From Mad Men to Mad Tech

Recently, I came across the 2015 Young Professional Exhibitor Needs and Preferences Study, provided by CIER/SISO.  Portions of the study explore how young professionals currently interact with exhibits at tradeshows, and it got me to reminiscing.  Story time!

Once upon a time, tradeshow exhibits featured men in suits, smoking cigarettes, interacting with prospects, and discussing products.  They also kept an eye on the clock to ensure they had time to hit the lounge for a 3-martini lunch. (Mad Men anyone?)

Times changed. Pioneers in the tradeshow industry introduced “brand presentations,” and in just a few years, the cigarette-smoke-infused product discussions gave way to lavish productions that told a grand brand story with a capital “B.”  Many of these presentations featured dancers, singers, contortionists, etc. Products took a back seat.

Times changed.  Budgets shrunk.  And so did brand presentations, And while a few lavish ones survived, their collective focus remained the same.  “Here is our Brand.  Here’s why we’re unlike everyone else.  Here’s why you should do business with us.”

Then–and I’m sure you saw this coming–times changed again.  Budgets shrunk even more, and interactive technology emerged.  For several years, it floated around, evolving, trying to establish a clear role in the tradeshow marketing experience.

Like most things in life, we’ve come full circle. Technology on a show floor is now the NEW product interaction. The cigarettes may be gone, (or at least they’re 30-feet from the front door), but the focus of interactive technology has been redirected from “brand” back to “products.”

It was inevitable, really.  Social media, and ubiquitous advertising, delivers plenty of brand messages.  But as the study I referenced earlier indicates, on a tradeshow floor, today’s young professionals are interested in three things; what is your new product, what does it do, and what can it do for me? Brand takes a back seat.

The takeaway here is pretty straightforward. Support your booth staff with product-based interactive technology, and/or a focused, product-based presentation, and you’ll help them successfully engage and educate today’s information-hungry tradeshow audiences.

And they’ll still have time to hit the hotel lounge for … an extra shot skinny latte.