Tradeshow and Exhibit Thoughtleaders
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Holly Stevens' Articles

An Introduction to Branding

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Personal Branding

Branding can take on many forms; personal branding, company branding, and yes of course, product branding. 

Personal branding is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands. Personal branding suggests that one creates an asset of themselves through things
such as their style, knowledge, clothing etc. that they can become known for or associated with. Donald Trump is a good example of someone who has built a strong personal brand.
Michael Jackson was also someone who has a well-known personal brand. Although, he may not be considered the ideal brand that others would want to emulate. However, there is
no doubt that he is recognized as a memorable figure from the entertainment industry.

Why is personal branding so important? Because it’s how you project yourself out to the world. It’s how people think of you both personally and professionally. Many things you do
make up your personal brand. Meetings you have with others, emails you send, phone calls you participate in etc. How you dress and carry yourself. All of this helps to make up
your personal brand and how people view and think of you, whether positive or negative. In business our personal brand or our “perceived” brand can have a big impact on how
and whether people choose to do business with us. Our brand has the ability to enhance or detract from the company and/or products we might represent. Therefore, it is of vital
importance to pay attention to how our brand is viewed by colleagues and industry.

Product Branding

Strong product branding is invaluable and those that have successfully built one over the years and are able to continue a leadership position with their brand equity have spent time,
effort and resources to do this. It takes a concentrated and concerted effort to thrive in this very competitive and crowded branded society we live in. Yes you must understand the
wants and needs of your customers and prospects on a continuing basis no doubt. However, to truly thrive in this ubiquitous space you must have well integrated messages or an
integrated marketing campaign as most marketers like to call it.   

Integrated Marketing/Branding

In simple terms a well-integrated campaign ensures all communications and messages are carefully and thoughtfully linked together. For example McDonald’s, a brand we all know
is well known for their golden arches. The arches can be seen high above every store location. McDonald’s takes full advantage of this well-known symbol utilizing it on billboards,
magazine, television ads, coupons, etc. The idea being when a corporation has a brand, a theme or new campaign they are running they need to take advantage of every medium
available to them to get the word out and be consistent, so everyone is hearing and seeing the same message no matter what venue they are in.

Integrated Marketing Communications is another version of how organizations term this type of approach.

Definition: It is defined as a concept of marketing communications planning that recognizes the added value of a comprehensive plan that evaluates the strategic roles of a
variety of communication disciplines and combines these disciplines to provide clarity, consistency and maximum communications impact. A synergistic approach to achieving
the objectives of a marketing campaign.


Why do companies take the IMC approach?

1. Synergies (whole is greater than sum of the parts) / cost saving/ less duplication
2. Differentiates from competition
3. Brings greater accountability
4. Provides internal focus
5. Greater impact / cuts through clutter
6. Efficient and effective marketing communication programs
7. Globalization
8. Move from transactional to relationship marketing
9. Fragmentation of traditional media
10. Cynicism towards traditional communication techniques


This includes trade shows and conventions. Unfortunately this is often an area that is overlooked when it comes to integrated messaging. Many organizations spend countless dollars
to develop a special theme or messaging just for one trade show. The result often being unsuccessful, with visitors not recalling what the theme or message was at the exhibit because
it wasn’t integrated. A well-integrated campaign includes their trade shows and events as a part of their marketing mix. Therefore by the time the visitor enters the exhibit booth they
have already seen similar messaging and graphics on the pre-show mailer they were sent, as well as the follow up e-blast that went out. They saw it on the businesses website prior
to attending the trade show, they noticed the same campaign on the banner in the lobby of the convention center, on the head rest of the shuttle buses, their hotel room key, in the
daily newspaper at the event and finally the graphics and messages in the booth, as well as the representatives have weaved these messages into their conversations with ease.
Now that is an example of a well-integrated campaign.

It’s often perplexing to attend a trade show and see a company that has a well-established logo, theme or message in their industry and yet they are not utilizing it anywhere in their
exhibit. What a waste. In an already overly branded society one thing consumers identify with is consistency in messaging, branding, colors and logos. Why wouldn’t every exhibitor
 want to take advantage of this instead of re-inventing the wheel?

Source: What is IMC?  

Giveaways & Branding

Giveaways are an important part of branding and message integration at an exhibit booth. A giveaway presents a great opportunity to those who can afford to do this, but, only if the
association or society allows it. Why? Because this affords your company another way to get your message out there to your target audience and if done right will be a constant
reminder to them of who you are and what you do. This is an area that has to be well thought out and planned for. It’s not as easy as saying “hey we have these pens left over from
last year with the company name on them, let’s just use them”. The giveaway needs to be part of the overall strategy and objectives. Not just of this one trade show, but of the overall
marketing campaign as well as corporate goals and objectives. Once corporate goals are determined, marketing develops their goals which will help support the overall corporate
objectives.  Part of marketing’s goals is their marketing or promotional mix which includes trade shows. Once those are all developed, tactics (like giveaways) can be determined that
will be in support and in sync with what the corporation is trying to achieve.

