Weekly News & Insights: Does Your Booth Attraction Make Sense?

Road sign frame graphic: stock.xchng / John Manly

Road sign frame graphic: stock.xchng / John Manly

Certain trade shows seem to inspire the more wild and wacky side of exhibitors, especially if they tend to have a young, adventurous audience. Take the recent Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in Salt Lake City for example — some of their exhibitors used a choir, gorilla mascot, and even a party for dogs to gain attention. Brooks Running Shoes hired the Calvary Baptist Church gospel choir to promote their footwear, while California’s Outdoor Adventure River Specialists hired a guy to wear a gorilla suit and pose for photos. Ruffwear sponsored a “Yappy Hour” for registered four-legged attendees.

While these bizarre promotions might make sense for the OR crowd, there’s a lot to be said for attractions within reason. Do you really need a choir singing custom songs about your product? Probably not. But having a well-known expert there demonstrating (and thus endorsing) your product might be just the ticket to drawing a crowd of your ideal prospects. Even slightly offbeat promotions can be successful if carefully planned and implemented. But don’t do bizarre just for attention — it could backfire. For example, I remember years ago a booth that hired an actor to paint himself with gold metallic paint and sit in the booth like a statue. For several years, people talked about “naked gold man,” but nobody ever really understood what he was doing there. Did he get attention? You bet! But he failed to bring in quality leads who connected with the exhibitor’s core message.


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With experiences as both an exhibitor and a show organizer, Marlys Arnold has a unique perspective on trade show exhibiting. As an exhibit marketing strategist, she travels the country consulting and training on how to create experiential exhibits that produce significantly higher numbers of qualified leads. She’s led workshops for events ranging from local consumer expos to some of the largest trade shows in the U.S. She hosts the Trade Show Insights blog/podcast, and is the author of Build a Better Trade Show Image, the Exhibitor Education Manifesto, and the ExhibitorEd Success System. Exhibit Design That Works (the first book in the YES: Your Exhibit Success series) debuted in July 2017. She’s also the founder of the Exhibit Marketers Café, an online education community.

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