Food for Thought from NRA 2013

A few colleagues and I recently returned from NRA Show 2013, a leading trade show produced by the National Restaurant Association for foodservice professionals. With five clients at the show, we were busy connecting with their teams and customers, but we also carved out time to scope out their competition while walking the floor.

Aside from keeping an eye on booths relevant to our clients, it was also interesting and helpful to see how other companies were utilizing their floor space. I walked away with a couple of key observations.

1) Open or closed?
It seems like a lot more marketers are closing off their booths so that prospects need to walk “inside” to truly engage with the brand. This makes sense for those trying to fend off hungry passersby more interested in food samples than the actual products (guilty!), but I think it’s important to also consider your “booth buzz” before making that decision. Take PepsiCo and Coca-Cola for example. PepsiCo featured a more closed-in booth design, inviting customers to walk through different areas to interact with the sales team. Coca-Cola featured a free-for-all drink station with plenty of standing room. After observing both booths, I couldn’t help but think that if I were a restaurant operator trying to choose between Coke or Pepsi products, the “buzz” at the Coca-Cola booth seemed to imply that more people preferred Coke. However, I do realize that PepsiCo had to segment their booth to support the many different product categories they offered, so perhaps that was the right decision for them.

The takeaway? When designing your next booth, carefully think about your goals. If you’re pre-scheduling meetings or hosting presentations or demos, consider utilizing exterior walls to create a more private atmosphere. If you’re trying to build a more energetic environment to draw in foot traffic, make sure your booth doesn’t feel invite-only.

2) Boring? No way.
In B2B, we may not be dealing with the sexiest new cars and fashion, but that doesn’t mean that our marketing shouldn’t be just as creative. Whoever thought all potatoes were the same before NRA would be proved wrong if they walked by the Idaho Potato booth. I got the biggest kick out of how they took a seemingly mundane product (I mean, it’s just a potato, right?) and created probably the most compelling booth at the show. Visitors were invited to sit in front of a green screen, where their faces were turned into singing, dancing potato enthusiasts. Each participant walked away with a DVD they could share with their colleagues and on social media. The charismatic potatoes even have their own Facebook page: www.facebook.com/StuntTater.

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I’m not saying something this “out there” is right for every brand, but all of us can think about ways to make our booths more compelling. What about Jeopardy-style trivia games with prizes for winners? Or contests to see who can learn how to use your product the fastest? When people have an opportunity to win, they’re more inclined to engage.

Above all, when planning for a trade show, it’s important to remember that you are one of hundreds that prospects will see. How will you stand out? Budgets may not always permit you to mix things up, but when you do have an opportunity to re-work your booth structure or integrate a theme, the payoff will be worth the work.

 

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