.

You’re there to sell a product or service, or to connect with distributors who will sell your products or services. Which means you want to know if the visitor even uses the product. Thanks to an interview we did with Richard Erschik, we know that the first question is often:

Do you currently use our product or a similar product?

After that, you’re trying to determine if the visitor is interested in purchasing that product in the near future:

Are you considering making a purchase soon? When?

Next, you’d like to know if the person you’re speaking to has decision-making power:

Who makes the decision? You? Or is there someone else that is involved?

Asking the right questions at the tradeshow.

And of course, you want to know if they have the capability to spend the money you charge for your service:

Do you have the money you’d need to invest in this product or service?

Many shows really aren’t trying to make sales on the spot. For example, the bigger expos are more about branding, launching new products and making connections with current clients, partners or distributors. In this case, what’s important is to get visitors to either sample your products (such as food), know about the new products, or in the case of other products such as electronic gear, cameras, software and more like we saw at NAB Show, to make sure that visitors were able to learn as much as they needed.

The company is paying good money – usually a lot of money – to exhibit at the show, which means that every visitor is critical. Ask good questions. Stay off the phone. Don’t eat in the booth. And don’t ask about the weather!

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Big Video Tech on Display at NAB Show 2019

Big video is, well, BIG. It seems like ‘the bigger, the better.’ Admittedly, the quality of big video walls has improved noticeably the past few years. I can’t speak to the price – if the increased competition and quality has driven costs down, like it has for other products such as LED lighting. But it’s impressive. Let’s take a look:


Free tradeshow exhibit quotes
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NAB Show 2019: A View from the Tradeshow Floor

Having never attended the National Association of Broadcasters Show in Las Vegas, I did not have a full grasp of the scope and size of the show. And once I was walking the floor earlier this week, it still took a few hours to fully comprehend how freaking big it is. There are nearly 2 million square feet of exhibiting space in 13 halls separable by movable walls.

Over 90,000 attendees showed up along with over 1600 exhibitors to see the latest in video and audio tech in all its glory: broadcast and cable TV, sports, podcasting, radio, lighting, cloud services and much more. It was all there. And it was overwhelming.

The biggest takeaways? As an old radio guy who started his career by playing single 45s on a turntable, I can safely say: we’ve come a long way (mentioning those 45s to the 20 and 30-something folks staffing the booths also was a good way to bring forth those puzzled looks along with a hesitant chuckle – yeah, I know I’m old).

Video is huge, as are the gigantic video walls, which seemed to adorn nearly one out of three booths. Quality is impressive. Cameras are going up in quality as the price creeps down. Seeing and playing with 8K cameras showed attendees what the working video world will be working with soon if they aren’t already.

Audio production, and in particular, the production of audio in conjunction with video, is a really big deal. Avid’s booth featured a large screen displaying how they mixed the music that was a part of the Oscar-winning Bohemian Rhapsody. Also there were the Oscar winners, who sat on a panel discussing the process.

Visitors also could partake in training on a large scale: Adobe, Avid, DaVinci Resolve and many others were doing full-on all-show-hours in-depth training on their latest products.

From an exhibit standpoint, I also saw something I’d never seen before: many video camera and monitor manufacturers built set and had them populated with stand-in actors. The idea was to give visitors a chance to put their hands on the various cameras and zoom and pan and see how everything worked under conditions that replicated what they’d find on an actual set.

I also saw at least three stationary cars equipped with cameras to film actors as they drove. One exhibitor went even further: behind the car there was a large video image of a road as if the car was moving. On the right and left were more screens with similar images. And for the coup de grace, a large video panel suspended over the entire car which simulated the movement of the sky, reflections of streetlights and more. An actor need only sit in the car and everything else is captured in one take, with little post-shoot work needed.

How to film a scene in a car to make it appear it’s really moving.

Lots of international exhibitors, including Europe and China, Korea and Canada among the more prominent. It seems pretty common that exhibits from China and Korea will set up exhibits with walls that enclose much of the space. I don’t see that as much from US exhibitors, so my hunch is it’s a bit of a cultural thing. I also don’t think humor passes easily from culture to culture. One exhibitor from China had a McLaren automobile on display (wasn’t really sure of the purpose, but it certainly looked sharp). As I was talking to one of the reps, I joked that maybe they should raffle off the car at the end of the show. All I got in return was confused look. Hey, I thought it was funny!

Exhibits were impressive from the big companies, and many of the smaller companies also had a good look. Although as in any show, you always see the smaller companies in the 10x10s around the edges of the main floor struggling to be seen or to even have something worth seeing. The most impressive things seen in the smaller booths were the company’s product lit up with LED, or something moving that catches the eye.

Esports had its own section, showing off gamers and gaming. We know that gaming has become a multi-billion dollar industry and if you search for esports competition, you’ll find a lot. There were panels and competitions taking place in the section, but frankly, since I’m not a gamer, it didn’t hold my interest that long. However, my 18-year old son probably could have spent all of the show in this area and it wouldn’t have been enough!

They’ve got their eyes on you!

