May 29, 2024 9:42 PM
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EMS 2024 Continues to Evolve

by Ray Smith, Exhibit City News

The line formed a dozen deep at Two Dudes Photo booth, encapsulating the mission of Experiential Marketing Summit 2024 held April 24-26 at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.

You take away a memorable experience from the summit, a headshot portrait suitable for sharing on social media or filing in your photo directory. If you’ve got the looks, attach it to your resume.

Myriad event marketing ploys were on display at EMS “Hall of Ideas” with a goal of engaging traffic, capturing leads and spreading the brand. The three-day summit is designed to inform and connect the experiential marketing sector on hot topics and best practices in the event industry.

Brumark showcased its flooring product on a pickleball court open for anyone to play. Stop by Hamilton’s exhibit and decorate your ceramic coaster. Grab a shot of espresso at Access TCA.

“EMS is one of the few opportunities we get to show our own creative chops,” says Debbie Parrott, president of Highmark TechSystems in Fort Wayne, Ind. “So, we have fun developing the theme for our Highmark Hub exhibit at EMS.”

Highmark’s booth, the largest at EMS, was themed “Event Structures that Rock.” Powder-coated in black, the two-story structure oozed its vintage rock theme with graphics, music, videos, T-shirts and tattoo sleeve giveaways.

When the exhibit is disassembled and transported back to Highmark’s headquarters, it will be inspected for components and refurbished as needed, then returned to the rental inventory, where it can be reconfigured, powder-coated and reclad for its next use.

“It’s really the ultimate in terms of sustainability in that regard,” Parrott says.

Brumark’s flooring on the pickleball court open.

MEASURING RESULTS

It’s a slippery slope measuring return on investment for tradeshow exhibitors. The cost to attend EMS 2024 ran from $2,150 to $3,650, plus tens of thousands of dollars spent on designing, building, setting up and tearing down exhibit booths. Then there’s the travel expenses.

Until a chief financial officer sees at least a blip in the bottom line, sales and marketing reps can only present statistics on the number of people visiting their booth, time spent introducing company products, and contact information gained from scanning badge codes.

“Experiential marketing is not so much ROI, but the experience from an activation,” says Brad Hiranaga, chief brand officer of Cotopaxi. “Are we getting impressions? Are we building the brand?”

ROI traditionally measures direct revenue from an investment. Perhaps a more concise yardstick for exhibitors is ROO, or return on objectives, explains Alex Temple, commercial manager at Explori booth. Those are sales, marketing and strategic objectives.

“Once you can set measure targets and qualify what you get out of it, then you can defend why we need more budget. If we spend more, maybe we’ll have more success,” Temple says.

Highmark has invested in exhibiting at EMS since 2017 “because we consistently see measurable ROI in terms of dollars and brand awareness,” says Parrott. “The project work we gain from the contacts we make at EMS more than pay for our expenses.”

Highmark’s booth at EMS 2024.

ART OF BRANDING

The Experiential Marketing Summit has evolved into the industry’s premier show for brand marketers, tradeshow organizers, meeting and event planners, and booth display designers.

Josh Halpern, director of business development for Hamilton, says every exhibitor has their own agenda. Some seek brand recognition; others measure show attendance; everyone’s interested in the latest trends and marketing strategies.

“For us, it’s forming new partnerships and new business we can generate,” Halpern says. “In time, we’ll definitely keep track of who we met and made relationships with and developed into new partnerships.”

At Brumark, account executive Alec Pierson demonstrates the raised, magnetic Ares-X flooring system, which is quickly installed and bears a 4,800-pound load capacity. “You can drive a forklift on it,” he declares.

It’s composed of 2-foot-by-2-foot wood floor tiles with a magnet locking system. The modular configuration allows for creative freedom in exhibit design, and the easy installation saves labor costs.

The pickleball court presented Brumark with a prime opportunity to highlight its flexible vinyl flooring product. Brumark stocks 24 colors of carpet and can produce any color to satisfy a client’s taste. “We aren’t just a flooring provider. We’re a manufacturer,” Pierson emphasizes.

EMS offered breakout sessions with branding experts, provocative keynote speakers, peer-to-peer huddles, and other opportunities to explore matters of interest in experiential marketing.

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