FEATURE26 www.exhibitionnews.co.ukthinking more closely about visitor experience. Although the former are fast and easy revenue generators, it's the latter that will elevate your show to a must-attend event for both exhibitors and visitors. In fact, the Ideal Home Show is cutting its square meterage in favour of more features.Where does this leave the potential exhibitors? True, treating the show as a single experience from start to finish will embed the event in the visitor's memory, but how does this come across to individual brands? If the show is the brand, is it also its own experiential marketing campaign riding off the backs of exhibitors? With a successful show comes droves of spend-ready visitors, secure in the knowledge that the products on offer will accord with the brand values of the show. Newton claimed any visitor who has already paid the ticket price will want - consciously or subconsciously - to come away with something to show for it. Whereas many consumers will not buy anything after participating in an experiential campaign, visitors to a show are there specifically to see what's on offer and to come away with something new.Done properly, a consumer exhibition could become the shining light of consumer experience: Unlike any single-brand experiential campaign, Gadget Show Live, the Ideal Home Show or the world-famous American video gaming show E3 could establish itself as the definitive event for a given sector. Being part of that would be worth more to the exhibitors than sitting in a shopping mall car park or handing out samples on a street-corner.Self-SelectionAt the end of the day an exhibition offers something an experiential brand cannot: An audience specifically self-selected for what's on offer. In fact, Media 10 is now in the fortunate position of being able to turn away exhibitors from Ideal Home Show that it judges aren't attuned to visitor experience. Taking this a step further, Newton has introduced a system where Media 10 staff sit down with would-be exhibitors to make sure their stands are exciting and inviting enough to keep visitors interested."A big thing to remember is that you can turn it completely on its head: You could put in as much experiential content as you can but it will be outweighed by exhibitor stands," Newton said. "At the end of the day, visitors will remember the exhibitors more than the features, you just have to have the right kind of exhibitor. A lot of exhibitors need to look at how they are presenting themselves."Don't underestimate the significance of this offer. Not only is Media 10 promising a targeted audience, it is also somewhat fulfilling the role of experiential agency by helping design a stand that will draw in and connect with consumers.As for the competition presented by experiential agencies, perhaps in this world of aggressive marketing it isn't such a big deal. An experiential agency may get so many Facebook 'likes' or deliver so many samples, but as soon as the individual walks away they're straight back into the boiling pot of public advertising. Despite what agencies say, exhibitions by their targeted nature can offer a return on investment that is possible to measure and a dedicated audience that actively chooses the brand. Instead of ignoring the experiential threat, learn from the consumer experiences these experiential agencies create to improve your visitor proposition and ensure your shows continue to be the live marketing medium of choice.Exhibitions hold promise but they have to give me the right audience, and they don't always deliverWhat they say about us Trade marketing manager for Monster Energy Alex Armstrong shares his view on live marketing with EN."Because of our target market and the kind of brand we are, we believe it is much more important to create fans than just customers. If you are a young kid who is into skateboarding, you are not likely to get any brand relationship at a trade show. We will do shows but we will do it with a difference. It won't just be a stand, it will be a replica of motorcycling champion Valentino Rossi's bike, for instance. We also have a Chevy Silverado (pictured) customised and branded, with two chest freezers full of stock. We have the speakers on the outside and they drive around and take our products straight to the consumers."Shows aren't necessarily old-fashioned, it comes down to what you do with them. We need to bring them closer to better target consumers and turn visitors into fans of the brand."With Media 10's treatment of the Ideal Home Show and its other shows, it was one of the first organisers to acknowledge exhibitions as brands in their own right instead of simple empty vessels for exhibitors to fill.Newton believes organisers need to stop worrying about square metres and stand yields, and begin Why can't We just get along? Imagination event group director Guy Stevenson sees exhibitions and experiential as two aspects of the same thing. He shares his perspective on the two media and their relationship with EN."An exhibition is a brand experience to help engage with an audience and immerse them in your brand, so by their very nature the two are one and the same. We wouldn't drive a client down one specific communications approach. We look instead at the best approach for that client.We are in a very different marketplace than we were five or 10 years ago. It has to be about a narrative experience. You have to be able to create connection with that brand - be it direct mail, exhibitions, TV or social media. "The main thing organisers can learn is that they are a brand, and they are creating a real live experience and have to connect with their audience in a meaningful way. It's about taking the blinkers off and realising an exhibition isn't an isolated moment in time."It might be about trying out games of skill or sharing things on Facebook. It's very important that people realise consumers' expectations have moved on. That's why exhibitions can work very well for brands because it's about creating a live connection."It's no longer about going onto a stand and kicking tyres. It has to be a whole immersive experience."
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