The tech that supports radio, tv, cable and Internet was also displayed throughout the halls. Not being a tech guy, much of this was over my head, but impressive nonetheless: network, audio, video controllers; studio design and audio and video production boards, facility infrastructure, transmitters, processors, automation software, captioning AI, streaming, scheduling, logging, transcription…you name it, somebody was here promoting it.

I talked to well over a hundred people about the show, how it worked for them, how it helped create leads, sell their products. Most told me it was a great show for them. Several said this show in particular was the one show that gave them most of their good leads for the year for them to follow up on.

But not everyone agreed. One woman I spoke with said she’d been coming to the show for thirty years, and it’s not the show it used to be. One comment she made totally threw me. She said the “little Sony” booth wasn’t impressive at all. My jaw dropped because I’d been at the Sony booth (probably around 10,000 square feet) earlier in the show and determined it to be one of the top exhibits there, going so far as to walk through the booth for a minute or two shooting video to capture it all. But no, she said, “Sony used to take up a third of the hall!” She said that the networks (CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS) don’t send the people they used to, and the few they do send spend all their time behind closed doors in meetings, and don’t get out and mingle on the show floor like they used to. So her market wasn’t there to the extent they used to be. I found her perspective fascinating: no matter how much evidence you see to support one view, there’s always another view that’s just as valid.

I caught a couple of events on the main stage: opening day, NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith (and former Oregon senator) gave a keynote and ended by awarding MASH actor Alan Alda the NAB Distinguished Service Award. Alan sat for about 15 minutes after the award to chat about his career. I also caught the next morning’s panel, Tales from the White House Beat, featuring Smith chatting with ABC’s Cecilia Vega, NBC’s Hallie Jackson, CBS’s Steven Portnoy and PBS’s Yamiche Alcindor as they shared stories and insight into covering the Trump administration.

Cecilia Vega, Steven Portnoy, Hallie Jackson and Yamiche Alcindor with Gordon Smith

I was invited as a blogger which made me a member of the media, so I felt a bit of kinship with these professional journalists. I’ve been in radio news teams, hosted talk shows and been behind the microphone for decades, and it was great to hear the stories they told.

Lastly, a shout out to these folks: Josh at Time Lapse Cameras, Kent at Sharp Electronics and Suzy at FeiyuTech for their time and information. They reached out and invited me to check out their latest. Time Lapse Cameras has, as you might imagine, some great little affordable time lapse cameras which can be used to record any number of things from construction to exhibit setup and dismantle. Sharp showed off their new 8K cameras which are out later this year, and FeiyuTech demonstrated a new action camera, the Ricco, along with a handful of three-axis gimbals and other assorted goods for the video camera market. All good stuff and thanks for having me!

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What Does Your Exhibit Remind Visitors of?

Is that a weird question: what does your exhibit remind visitors of?

But think about it. We all have triggers. There are things that we see in the present that reminds us of the past. Maybe it’s a song that takes you back to your childhood. Maybe it’s a smell that reminds of your first love. Could be anything.

Images, colors, stories: they all are shorthand and they can remind us of something. Things that make us happy, sad, safe, tense.

Back to your company’s tradeshow exhibit: what does it remind visitors of?

One good example comes from a client of ours, Bob’s Red Mill. Its iconic red mill structure is a stylized representation of what a lot of people see as harkening back to a different era. Mills represent the hand-crafted way of milling grains – the loving labor that goes into producing a high-quality product. We don’t actually see the millstone or how the grains are ground under the weight of the stone, but the mill reminds us of that.

On the tradeshow floor, stories are told in shorthand by using various materials, colors, shapes, fonts and more.

Green tells you: earth-friendly, plant-based, life, renewal, energy, harmony with nature.

Red is the color of fire, blood, energy, way, strength, power, passion, determination.

Orange combines the energy of red and yellow and communicates energy and happiness, enthusiasm, fascination, creativity, determination.

When it comes to shapes, meaning can be communicated in a lot of ways. Geometric shapes such as squares, rectangles, triangles, crosses.

Organic shapes are more free-flowing: circles, leaves, rocks, clouds, ink blots.

Fonts tell a story, probably one of the most important. Every font has a unique personality and purpose. Bold block fonts tell one story, while flowing script fonts tell another. Thin fonts tell a story that’s different than fat ones. There’s a psychology behind using various fonts that are more than I want to delve into here, but the topic is worth taking a deeper look.

Some brands have clearly designated, iconic images (the red mill of Bob’s, the iconic “T” of Tesla, the siren of Starbucks, the apple of both Apple Computers and Apple Records to name a few). These can easily be put on a tradeshow exhibit design.

Other brands are less-known or not as well-defined, and in those cases it often means working with a 3D exhibit designer with the skill to use the shapes, colors and fonts needed to clearly communicate the brand’s story in a glance with an exhibit.

If you don’t have an iconic, easily recognizable brand (yet), we go back to the question: what does your tradeshow exhibit remind visitors of?

Do the colors evoke good memories and associations? Do the shapes clearly communicate a message that brings up a positive connection?

It’s all worth considering as you market your business by using tradeshows. After all, a tradeshow is the perfect place to present a clearly-defined image to your visitors.


Pocket

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Tradeshow Guy Blog by Tim Patterson

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