Your exhibition space is booked, but already there’s confusion! Here we bring clarity to this and much more.
If you’re planning to exhibit at a trade event, there’s often plenty of head-scratching that goes on – especially in the early stages. Just agreeing on what your cubic area of rented space at the event is called can cause a conflict of agreement, let alone how it’s going to look.
So just to clear up the two most common internationally used terms - an exhibition stand is a section of an exhibition where a particular company shows their products or information about their products or services. This can be an open space without walls, whereas an exhibition booth relates to the physical construction within that space, hosting the exhibitors and whatever they want to exhibit – often with some element of more hospitable or private space.
That said, in the UK, there is a tendency to use the term exhibition stand regardless! I’m going to refer to booths in this article because it relates largely to branding and more branding can be achieved within a structure than just an empty space.
Moving on to the design of booths, I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s wandered around huge exhibition halls, wondering what on earth many exhibitors actually do for a living. It defies belief that companies spend the huge sums of money that they do on rented space and the design/build of their booths, only to display pictures and words that mean absolutely nothing to their potential buyers.
To these exhibitors, I would say it's all well and good reminding your existing customers that you’re still around and developing these accounts, but surely you need to be attracting new customers as well if you’re going to achieve a maximum return on your investment?
The problem is fairly obvious. It stems from a lack of focus on brand proposition. That is, many companies have not discovered the authentic identity of their brand and therefore they don’t know what to communicate when the chance arises. What you see on the booth walls often originates from a combined effort from a small committee of people with individual ideas about what to say.
This is even more apparent when you flick through the accompanying literature on the booths that carry non-cohesive claims and structure. If you were to ask a couple of representatives what they do and why you should use their services as opposed to the company in the next booth, you would almost certainly receive two different answers and it would be common to hear a list of products or service bullet points that mirror exactly everyone else is offering.
Companies without brand focus have booths built that don’t offer clarity to their potential customers, they simply give those passers-by a job to do – asking them to spend precious time processing whether this is a company that could be of interest, then taking a larger gamble to actively engage in a conversation with booth representatives when the conversation might easily go nowhere. It’s easy to see that, with a number of halls to get through, the chances of engagement in these situations are greatly reduced, so they’re missing a trick.
Our strapline is CLARITY AMPLIFIED. This represents the process we believe all branding executions should follow and what we deliver, and this is particularly relevant to exhibition booths. It can be difficult for companies whose employees can be too close to it to see the bigger picture and this can be at the root of the problem.
It’s really quite simple – companies/brands need to gain CLARITY of what it is that they actually do and their point of difference that will be attractive to their target markets. This requires a strategic process of identifying and clarifying what the brand is all about, its core values, and its personality and then formulating a clear proposition – a promise to it’s customers. These elements pave the way to developing a definitive strapline that people can resonate with.
It is essential that companies embrace and believe in that clarity before it is AMPLIFIED through all marketing channels including their booths. Amplification is the tactical bit and delivers the communication of the agreed proposition in a way that should engage with potential customers – not just through a booth but through all channels of communication in an integrated way. Most importantly, it needs to resonate quickly. You’ve got seconds to either strike an immediate relationship or probably fail to engage, just like speed dating (so I’m told!). The good news is, if delivered correctly, people love to build relationships with brands, so if a booth quickly says all the right things in a way that customers would like to receive it, then the journey has begun. Brands then just have to live up to their brand promises to gain loyalty.
We designed a booth for an agricultural crop-protection company that claimed they engaged more with customers (in contrast with the bigger companies), identified what their individual needs were, and then delivered bespoke solutions. The main feature of the booth was a very large microscope that acted as a camera, broadcasting live footage onto a large wall.
Potential customers were surprised to see their image displayed alongside the company strapline ‘Our focus is on you’, but were immediately engaged by the fact that the brand promise was instantly delivered alongside other headings like ‘Crop Protection’ and another video clearly demonstrating their point of difference first-hand. Unsurprisingly, this booth delivered huge interest but also, due to its unusual microscope architecture, it became a landmark to meet up at several exhibitions for years. This example shows how a well-thought-out brand execution can deliver a great return on investment and how it contrasts greatly with booths that leave you non-the-wiser.
Because we had a clear and authentic proposition, we were able to build the entire architecture around that claim. We told people the company offered crop protection and their point of difference was that they had a greater focus on their customers. Potential customers identified benefits for themselves which resonated much more strongly because they could make sense of it.
Tell someone what you do concisely, and tell them how you do it differently and they’ll remember it. Conversely, if you were to tell them lots of things about what you do and don’t offer them a point of difference, they’ll more than likely switch off.
So, if you find yourself sitting in the corner of a quiet booth with your colleagues, sipping coffee while people amble by avoiding eye contact, try to take a fresh look at your booth from the eyes of someone who knows nothing about your business. Don’t listen to compliments on your booth from existing customers because they already know what you do and why they shop with you - they’ve worked it out. Try to think more broadly about why your business/brand exists – what is its purpose, how does it go about things differently, and what is the final outcome - your measure of success and the area that customers will ultimately judge you on. Then question if your booth is saying all that.
This can be hard, and you might need help from an external resource to help structure and referee a brand strategy exercise session, but acknowledging the need for one is a healthy start. Building, not just an effective booth, but a stronger brand will help with the entire workforce culture. Once everyone knows what the brand stands for, where it wants to be, by when and how it’s going to get there and all your booths (or stands) should practically design themselves…