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Trade show exhibitor tips: Lessons from Mobile Congress 2015

This 2015 Mobile World Congress showcased the latest innovations in mobile technology, bringing together the leaders and pioneers of the mobile industry, consumer brands, and the growing amount of businesses touched by the mobile market.

Out of over 2,100 companies flaunting their newest and best, only a handful of exhibitors really stuck out for their ability to cut through the noise noise and connect with their audience.

We've taken a look at these standout exhibitors and examined what made them so memorable. Read our POV, and learn the 4 ways to win at the tradeshow that will connect people with your products and services and build your business.

Trade show exhibitor tips: Lessons from Mobile Congress 2015

  1. Conquer the tradeshow, conquer the world Lessons from Mobile World Congress 2015 that will make your brand irresistible
  2. Introduction What is it with tradeshows? Why do they make so many brands, who create such compelling marketing elsewhere, forget what they know? We’ve just returned from Mobile World Congress 2015, and it’s no exception. As the place where the latest and greatest mobile technology is showcased and big business is conducted, it’s one of the world’s most intensive brand battlegrounds. If you can succeed here, you can succeed anywhere. Yet it’s a sea of similarity—an overwhelming environment filled with branded spaces, not brand experiences. Everyone is shouting, but only a few will be heard. The simple truth is, brands at trade shows are stuck in a time warp. And with an ever-increasing pressure to deliver column inches and ROI, they need to evolve to stay relevant. At Jack, we believe the answer lies in a commitment to creating extraordinary experiences. So we’ve identified four key principles that will work to elevate your brand above the masses, build valuable relationships, and create the impact your business deserves. Lewis Robbins, Senior Associate Strategist Conquer the tradeshow, conquer the world 2 Brands at tradeshows are stuck in a time warp —and must evolve their experiences to stay relevant.
  3. Contents Puncture the tradeshow bubble • You get what you give • A little ritual goes a long way • Turn attention into engagement Capture the imagination • Shape the present with purpose • Create stories people can be a part of • Stop selling products, start imagining solutions Build an atmosphere that builds relationships • Frankie says relax • Make sense of it all Transform products into experiences • If you love them, set them free • Don’t label, enable 1 2 3 4 4 ways to win at the tradeshow CConquer the tradeshow, conquer the world 3
  4. Puncture the tradeshow bubble 1 Research shows that when we’re in a museum, we need to rest at thirty-minute intervals if we’re to maintain our attention. Otherwise, we stop absorbing what’s around us—and walk around in our own little bubble. Now replace a quiet museum with the notoriously overwhelming environment of the tradeshow. The bright lights, white corporate architecture, clamorous noise, and visual clutter make even a thirty-minute attention span seem like a generous estimate. As one journalist we spoke to said, “it’s too easy to walk around, zone out, and not really see anything.”   In this environment, an effective brand experience is one that understands that audience attention is a finite resource, probably depleted before they even encounter your brand. Creating an experience that doesn’t make demands, but which offers a reprieve can be the most effective way to turn passing traffic into meaningful conversations—to puncture the tradeshow bubble. Conquer the tradeshow, conquer the world 4
  5. 1 Puncture the tradeshow bubble A person’s time and attention are in high-demand. If you want it, then offer something in return. At MWC, Teltronix’s Bubbleology bar had queues of 20 people or more, and arcade machines on the stand meant people could play Breakout or Space Invaders for a reprieve. Intel’s developer stand offered a range of ice-breakers—from games to giveaways to coffee to beer—in exchange for your details. Whether it’s food, drink, somewhere to rest those weary feet, entertainment, free things, or something to make you smile— offer something useful. It’s a simple truth—generosity is the gateway to good conversations.  You get what you give Conquer the tradeshow, conquer the world 5
  6. Freetel’s experience was refreshing, using their cultural identity to cut through and create a meaningful exchange. The brand promoted their Japanese handset by creating a stand that offered a taste of Japan. Tea ceremonies took place every two hours, and hostesses in traditional Japanese dress served Japanese spirits from branded wooden boxes, which delegates could keep. Hostesses scanned guest badges in return. A little ritual leaves a lasting impression Conquer the tradeshow, conquer the world 6 1 Puncture the tradeshow bubble
  7. A word of caution: many brands invested in attractors this year, ranging from a dozen examples of the Oculus Rift, to the strange profusion of hot air balloons, to big glowing screens. But it’s not enough to just attract attention—it has to be translated into meaningful engagement. Kaspersky got this down to a ‘T’. A trio of motley green ‘Internet Trolls’ roamed MWC—having their pictures taken with guests, before encouraging them to Tweet the picture and visit the ‘friendly troll-busters’ on Kaspersky’s stand to see that picture on a big screen, and to get a free gift, coffee, and special edition of a Kaspersky product. It was a directional, incentivised strategy, raising awareness of Cyberbullying and the Kaspersky brand in a way that was perfectly suited to the tradeshow context.  Turn attention into engagement Conquer the tradeshow, conquer the world 7 1 Puncture the tradeshow bubble