Consideration needs to be given to the item itself. Will this item end up in the trash can before the attendee even checks out of their hotel? Is it portable enough and not too fragile that
it will be able to be packed in a suit case for the trip home? Is it useful to this audience? What is the likelihood that the attendee will utilize this item once their back home? And is it an
item intended for them to use in their office or home? And does that matter to you? Additionally,  one of the most important questions you need to ask yourself or challenge those around
you with is what does this item have to do with our business? If you gave away umbrella’s and you’re a software company then the answer is easy; this has little or nothing to do with
what you sell or do unless your corporate logo is an umbrella. Now if you’re a medical device company and you gave away a type of model a doctor can use in their office to
demonstrate how your product works to patients you struck gold. Because not only have you given the attendee something useful, but it’s related to what your company sells, so it will
be a constant reminder to them of who you are and what you do every time they utilize it.

Just as important as the item you choose to giveaway is what you choose to say on it. Many times giveaways are simply seen with a corporate or brand logo on them and nothing else. 
Sometimes that is all that is necessary or maybe there is no room for anything else.  The following should be considered when thinking about the copy for your giveaway.

  • Size of item
  • Is there a special theme or message for the event
  • Does the company have an industry recognized tagline
  • Space available for copy
  • What is it we want the customer/prospect to do (i.e. send them to our website,  call us)
  • Are we an established co/brand or are we new to the industry
  • Do they know what we do
  • Do we have a new product or service were introducing

Branding collateral to integrate with goals and objectives


Collateral at trade shows is an interesting topic. Many years ago, before advances in email and the web most companies sent tremendous amounts of collateral or literature to trade shows
and events. The problem then and still today is most of it ends up in the trash. Attendees end up collecting so much in the way of brochures, giveaways, course materials etc. that they just
don’t have the room in their briefcase or suitcase’s to drag it all back to their office. And in today’s modern age with such wide use of the internet and how comfortable most of us are using
it we know we can just jump online at any point and look up a company’s products and services for more information. Additionally, collateral is very expensive to print, ship and pay drayage
on once it arrives at the convention center. 


Branding synergy and exhibit design


One definition of synergy says: “Synergy is when the result is greater than the sum of the parts. Synergy is created when things work in concert together to create an outcome that is
in some way of more value than the total of what the individual inputs are.”

So what does this have to do with branding in your exhibit? Well, everything really. Just as was mentioned in the above sections about integrating messages, giveaways and collateral
the same goes for the synergy with your exhibit design. Many times those working on the design of the actual exhibit are removed from the branding aspect. This can end up creating
a disconnect on the show floor. Unfortunately, this is something that is encountered on the trade show floor all the time. Perhaps a third party, a new manager or someone from a
different department is only looking at this from one perspective and little or no thought is given to integrating this brand and company goals/theme.

A good example of this is an organization that was headed to New Orleans for their largest trade show. The trade show group decided the exhibit was looking a bit dated and worn.
However, they did not have enough in their budget for a complete refurbishment of the exhibit. Instead they turned to their ad agency for help. Since it was in New Orleans the agency
came up with an exciting jazz theme. They played jazz music in the booth, set up a café modeled after Café Du Monde and served beignets and Café Au Lait. They even had miniature
Mardi Gras masks as a giveaway for each visitor. The exhibit was packed full of people and there was a lot of buzz about their exhibit on the show floor. Some deemed this a great
success. Unfortunately, it was quite the opposite. Turns out it was their worst year on record for leads at the show and representatives were complaining that their “real” customers
and potential ones who they were hoping to see were not part of those hanging around the exhibit enjoying all the freebies. In-fact, a study that was conducted on-site during the event
at their exhibit found most visitors leaving the booth couldn’t tell you what company it was without looking up at their signage. Additionally, they certainly weren’t aware what brands
and products were in that booth either.

This is a classic example of a promotion that is non-selective and overly stimulating. It attracted attention, but not of those who the organization was really looking to draw and talk to.
Also, the theme had nothing to do with brand and products. There was no tie in at all. Hence, all those individuals that could not recall the company name or what products they sold. 

A good synergy takes into account the current design and messaging of the brand already in place and uses that to its advantage to build upon. The result is a combined effect that
will yield a bigger impact with visitors because it creates more memorability and staying power with them.

Source: Synergy By Chris Adams, Guide  

© 2013 by Holly Stevens