Tips and Trends

How a Strong Brand Knowledge and Sound Budget Strategy Drive IBM Watson Health’s Trade Show Marketing Success

Wednesday, February 19, 2020


The first thing attendees noticed as they entered the show hall at The Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) was the kinetic lighting over one of the exhibits. Choreographed movement and shifting shades of blue and purple immediately drew attendees’ eyes and attention.

Even if the company’s logo hadn’t been broadcast on two large hanging signs, it was clear that this exhibit belonged to IBM Watson Health. Why? Because this is how IBM Watson Health shows up at RSNA every year: in a big way with a “new,” yet consistently on-brand exhibit.

We sat down with Mike Mudry, 3D Exhibits’ creative director and the designer who works with IBM Watson Health, to chat about the two key factors that go into creating these dynamic, award-winning exhibits year after year: 1) know your brand, and 2) have a strategy for long-term spend.

1) Possess a strong knowledge of your brand identity. “Every great story, design or otherwise, starts with a great foundation. For IBM Watson Health, that foundation started with the question ‘what should it feel like to experience IBM Watson Health’?” said Mudry.

The team at IBM answered with the following:

  • Inspirational and inspiring
  • The leader in cognitive computing
  • A brand that sets the pace and breaks new ground, but always delivers on promises
  • Warm and conversational
  • Inclusive and generous in its collaboration
  • Dynamic, enthusiastic, and justifiably positive about the possibility of creating a better world

This list then turned into a checklist that Mudry uses whenever he designs an exhibit for IBM. The appearance of the exhibit changes from year to year, but it always exudes these attributes. So much so that if the IBM Watson Health logo were removed from the space, attendees would still recognize the booth as belonging to IBM Watson Health.

2) Develop a strategy to maximize trade show spend year after year. IBM Watson Health knew it wanted to give its exhibit a fresh look every year. To make this budgetarily viable, the team strategically repurposes and enhances its existing properties. This practice of reusing some of the more “functional” properties each year, such as counters, demo stations, and wall panels, enables IBM to add the new custom elements that give the exhibit its brand-new look—without going over-budget.

Imagine that: Creating a fresh look for your exhibit every single year WITHOUT seeing more and more dollar signs!

IBM Watson Health Through the Years


In 2017, IBM brought cognitive computing to life with LED spires, whose gently transforming graphic patterns inferred cognitive pathways. The environment immersed attendees while conveying the learning capabilities of cognitive computing.


“Moving into 2018, IBM shifted the focus of the space away from the architecture and towards the presentation of data,” said Mudry. By keeping the overall structure simple, IBM strategically focused visitors’ attention on the technology in the exhibit. This included an 8’ square LED cube overhead, gobo lighting projected onto overhead canopies, two 16’ wide LED theater presentations, and eye-catching Word Walls.


At RSNA 2019, IBM Watson Health grabbed visitors’ attention with an array of choreographed overhead LED tube lights, which was inspired by the “ray” shapes in the company’s logo. The exhibit’s L-shaped hanging signs functioned as brackets that contained the “data” (aka the LED tubes).

Three vastly different looks with relatively consistent budgets—and all conveying the key brand attributes.

Is your trade show program set up for year after year success? We’d love to help you get there. Email Stephanie Coupland (scoupland (at) 3DExhibits (dot) com) to set up a call to discuss your strategy.

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