Tips and Trends

Ask 3D Exhibits: How Do I Decide if an Exhibit Design or Trade Show Marketing Trend is Right for My Company?

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

New materials, emerging technologies and evolving tactics. From social media to gamification to interactive media, there are tons of trendy things you can use to enhance your customers’ experience in your trade show booth. But will these things really improve your ROO and ROI?

Well, that all depends on a few things. Many trade show exhibit design and marketing trends are cool but, depending on your brand and target audience, not everything will work for your brand.

Remember QR codes? A few years ago, some experts predicted they’d be the next big thing on the trade show floor. And while they still have their place in some experiences, overall, we learned that most audiences just didn’t want to make the effort to open the app and participate. (Which is really interesting considering how enthusiastic most audiences are about opening up their smartphone camera and taking photos.)

Considering the size of your investment in your trade show program, both in dollars and time, it’s important to be selective and select—not the newest and flashiest technique—but the one that will best represent your brand, resonate with your audience, and generate results.

For example, millennials like to customize their experiences by picking and choosing which content to engage with. So, if your target audience is largely within this key demographic, an exhibit experience where every visitor does exactly the same thing isn’t going to be as compelling as an approach where attendees pick and choose what content or engagement technique they participate in.


Assess the Trade Show Exhibit Design or Marketing Technique Before Your Commit

How do you assess the likely effectiveness of a tactic or technology BEFORE you commit?

Here are six questions to help you evaluate:

1. Will this show’s audience use it, get it, embrace it? The demographic of your target audience at a particular show should be your main guide. If they’re all IT nerds, by all means, go with high tech. If they’re older, high touch might be better.

Other questions to consider: Do the members of your target audience prefer to figure things out for themselves or be led through one-to-one interaction? Do they like to compete head-to-head with others or explore self-paced? Are they introverted or extroverted? Are they on the social media platform you’ve selected? Male or female? And what languages are they fluent in? If, based on these criteria, the solution under consideration is likely to intimidate, overwhelm, turn off, confuse or make your attendees uncomfortable, it isn’t the right approach for you.

2. Does the activity actually make it faster and easier to learn? No matter how cool or novel something is, if it actually makes it more cumbersome or time consuming to get the information, people aren’t going to consider the engagement a good use of their time. (This article about QR codes spells it out pretty well.)

3. Will your booth staff be able to effectively implement the tactic or technology? In order for your approach to pay off, execution has to be flawless. If your booth staff is likely to have trouble operating it seamlessly—or processing people smoothly—move on and try something else.

4. Do you have the resources to implement and manage the approach well before, at and after the show? Sometimes you just don’t have the resources to pull it off to the level that is worthy of your brand. This would be when you want immersive video but don’t have time to create as much content as would be ideal. Or when your team is already working overtime before you add “create 150 Tweets” to their list. Or when you can’t afford to have your agency do the work but could make do with your intern’s version. When this is the case, you’re better off passing than going to the show with an effort that isn’t up to your brand standards.

5. Will this tactic support or achieve our show objectives? I was at a show recently where one exhibitor had a cool interactive where attendees blew on a faux dandelion seed pod at the rear of the exhibit—then watched the seeds blow away on a large screen animation at the front of the booth. It was incredibly cool—but when I asked an exhibit staffer what the activity meant, he told me that it matched the dandelion seed pod graphic that graced the cover of the company’s latest catalog. So while this activation did make a visual connection, it did little to capture leads, educate attendees, move attendees them toward a purchase—or do anything else that impacts the company’s bottom line.

6. Are you sure the tactic won't overshadow or distract from the story you’re trying to tell? The last example applies here too. While I remember how cool the dandelion seed pod interactive was, I have no idea what the exhibitor’s name was or what their product was. 

We hope the answers to these questions will help you make good decisions in selecting trade show exhibit design and marketing trends that achieve your company’s exhibiting objectives.

What trends of years past have you applied? Did they live up to your expectations? We’d love to hear why or why not.

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