When Is A Trade Show Ploy A Gimmick And When Is It Just A Great Idea?

Trade shows are full of vendors and companies clamoring for the attention of attendees. That’s why there are so many different strategies for attracting attention to your trade show booth. But, not all of these ideas are as effective as you might think, even if it seems like everyone is jumping on the bandwagon and taking advantage of the newest marketing ploy.

It’s important to remember that any kind of attention-grabbing tactic needs to fit well within your company’s brand identity and integrate with your strategic goals for that show. If it doesn’t, it risks falling to the level of a cheap gimmick that is unlikely to actually help you achieve your goals and could even reflect negatively on your company. Don’t forget that you should also be naturally attracting attention with your exhibit design and compelling products or other content. If you aren’t, that’s where you need to focus your attention first.

Defining The Trade Show Gimmick

So, what is just a cheap gimmick and what is a really clever idea? Well, the distinguishing factor here is (as above): Does the tactic fit in with your company’s larger brand image? Does it help you effectively reach your goals for that trade show? And does it help increase not just attention (and attendance), but engagement? Ideally, any marketing ploy should also fit seamlessly within the theme and exhibit design of your trade show booth.

If you ask yourself these questions about a new tactic and any of them are answered in the negative, then you might have a trade show gimmick on your hands. But, don’t freak out and scrap the idea altogether! Even simple gimmicks can often help to drive traffic to your trade show booth. And, as long as they are tasteful and not actively harmful to your brand image, you might still be able to benefit from them. Although, making adjustments to make them fit more cohesively into your branding and strategy would definitely be worth your while.

Let’s Look At A Bad Example

Let’s take a look at an example of a trade show gimmick which is a kind of worst-case scenario. Something that attracts attention, but is otherwise destructive to the overall goals of the company employing it.

So, what might be an example of an attention-grabbing gimmick which is 1) totally out of line with a company’s brand image, 2) not helpful to the company’s overall strategy and 3) increases attention, but not engagement or interest in the company itself. For this, we’ll take a look at our totally fake example company, ABC Painters.

ABC Paints Goes International With(out) Style

ABC Paints is a first-time exhibitor at the international paint manufacturers expo in Dubai. They’re a smaller company and don’t have as much recognition on the global market, so they want to be able to prove themselves as capable of playing with the big boys and win their share of the international market for paint (which, incidentally, is booming).

To achieve this, ABC sets up their exhibit with a clever exhibit design replicating the front of a beautiful suburban home, complete with green turf and a white picket fence on two sides. They have a very interesting exhibit design and bolster it with retail displays of different paint products integrated into the window sills of their faux home facade. So far, so good.

But, ABC Paints doesn’t stop there. They figure they need to go big to make a splash at this expo. So, they hire 4 underwear models to stand outside of their fake home and get body painted while exhibitors look on.

It’s easy to see that a tactic like this would attract a lot of attention to their trade show booth. But, is that attention going to translate into a positive view of the company and more sales on the international market? Highly unlikely.

The stunt in no way demonstrates the company’s expertise, product quality or trustworthiness. In other words it doesn’t reflect positively on the company’s brand and will thus be seen as a cheap ploy. The fact that it includes exploiting (semi) nude models in a country in which this kind of thing is totally taboo is just sour icing on a very rotten cake. It means that the stunt certainly won’t help ABC Paints gain market share in this part of the world and thus also is destructive to their overall goals.

Lessons Learned

Hopefully that example helped drive home the problem with utilizing gimmicks to attract attention which don’t reflect your company’s brand identity or help you achieve your goals. Admittedly, the example was a bit of an extreme. But, there have certainly been cases that were not far away from this kind of horrible misfire.

It’s important to remember that just about anything can be a gimmick if it doesn’t meet the three requirements: 1) integrates favorably with your company’s brand image, 2) contributes positively to your company’s trade show strategy and 3) increases not just attention, but engagement.

Hopefully, this article will help you to develop marketing techniques which aren’t gimmicks but rather positive contributions to your company’s image and effective means to maximize the impact of your trade show exhibition. And don’t forget to leverage exhibit design and effective use of retail displays as a first step to garnering positive attention. Save the ploys for when you really need to bring out the big guns.

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