  8. Capture the imagination 2 At MWC, many brands talk about aspirations, connectivity, and shaping tomorrow— but offer only brightly-lit logos, product-centric messaging, and a sea of stock imagery that feels completely disconnected from the real world. What’s the story? Where are the real-life examples of the great ambitions writ large on the side of the stand wall? Telling a compelling and vivid story makes other brands fade away into the background. Capture the imagination, and compel your customers to step into a different world. Without a compelling hook, messaging and imagery quickly lose their impact Conquer the tradeshow, conquer the world 8 Conquer the tradeshow, conquer the world 8
  9. 2 Capture the imagination Windows’ experience this year was fun, bright, and friendly, exhibiting a strong personality and mostly showcasing a mid-range series of devices. But after their purchase of Nokia in 2014, what was really needed was a purposeful narrative, a sense of intent that cemented their relevance in one of the world’s fastest-moving industries. When all eyes are on your brand, shape the conversation, and commit to a purpose that people can buy into. Purposefully shape the conversation Conquer the tradeshow, conquer the world 9
  10. The best brands don’t just ‘tell’ a one-way story—they create something that people can relate to, be a part of, and guide. Ericsson’s story this year was ‘We enable change-makers’, and was drawn from a campaign that captured 61 short films of inspiring people who are using the internet to change the world for the better. The Ericsson experience expanded the role of the change-makers to include Ericsson staff, partners, and customers. It’s a ‘big picture’ story that speaks at a societal level—told in a very personal and tangible way. The change-maker stories were brought to life throughout the Ericsson space. For example, installations in the meeting rooms were designed to make guests feel like they were stepping into the change-makers’ world. Create stories people can be a part of Conquer the tradeshow, conquer the world 10 2 Capture the imagination
  11. Everywhere you looked at MWC, companies sell complex products and services with data, screens, and diagrams. But the most compelling brands don’t sell products—they explore solutions to business problems that help customers envision a better version of their business.   Social proof and real-world case studies can create the context and credibility needed to make your offerings tangible to your customer. Models and games are great ways of exploring complex interrelationships. Stimulating the imagination is key to building a compelling vision of the future with your brand. Capture the present, envision the future Conquer the tradeshow, conquer the world 11 When you inspire someone to look inward, it becomes their vision, not yours— and the difference between intrinsic motivation and external manipulation. That’s why the book is so often better than the movie. Douglas Van Praet, author of Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience can Empower (and Inspire) Marketing 2 Capture the imagination
  12. Build an atmosphere that builds relationships 3 Whenever we cross a threshold, we instantly get a ‘feel’ for a place. Lots of sensory cues are absorbed in a split-second, and our initial subconscious reaction (or ‘affect’) frames our opinion of much that follows. In short, our environment shapes how we behave. But looking around a typical tradeshow, it is difficult to discern what the desired behaviour might be. Glossy white business spaces not only lack personality but inhibit more relaxed conversations. And if you create a space that looks like a shop, then people will be guarded, because they expect to be sold to. Crafting the right atmosphere not only makes you more memorable—it’s the subconscious handshake of your brand. It can help people connect with what you have to say, and pave the way for a more personal, two-way interaction. Conquer the tradeshow, conquer the world 12 Crafting the right atmosphere not only makes you more memorable—it’s the subconscious handshake of your brand.
  13. People like to dwell in spaces that feel human, and one of the most popular places on the high street to meet and talk is the coffee shop. MWC featured numerous brands that borrowed this visual language, replacing harsh lights and rigid seating with a more friendly and relaxed atmosphere. Soft furnishings, wooden walls, cafe-style lighting, chalkboards, and the coffee itself all helped create spaces people could sink into and relax in; match this environment with a more laid-back interaction style from your staff. Innovative new materials are also enabling brands to minimise noise and create quiet, private havens in busy spaces. Frankie says relax Conquer the tradeshow, conquer the world 13 3 Build an atmosphere that builds relationships
  14. If everybody starts shouting, people stop listening. And the rather narrow approach of just assailing our eyes and ears means that brands are missing a trick by not appealing to our other senses. Studies have shown that people holding a warm cup of coffee are more likely to use warm language to describe an interaction with a stranger, because the physical sensation of warmth primes an emotional sensation of warmth. The opposite is also true, with ‘cold’ spaces negatively affecting perceptions. This metaphorical link between our senses and our emotions works in other ways too. People drive a ‘harder’ bargain in rigid chairs than they do in softer furnishings, for example. And don’t forget scent. Scent is the only sense with a direct link to our limbic system, the oldest part of our brain, and the epicentre of our emotions. Scents inspire strong emotional reactions, and can make a space feel different the moment you enter it. Consider how you can bring to life the promises that your brand is making in the most compelling multi-sensory way. So that when the aching limbs have recovered and the plane has taxied out of Barcelona airport it is your brand that still lingers in the minds of your prospects, partners and potential customers.  Engaging the senses Conquer the tradeshow, conquer the world 14 3 Build an atmosphere that builds relationships
