Contributed By Adam Trisk – Head of Marketing
After spending two days in Chicago at IRCE2012 I have to admit, I feel badly for brand marketers who go in search of services and technologies to help them drive their businesses. Booth after booth, manned by sales guys in branded polo shirts, aggressively selling some variation of the same thing. The only real difference for attendees is the color, shape and name of the magic box being offered. The messaging and approach almost all identical.
Most unusual to me was the vast number of companies who dressed up young girls in skin tight outfits to lure in the consummate and lonely business traveler. Someone must have thought men could be easily romanced into signing contracts or at least handing over their contact info in exchange for some female conversation. One booth even had several young girls walking around in nurses outfits, the kind made of white latex, not cotton. I guess trade shows fall outside HR rules and jurisdiction.
Now I’m not suggesting there weren’t great companies with cool offerings, but in the quest for differentiation an interesting phenomenon occurs and that’s a vast sea of sameness. This issue plagued early home appliance manufacturers with their rows of washers and dryers all of which looked identical. Well, this has now invaded every single industry and maybe none as much as technology. Nothing compelling. Nothing unique. Nothing that excites the intellect.
What if you chose to offer people with utility that paralleled your businesses value proposition rather than being part of the noise and blending in? My advice to exhibiters: When faced with a sea of sameness, think about what you can do to be different. Car giveaways don’t drive qualified leads any more so than iPad giveaways.
- How can you use the soft-sell to outsell?
- How can you raise brand awareness without contributing to the mound of inserts and flyers that find their way into the garbage?
One of the most engaging trade shows I’ve ever attended was NATPE (The National Association of Television and Production Executives). The thing that was most interesting was that every booth was either a mega-production company or independent operation each with different massages, awesome content and unique experiences. It was as much fun for attendees as it was for exhibitors and was the kind of place you left wishing you had more time to see more things.
The big lessons learned were:
- People engage when they’re intrigued and intrigue isn’t about being a different shade of gray but rather having a different approach all together.
- If it’s been done, don’t do it.
- If it’s being said by everyone else, say it differently.
- If you don’t know how to stand out, find someone who can help you. Creative people do it best.
For those who attended IRCE2012 for the speakers and work sessions, you lucked out. Most of them were great. Awesome presentations by senior leaders from major brands. The real value of the show was the insights shared around social strategies, management of data and marketing in a multi-channel environment. I was most impressed by the following list of folks and their presentations:
- William Lynch, CEO, Barnes and Noble who spoke about: How the web has become the engine that drives retailing
- Joel Anderson, President & CEO, Walmart.com who spoke about: Creating innovation through the next generation of retail
- John Jackson, CEO of Decision Step & Buy.com who spoke about Social shoppers and how e-tailers spin knowledge into gold
- Tom Funk, Senior E-commerce Manager of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters who spoke about: The many flavors of a social strategy
- Scott Ballantyne, Chief Marketing Officer of Fab.com who spoke about how they gained 1 million members through social marketing
- Alexis Maybank, Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Gilt Groupe who presented Innovative ways of connecting with today’s consumer
- Sam Yagan, CEO of OKCupid who presented an awesome look at the data they’ve captured and what it’s taught them
- Lauren Freedman, President from the E-Tailing Group who provided a look at what consumers are saying they want from the shopping experience.
Thanks to all those above for making it a great show. Overall, I think the organizers did a great job of drawing in top talent and filling the conference halls and presentation rooms. It was interesting and valuable and the presentations were pointed, direct, and DIFFERENTIATED.