What can you do differently to make your mark in trade shows?
Try innovative branding. It’s all about taking interesting ideas and transforming them into trend-setting events. Since branding is a constant experience, it should start from banner designs and encompass everything that you do to communicate with your audience.
But with so many competing brands at a single trade show vying for customers’ attention, you need extraordinary ideas. Let us look at some.
1. Sustainable Design
In 2019, sustainability should be more of a prerequisite than just an innovative idea. While sustainable design and branding solutions are naturally aligned with organic products and services, there’s no reason your retail, medicine, technology, and industrial brands cannot also benefit from it.
Take L’Oreal, for example. To launch their eco-friendly beauty products range, they opted for an organic booth area and design that is open, spacious, and sustainable.
Image Source: Travel Wire News
Next, we have a retail clothing company opting for a sustainable booth architecture. As you can see, organic design not only looks good, it adds depth to the brand and gives it texture
Image Source: Mackenzie Exhibit
2. Customer-Oriented Design and Atmosphere
As you prepare for your trade show exhibit, bear in mind that the design and the overall feel of it should be customer-centric instead of product centric. How and where you place and feature your products should be based on the needs and wants of your target audience.
As per the statistics, people who will be coming to your booth are already interested in buying, so instead of aggressively selling them the product, give them an environment where they feel comfortable and encouraged to make that purchase decision.
Much like how New Port Beach did.
Image Source: New Port Beach
It simplified its booth and turned it into a meeting room. With a beach backdrop, comfortable couch, and a bar area with a Martini flag hoisted above, beaconing the visitors, companies lined up to start negotiating
with the beach authority and it saw an instant boom in the business.
Or this trade show booth design with a literal bar built in. Such designs are especially efficient for the food and beverage industry.
Image Source: Pro Exhibits
3. Immersive Experience
Another great innovative branding idea is to provide your visitors an immersive and interactive experience that’ll increase awareness for your brand. It is not enough that they can recall your brand colors, it is the recall of positive memories that will convert a visitor into a customer.
You can create such memories by letting them experience your products and their features. Selfie-zones, 3D interactive videos, message walls, product try-outs and other ways in which they can engage with what your brand has to offer will help create immersive experiences.
Image Source: Your Marketing BFF
This wedding company provided its trade show visitors an outdoor experience with its grass floor, burlap backdrop, and lots of flowers. A wedding-styled photo-op area, white décor, and beribboned props made the space truly immersive.
In the tech world, Elevation 3D, a design and marketing firm, won the Best Small Booth prize in February 2019 with its interactive and immersive 3D wall art installation. The visitors could pick up the tablets, put on the headphones, and engage with the company’s 3D video about its live marketing skills.
4. Brand Activation
Brand activation refers to the launch of a new brand or introduce a rebrand through some kind of engaging experience. In marketing terms, such launches ‘activate’ a brand. Trade shows are great opportunities to launch new products or rebrands. With so many people available, your target market comes to you instead of you going to them.
You can curate a number of brand activation activities such as letting people create their own scents, or let them see a meal being cooked in a new cookware line you’re launching, or play a game, or print their photos taken on the new Polaroid device that offers instant printing.
Image Source: Absolute Exhibits
Another interesting example of a brand activation at trade shows is by HBO centered on its show Westworld.
Image Source: HBO
HBO started the second season of the show with a brand activation at last year’s SXSW event. Attendees were invited to wear top hats and were handed out special drinks to immerse them in the experience of the Westworld.
As the trend predictors keep on reporting, the next age is all about experience that encompasses all senses. People are less into buying stuff more interested in activities and experiences that they can remember. You can also join this movement by offering people multisensory experiences. Letting people write message on a wall, or add their hand print to a mural. If you are a food brand, entice them with aromas. Let them touch, feel, listen to, and smell the scent of what they are consuming.
Bloomsday Run, the road race organization in Spokane, Washington has used these creative and fun interactive wall displays to engage the trade show visitors.
