On the Money
When it comes to generating attendance at a trade show booth or meeting, a powerful premium simply can’t be beat. Here’s how clever marketers used promotional products to attract thousands of potential customers.
James Finch had never been so happy to see it rain. As a member of Beck Media and Marketing, he had gone to great lengths to make sure his client SilkRoad technology stood out at HR Tech held in Chicago in October. This included handing out hundreds of travel-sized umbrellas branded with the name of SilkRoad’s new software application called “Red Carpet.”
The premium was part of the “Premier Party Invitations” that were sent out to all attendees inviting them to its marquee event at the Navy Pier. Just like a celebrity might receive, Beck Media created a semi-translucent swag bag (handy for getting through airport security) that it called the “Red Carpet Survival Kit.” It included logoed lip balm, breath freshener, a Netflix trial membership and, of course, the umbrellas.
Taking the Hollywood theme a step further, the day of the event SilkRoad branded red carpets were unfurled throughout the concourse. “There was a logo every 15 feet,” says Finch.
But the whole time he was thinking, “please let it rain.”
Soon it began to sprinkle raindrops. No monsoon had struck that would ruin the event, however there was just enough precipitation that everyone opened their red umbrellas. “Everyone was asking where they could get their umbrella,” he says. “Between the carpets and the umbrellas, we branded the entire conference.”
The event was such a success, Finch says, that his competitors called the show’s organizers to find it if they could do the same thing the following year. But, alas Beck Media had already locked in the event (carpets and umbrellas and all) for the next five years.
When it comes to generating attendance at a trade show, event or meeting, choosing the right promotional product can be the catalyst. “Picking something that attracts attention can be the difference between success and failure,” says Mark Yokoyama, director of marketing for ePromos.com. He says the stakes are especially high if you have a booth located in an undesirable location at a trade show.
Drew Neisser, president of
For SilkRoad, it was about making human resources executives feel like celebrities for a night. Syngenta, an agricultural company that produces herbicides and fungicides used to grow crops, tried something a little different. Playing off of the popularity of the many home improvement shows on cable, it went with a construction theme at its booth at a recent event.
Prior to the show, direct mail pieces were sent out stating that Syngenta will help attendees “build” their crops the right way. Those who stopped by the booth were greeted by salespeople in hardhats and tool belts. Each attendee received a logoed measuring tape. However, higher level executives and top customers received tool kits which included a hammer, screwdriver and other hardware.
The Tradeshow Coach Susan Friedmann says companies should always “consider having a special gift just for your VIP customers and prospects. Use this as an incentive for them to come visit the booth.”
No matter what items you select, “you always need to tie it back to the brand or the theme,” says Cindy Treadway, senior account manager for Exhibit Resources, who helped put together the Syngenta booth. “There are so many things to choose from, but the ones that work reinforce the brand either by their color, shape or what they say. There needs to be a planning process and the idea has to be carried out through everything.”
Friedmann agrees. “To be totally effective, premiums need to be integrated into your overall exhibit marketing objectives. You need to be crystal clear about the role you want them to play.”
Playing Games with Attendees
It literally filled a 150-seat theater with the promise of a free KartRider T-shirt in exchange for listening to a presentation from its executives. Afterwards, Nexon ended up with a two-hour-long line to try the game. “At first we were just handing shirts out to anyone who came to the booth,” says Min Kim, director of operations for Nexon, “but then we started making them demo the game first. One woman saw the line and asked what everyone was waiting for. When she saw the T-shirts, she literally squealed and ran to the back of the line. Dao is a very recognizable character that people love.”
The shirts proved so popular that the company ran out during the first two days of the four-day event. Booth visitors settled instead for one of 7,000 logoed bags. When all was said and done, 411Mania.com crowned KartRider the game of the show.
“Bribery works,” says Nancy A. Shenker, principal of theONswitch, a marketing consultancy based in Westchester, N.Y. “Ultimately, you want something that will make them interested in your product or service. You want to incentivize them to spend a little time at the booth, engage in a demonstration or talk to a sales rep.”
