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December 2008 | Vol. VII - No. 12




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Event Marketing Guru’s Corner: The Age of Business Theater

Lift Your Company’s ROI With Experiential Marketing


“ … highly educated potential attendees rely more on the opinion they value most — their own.”
Evolution on the trade show floor is moving in the direction of experiential marketing — driven by increasingly informed and sophisticated attendees who are demanding a “show me” form of exhibiting. Attendees don’t mean “show me a brochure or a website.” They want to see, touch, hear and sometimes even taste and smell the product. This trend does not stem from a mistrust of marketing materials or expert opinions. It’s just that highly educated potential attendees rely more on the opinion they value most — their own.

GET HANDS-ON

How might an exhibitor provide prospects with that three-dimensional, multi-sensory experiential interaction they crave? Live, hands-on demonstrations supported by service-oriented sales representatives are the most logical way to create the demanded reality. Fortunately, many of today’s facilities can accommodate the actual presence and demonstrations of even large pieces of equipment. Which is more effective: a simple pop-up exhibit and promotional literature depicting the benefits of owning a luxury yacht, or a climb to the top of the flying bridge to take in the simulated view of the aqua-blue Caribbean waters?

If an exhibitor can’t practically demonstrate a product live at an exhibition, there are still ways to upgrade from two-dimensional brochures and booth graphics. Increasingly, we are witnessing the creation of theaters within exhibit displays. In many ways, these theatrical videos and productions are more memorable than an actual product demonstration — not unlike how the movie “Jaws” is more memorable than a trip to an aquarium.

CUSTOMIZE EXPERIENCES

As more exhibitors incorporate experiential marketing, it will become increasingly difficult to differentiate the competitive companies involved. The natural progression for providing a memorable experience at an exhibitor’s booth is to provide a personalized experience for every visitor. This will be possible with the proliferation of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology embedded into identification badges as well as incorporated into lead retrieval devices. Demographic data such as budget, buying time frame, product interest and so on will be relayed via “tag readers” to trigger a video presentation tailored to any specific buyer’s needs.

Now, all of this sounds great, but what evidence exists that experiential marketing works? Scientific research conducted by Jack Morton Worldwide and Sponsorship Research International (SRI) reveals that experiential marketing “drives fast results with many consumers saying that it would be much more likely to cause quick purchasing decisions. Among certain groups, it is actually the most effective means to achieve this, particularly with women and younger audiences.”

BOOST ROI

Another intriguing finding from the study was that “experiential marketing increases the return on other marketing investments, with almost nine of 10 saying that participating in experiential marketing would make them more receptive to advertising.” Can you think of any company that would not find interest in leveraging the ROI on their entire integrated marketing communications program?

An encouraging trend pointed out was that “up-and-coming decision-makers with purchasing power respond strongly to experiential marketing, with over 40 percent of Generation Y consumers saying it is most likely to drive quick purchasing responses.” Obviously, this is our future.

The most telling information revealed by these surveys was that “entertainment and face-to-face dialogue are critical.” In fact, “61 percent of all surveyed said they would prefer to try a product or brand as part of an experience that integrated entertainment and information. But an on-site representative is still the number-one factor that makes an experience interesting.”

The abundance of evidence clearly demonstrates that the “booth-only” mentality of graphic, brochures, peppermint give-aways and business cards is losing ground to the more effective experiential marketing approach. The more quickly exhibitors embrace experience, the sooner they will realize their full potential of maximizing their return on exhibiting.



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Charles W. AllenWriter's Bio: Charles W. Allen is an independent consultant for professional event marketing solutions and specializes in sales training, motivational speaking and maximizing sponsorship sales. He also serves as executive director of the International Economic Alliance, which originated at Harvard University. Read more articles by this author

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