Tips and Trends

Three Trade Show Marketing Lessons from Super Bowl Ads

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Football Flying Through Goalpost

As you know, Super Bowl isn’t all fun and games—it’s big business. The same goes for exhibit marketing. So why not capitalize on techniques used in Super Bowl ads to elevate your trade show success?

1. Make your audience feel. Budweiser brought tears to viewers’ eyes with its ad spot where its signature Clydesdales fall in love with a puppy. While puppies and kitties may not be appropriate for your product, you can still tug on people’s heartstrings in your booth by telling stories about how your product made a real difference in someone’s life. Did it save a business? Create new jobs or business opportunities? Enrich a user’s life? Tell your story through these people’s eyes and you’re sure to forge an emotional connection with your audience.

2. Create faux controversy. The original cut of Scarlett Johansson’s ad for SodaStream was banned because it ended with the actress saying, “Sorry, Coke and Pepsi.” Scandalous? Not really. Offensive? Not really—probably not even to Coke or Pepsi. But by including this verbiage, which SodaStream probably knew it would have to cut, SodaStream created buzz that drew hundreds of thousands of extra viewings of its ad online. The lesson here is that you can draw people to your exhibit by making a claim or statement that gets people talking. The trick is to make it bold enough to get people’s attention, but tame enough that you don’t offend anyone. And of course, what you say has to be true so you don’t court a lawsuit. For instance, announce that you now outperform the competitors’ offering. Or that your product is preferred by more Fortune 500 companies. Or that your packaging (or lack thereof) is more green than your competition’s.

3. Admit your previous weakness. Companies spend too much time trying to communicate how they’ve improved without quite admitting that anything was wrong in the first place. RadioShack took the opposite approach in its Super Bowl ad by playing up the dated look it’s hoping to leave behind. After a phone call where the ‘80s announce the want their store back, ‘80s icons such as Alf, Chucky, Mary Lou Retton, and Hulk Hogan invade, tear the store apart, and haul everything away in a DeLorean. Then we get to see the new, improved Radio Shack. This same technique can be integrated into your trade show messaging. Rather than avoid your past failures, own up to the weaknesses you’ve rectified with exaggerated proclamations and images. “We canned the guy who messed up your order.”

“Try the new XRT5000. This one really works.” If you do, you’ll gain laughs, buzz—and probably even a little respect. So what was your favorite Super Bowl commercial and how can you apply its success to your trade show program?  

Lisa Goell Sinicki is a member of the 3D Exhibits marketing and measurement team          

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