She warns that just offering something cheap to the masses will attract the “tchotchke zombies who are there for the sole purpose of grabbing free stuff.” She says if a company decides to offer something for everyone, use candy or pencils. “Pencils are actually somewhat of a novelty because everyone gives away pens.”
Smaller is also often better because of shipping logistics, says Dale Kirby, director of marketing for Promopeddler.com, a promotional products distributor. “The main thing you need to think of is: How easy is it to transport the product? All you have to do is a couple of trade shows to realize that if you have 36 mugs in a box, and you’re giving out 500 a day – that’s a lot of boxes. You arrive at the booth and there’s a pyramid of boxes. For a one-man booth, that’s too much to handle. Pick things that are small that have value.”
Friedmann also stresses a promotional product should be business specific to keep away the freebie hunter. “Product samples, special reports, white papers and checklists work particularly well. They are not as sexy and fun, but only your target audience will be interested in them and that’s what you want. This way you’re not just giving them something that will end up in Johnny’s toy box or given to Aunt Sally or Uncle Fred.”
For Kreative Vistas, it was comic strips. The multimedia film company, which specializes in creating animation films in the life science and software industry, is fully aware as to how dry the BIOMEDevice conference in San Jose can be. So this year it touted its “Animate, Entertain, Simply” message by showing off its films on a 67" plasma TV, and handing out comic strips which “were the last thing anyone would expect in the middle of so many biomedical device companies,” says Valli Bindana, president, creative director for Kreative Vistas. “Our products are about using multimedia, so we didn’t want to hand out brochures like everyone else. Biomedical is very technical stuff. We’re about applying multimedia to simplify complex ideas.”
We All Scream for Ice Cream
While Wayne-Dalton, one of the world’s leading garage door, opener and home control manufacturer, can certainly afford to go that route, it annually opts not to. Instead, it leverages one of its original taglines “Say goodbye to the plain vanilla garage door” by giving away different flavored ice creams.
Although it doesn’t use the tagline anymore, Bill Earnest, director of marketing and product management for Wayne-Dalton says it has become a bit of a legend as they are known as “the ice cream folks” at the show. “It’s a hot show so ice cream goes well,” he says.
Visitors to the booth also get yellow show bags that include pens, foam hats and picture cubes that unfold to reveal photos of the many different types of Wayne-Dalton garage doors. “Our goal is to have something extra that ties into our core message,” says Earnest. “That other stuff [celebrities and truck raffles] just clogs up your booth so customers can’t see your product.”
While Wayne-Dalton reps serve the ice cream, they start a dialogue. “We ask, ‘How big of a builder are you,’ ‘what state are you from’…The ice cream attracts visitors but doesn’t take away from the product.”
Yokoyama says when selecting your giveaway, “you have to know what your goal is. If it is a complicated software demonstration, having a pen for people to grab in exchange for a business card isn’t that effective, you need more of an incentive.”
Of course, there is something to be said for high-end prizes and gifts. Just ask any of the 1,000 people who attended an Open from American Express in Chicago in October. Once it was over, they were instructed to reach under their seats to find their thank-you. To their delight, each found a brand new iPhone loaded up with relevant content, music and videos.
Christine O’Neil, the director of print/premium production for Momentum Worldwide, which created the event, says clients “challenge us to develop something new that will ‘stick;’ something that people will either take away physically and re-use or an experience through a premium that will make the event unforgettable.
“In today’s premium industry, products are constantly being developed to one up the next, and it is imperative for our team to stay on top of these alternate ways to reach and influence the target and in doing so, deliver for our clients,” says O’Neil. “It is a challenge that we openly welcome.”
Shenker says spending more on items can work so long as it aligns with the company’s strategy. “I might raffle off something of value like an iPod. Sure, it might cost me $80, but I would look at it from the perspective of this is a way to build my database.”
Still Jerome Bobis says some are shying away from expensive ad specialties altogether. “Associations might offer a pen to encourage pre-registration, but they are slowly getting away from that. They understand it is about better location and educational opportunities so they are cutting back on the use of promotional products.”
But, for SilkRoad, the branded items were the secret weapon behind a successful trade show – that, and of course, the rain. “Water, location, product name, it all came together to make a great impact,” says Finch. “You couldn’t have asked for a better thing than rain.” ●