Image Source: Bloomsday Run
In 2018, Land o Lakes, the food co-op showcased how it produces food and the multiple ways it uses technology in farming and production by launching The Food Effect at a SXSW.
Image Source: AdWeek
Land O’Lakes encouraged visitors to stick their heads inside a giant head of lettuce to see on virtual reality how their food is farmed and produced.
6. Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality has been a staple for the tech trade shows for a while now. Since not every product being showcased in a tradeshow can be experienced physically (cars, jets, robotics, huge manufacturing machines, and such) without investing huge amounts of money, most companies switch to VR or AR to make the experience as real as possible.
Image Source: Groove Jones
For 2016’s SXSW, McDonald’s offered its visitors a fun VR experience where they could paint a giant Happy Meal box with globs of bright paints in virtual reality.
Further emphasizing that it’s not only tech companies that benefit from a VR feature at trade shows, the Mountain Home Area Chamber of Commerce allowed it’s attendees to watch a short VR film about the activities they could indulge in around the Twin Lakes Area. The immersive and experiential display earned an award and a lot of positive reviews from the visitors.
Image Source: Baxter Bulletin
7. Creative Lighting
Lighting is a branding tool that not many companies seem to capitalize on. In trade shows, most notably, you see that same white LED light everywhere, which does its job remarkably, but signifies a lost branding opportunity.
You can enhance your brand visibility by installing interactive LEDs or even using softer lights if it suits your unique brand voice. With lighting, you can set the mood, represent your brand, instill a soothing and calming effect in the noisy place (or stimulate them if that’s what you’re after), and remain on-brand while doing all that.
You can see how Philips fully embraced this innovative branding opportunity and made its booth a piece of visual art.
Image Source: Exhibitor Online
While we can all admit Philips has done an incredible job using lighting as a bold branding feature, it comes second to the award-winning booth design that the lighting company, Lightheaded, used in a lighting trade show.
Image Source: Mackenzie Exhibit
As you can see, the use of lighting is sparse and strategic. The company has shown the variety of its product line without any information dump. The minimal design of the booth effectively highlights the brand.
8. Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence is as innovative as it can get. It is a definite crowd draw at trade shows. More people like to interact with AI chatbots as the conversations can become really interesting and intuitive. It can also save you, the vendor, a lot of time if you use AI to welcome attendees at your booth, find out the most potential leads, and even do upsells. If you are a food vendor, it can attract customers with personalized offers of food.
Image Source: MBB Media
SXSW uses its chatbot Abby to help attendees navigate the event more easily and answer any questions they might have about schedules, live videos, and different exhibitions etc.
Image Source: SXSW
9. Ethical And Socially Conscious Engagements
If you have constructed your booth design and planned the event activities keeping ethical and socially conscious themes in mind, people will be more likely to come see you and interact with you at a trade show.
The Swiss bakery items company, Aryzta did just that by introducing the Exotic Food Dice Roll. The activity was not only fun, it also raised funds for a food related charity.
Image Source: Exhibitor Online
Similarly, the nonprofit, Charity Water, planned an activity where their visitors walked carrying two 40lb jugs of water for 50 yards. It was an attempt to draw the visitors’ attention to areas of developing nations that did not have proper water supply.
Image Source: Charity Water
10. Don’t forget to have fun!
What good will all these innovative and interactive activities be if you are not enjoying yourself at the trade show? If you are new to these events, you’ll likely have more energy and willingness to truly be a part of the experience. For the veterans of trade shows, things may become boring after a while – but not if you don’t let them. Don’t think of it as just another business thing you have to do. Take part in activities that you’ve arranged, hire a DJ, hold a contest, talk to people, ask insightful questions, and just enjoy yourself.
The Giveaway of the Discussion
Sometimes the most innovative thing you can do to stand out is actually the simplest and easiest solution. Everything that we have discussed in this list is something that was always there and needed just a bit of creative tweaking.
If you also know some original ways to market your brand at trade shows, please comment below and let’s make this space an idea factory.