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Global Marketing and Exhibitions: Why your global approach should be different than domestic


In this three-part series, we are going to explore why your global marketing approach should differ from your domestic approach and how that translates into successful exhibiting around the world.

There are many small to medium companies out there that reach out to me seeking help for their first global tradeshow. As globalization continues, this trend will continue. It’s important to realize whether you’re just testing a market or attacking it head-on, and that the messaging needs to be relevant to that audience. Don’t assume that what works in the U.S. is going to work elsewhere.

In this first article, we will begin by reviewing marketing on the show floor. Are you a company that uses on-site sponsorships, door drops or giveaways to drive booth traffic? Perhaps you rely only on graphic messaging and refreshments. For all of these approaches, tailoring these items to your audience is really important.

When exhibiting in Europe, it is common to have some sort of refreshment area. That could be anything from a small area with coffee and water to massive kitchens. Most exhibitors fall somewhere in the middle with a small counter dedicated to a refrigerator, coffee maker and a few snacks. This is frequently seen as more valuable than spending money on giveaways, such as pens. However, have you carefully thought about what you may give out for snacks or drinks?

For example, throughout Europe, many people drink sparkling water instead of still water. Beer and wine, depending on the region, are also common to have on hand. However, if you are at a show in Germany, you’ll want to serve a regional beer. In Cologne, Kölsh is the main brew of choice. If you serve Alt bier from Düsseldorf, you could receive a negative reaction. The rivalry between the two regions is great and something that should be taken into consideration when in the area.


Messaging is more complicated than many realize on the international level.

Even with a global program, U.S.-based exhibitors get accustomed to most attendees understanding English graphics. However, in Asia it is often more appropriate to have messaging translated into the local language. A country like China has many dialects. Most Americans are familiar with the Mandarin dialect, which is considered the official language of The People’s Republic of China, but many may make the mistake to assume that Mandarin is acceptable throughout the country. If you are at a show in Shanghai, it might be more acceptable to translate into the Wu dialect, and if you are in Guangzhou, then the Yue dialect. It’s important to research the show to see what is most common.

If you are using photos in your graphic messaging, make sure images are not offensive and that they send the message you intend to send. For example, the U.S. is relatively prudish compared to European cultures. If Europeans came to the U.S. exhibiting undergarments on display with provocative graphics, U.S. attendees may perceive that as crossing the line.

Using giveaways to draw traffic? Simple giveaways, like pens or key chains, are usually a safe bet. However, I recently saw an ice scraper glove as a giveaway. This is very region-specific as many areas don’t have ice or snow to worry about. Could you imagine a cold climate company bringing that to a show in Mumbai where it’s hot all year round? A handheld fan is probably more appropriate there!

This may all sound like common sense, but it is surprising how many companies commit these types of blunders. From large to small companies across the globe, it happens. Sometimes they can turn into funny stories, but other times not paying attention to the small details can hurt your sales and cost your company a lot of money to repair damage done.

Stay tuned for part two of the series where we discuss pre-show marketing, and in part three, we’ll tackle post-show.

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