  15. Transform products into experiences 4 Connecting people with products is what experiential does best. Traditional media can convey a product’s attributes through a screen—but it is experiential that breathes life into your products by putting them in people’s hands. And our mobile devices are amazing products. They’re our window into a world of people and experiences that we care about deeply—the perfect inspiration for immersive, participative experience that stimulate a range of human senses and emotions.   Successful brands know this. Successful brands already do this. And yet Mobile World Congress presented dozens of new devices in a way that was completely detached from the modern mobile experience, with the old habit of branding a large space and filling as much of it as possible with products proving hard to break. Conquer the tradeshow, conquer the world 15 In many ways our experience of products at MWC is completely detached from our mobile experience in the real world.
  16. 4 Transform products into experiences Brands want people to discover their products, to play, feel the craftsmanship, be in awe of the interface. Or do they?   When so much effort goes into crafting products that are slimmer and more beautiful than ever, why are devices tightly tethered to product benches with ugly rubber coils, so that you can barely raise them above arms length? We set an alarm off at one stand by picking up a device with too much enthusiasm.   Products are also too often handicapped by a basic lack of functionality. One charming brand ambassador gave a great demo of that brand’s mid-range phones. It just wasn’t on the phone that was on display—it was on his. Because the display phone didn’t have the features he was explaining loaded. And it wasn’t connected to the internet. These ‘shadow’ devices are pale imitations of what we can do with our phones in the real world—and can actively damage first impressions by presenting your hard work in the worst possible light. Experience is everything. The eyes of the world are on you—so set your products free. Make them work. Make them alive. If you love them, set them free Conquer the tradeshow, conquer the world 16
  17. Specifications used to set devices apart—but now, with even mid-range devices packing enough punch for most everyday tasks, the focus is shifting onto premium design and the experiences the product enables. Yet the mobile devices we see at tradeshows are blank slates, untouched by human personality or experience, accompanied only by lists of specifications. Pick them up, briefly fiddle with them, put them down, move on.   The most engaging stands bring to life the experiences that their devices enable in an engaging manner. One brand used their devices to photograph and showcase a gallery of beautiful photographs from global cities, simultaneously showcasing the quality of the camera and screen. It was an activation that connected to the outside world, and focused on the experience the device enabled. Enable, don’t label Conquer the tradeshow, conquer the world 17 4 Transform products into experiences
  18. Making it happen We understand that it’s not always easy to be bold and to break new ground. So here are our top tips for tackling the nay-sayers. Remember that creativity drives business... Joe Tripodi, CMO of Coca Cola, had a simple message for the audience at Cannes Lions in 2014: Creativity drives business. This is as true in at a tradeshow as it is for other activations— business people are still people, after all.   …and that it doesn’t have to be expensive Creativity doesn’t mean grand architecture or a glowing LED chandelier. Concentrate on touches that make you stand out and feel different. Time and attention applied to the little details often makes the biggest difference.   Look further than your neighbour Most exhibition stands are judged on how they compare with their next-door neighbour. This is a cognitive bias—we’re all too easily ‘anchored’ by what others have done, and set our standards relative to them. Don’t be blinkered by others—see the bigger picture. If you really want to stand out, draw inspiration from the richness and variety of our global culture, not the corridors of the tradeshow. Conquer the tradeshow, conquer the world 18 We believe there’s a direct line of sight between creativity and performance in the market place. Joe Tripodi, CMO of Coca Cola
  19. Making it happen Make time to rewrite the rules/creative brief The definition of madness is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results. We all know next year’s experience comes round all too quickly, but take time to evaluate and change things. If it’s broke—fix it. Innovate incrementally It’s not always possible to make big changes within a tight timeline. Nor is it always desirable. Innovation doesn’t mean you have to disregard all of the work you’ve put in so far. As the saying goes, ‘think evolution, not revolution’. Map things out, have a longer-term plan, and innovate incrementally, year-on-year. Tradeshows are a platform for brands working on the innovations that can transform our world. We believe that innovative brands need extraordinary experiences. Agree? Then get in touch. Conquer the tradeshow, conquer the world 19
  20. Talk to us – Contact Peter Sun VP, Brand Marketing Read our blog at Follow us on twitter @jackmorton Visit us online at About Jack Morton Jack Morton Worldwide is an award-winning global brand experience agency. We believe brands need extraordinary ideas that create emotional connections, fuel conversations and deliver business results. For more than 75 years, we have brought brands to life through event marketing, promotional marketing, sponsorship marketing, digital, social and mobile, and employee engagement. Jack Morton is part of the Interpublic Group of Companies, Inc. (NYSE: IPG). More information is available at: or @jackmorton © Jack Morton Worldwide 2015 Conquer the tradeshow, conquer the world 20