Group Delphi CEO Justin Hersh confirms what we all thought –change is in the air in the exhibition industry. How quickly these changes will be implemented remains to be seen.
Several trends predicted by the long-time industry veteran focus on marketing to an evolved audience while other client-based trends concentrate on the show floor experience from an attendee’s perspective.
1. Watch out – the CMO is coming.
In the “2014 Marketing Outlook” study by B2B Magazine, events are cited as the second largest area of growth in media spending just behind digital. For that reason, chief marketing officers, or CMOs, will look to integrate the digital and physical world together.
“Events are a more valuable channel where brands can connect more intimately with consumers in a face-to-face setting,” said Hersh. “They bring intellectual capital and engagement to the tradeshow experience.”
Within a company, face-to-face and experiential marketing are among the first line items bestowed with a sizable marketing budget. Even so, stakeholders outside of the events and exhibition space remain unfamiliar with the medium.
Given the increasing measurability in marketing, the primary question of value in the event and exhibit space force CMOs to consider the vast potential for their companies from pop ups to retail to custom branded trade events.
While no discussion about content marketing in the exhibition industry is complete without mention of social media, events connect the digital with the social world to expand and deepen the conversation between exhibitor and attendee, according to Hersh.
With the advent of social online, there is a natural evolution into the offline space. In other words, the face-to-face space is seeing renewed interest as a part of the “social marketing” conversation. Why work only in social when integrating real human interaction can drive brand affinity and equity?
Social media can serve as a tool to provide exhibitors and attendees with appropriate contacts before, during and after an event. Companies considering exhibiting can also use social media to gauge whether to attend a certain tradeshow or to produce their own pop-up event instead.
2. Time is getting shorter.
Realizing that the clock is ticking, Group Delphi makes it its goal to work alongside its clients. In a concept called “co-creation,” the diversified enterprise offering tradeshow solutions and services collaborates closely with clients to produce a better product in a more streamlined timeframe. By demystifying the exhibit design process, Group Delphi and exhibitors are able to work in a parallel path toward a unified solution.
More specifically, exhibit designers must become greater experts in their client’s market – from getting to know the exhibitor’s customers and competitors to how they sell – to bring more intellectual capital into the booth design.
According to Hersh creating a physical prototype of an exhibit component at times can help move the design process along faster by working through the interactive experience with the customer.
“As an industry we spend so much time on the computer that it is easy to forget the tactile nature of what we do,” said Hersh.
3. Stop saying custom rental.
Replace the term “custom rental” with a resulting “solution,” advised Hersh.
Each client wants an effective build suited to their specific needs. The work of an exhibit designer is to match that need with a proper solution customized to meet the client’s objectives rather than simply recommending a custom or rental exhibit based on budget.
By moving away from the financial aspect of exhibiting and focusing more on the desired end result, exhibit firms should be able to take a client’s objective, map it to the right type of experience, and then consider resources available to build that experience.
“The design team is blurring the line between rental and custom,” Hersh remarked.
Using existing inventory, whether custom or rental, to build the proper infrastructure is only the beginning. Selecting the correct skin to provide a custom experience is what truly results in a solution specifically tailored to that client’s needs.
4. Be effective.
With an ever-increasing competition for marketing dollars, smart marketers are looking for ways to be as effective as possible. Group Delphi’s experience in the museum space has exposed it to research around a wide range of learning styles and how to effectively engage with an audience.
In a project for VMware, Group Delphi created a highly interactive gaming experience combining projection and iPads along with simple white boards at each demo station that created a place for engineers and customers to brainstorm around a product in real-time.
5. Virtual getting real world traction.
While technology is not the only form of engagement seen at tradeshows, its growing presence affirms an overall transition from being a novelty in an exhibit booth to becoming a normal experience across all market categories.
A convergence between the physical and virtual world is occurring both on the show floor and behind the scenes. Industry firms provide clients with virtual mock-ups of their booth design while exhibitors treat attendees to virtual experiences.
An example of this is projection mapping, which was once available only to big-budget projects and extremely dark environments, but now is within the reach of the more typical tradeshow experience. For instance, Group Delphi incorporated projection mapping into a project for a medical client.