Feature—Why Branding is Crucial to Your Exhibit Program
A business brand is far more than just a name or a logo. Beyond image (although that's a part of it, too), your company's brand is a feeling, an attitude — and perhaps, to some of your customers, even a way of life. The most successful brands are immediately identifiable, instantly powerful and provide a bridge between a company and its customers.
Branding: A Holistic Approach
Brands are conveyed via logos, signage, brochures, product packaging, websites, and other online content. Public relations, advertising and other media also help to flesh out a brand identity. The brick and mortar structure that houses a business should reflect its mission and ethos, and when you take your business on the road, your brand elements should also be reflected in your trade show exhibit design.
Unfortunately — and inexplicably — all too many companies that attend trade shows lose their brand identity in the booth. It's not uncommon for trade show booths and exhibits to be almost entirely devoid of personality to the point where it's difficult to tell what the business does.
This disconnect comes from a common mistake: companies treat events such as trade shows as an independent communications channel instead of as a powerful ongoing component of their branding strategy.
A Branding Opportunity
At their very best, trade show exhibit environments are integrated seamlessly and organically into a brand's overall message. The result is then a pervasive communication strategy that keeps on working when you take things out on the road. The relative cost-effectiveness and high visibility of trade shows make them an ideal vehicle through which to promote a brand.
Key players from your marketing and public relations arenas as well as your exhibit partners should collaborate for strategy meetings to make sure everyone is familiar with the brand strategy. The exhibit environment will ideally provide the framework for creating the optimal branding effect.
Bring Your Brand to Life
The importance of visually and kinesthetically bringing out the DNA of a brand within a trade show exhibit cannot be overstated. Anyone walking by your booth should immediately be able to pick up on the ethos, vibe and intent of your brand and business. Your booth should communicate from the aisle; it should trigger familiarity as well as draw in newcomers to learn more.
A business brand should be promoted consistently across all communication channels and vehicles. The design and decor of the booth can effectively maintain brand consistency at every trade show your business attends, creating an environment that captures who the company is and what its business is all about.
Embodying Brand Elements
When designing a trade show booth environment, always lead with the key brand elements. Is your business known for being innovative? Reliable? Inspiring? Eco-friendly? These elements should be woven into color choices, material choices, shape, style and configuration of the booth components. Design elements can borrow from and mirror elements from the company logo, website, products, product packaging, and anything else easily identifiable about the brand. You can go very subtle or very overt, depending upon the specific brand message. What are the brand attributes? They should be front and center in the exhibit design and details.
For example, a business that puts “green” practices front and center would want to create a booth using eco-friendly materials and lighting; they might install kiosks for sharing company information electronically instead of printed on paper.
McAfee Gets Elemental
At RSA 2012, MC2 provided McAfee, an Intel Company, with a visitor activity in support of the booth elements created by world-famous LEGO artist, Adam Tucker, who built a Security Connected environment entirely of LEGOs. This environment drew scores of attendees to the McAfee booth, immersing them in the McAfee brand in a fun, innovative and memorable way.
John Deere Steals the Show
MC2's client John Deere Construction & Forestry generated a lot of buzz for their brand with a mammoth 35,000 square foot exhibit at ConExpo/ConAg. The booth allowed a staggering 31 pieces of their construction equipment to be put on display. John Deere also unveiled “The Chatterbox,” a mobile recorder that MC2 designed to look like a piece of John Deere equipment for recording feedback from attendees. Smooth, strong but accessible lines created an exhibit environment that was in perfect harmony with the John Deere brand.
Showcasing Your Business Goals
Your goals might vary from show to show, but your permanent exhibit environment can be the framework for any and all of them even as they change and evolve. Whether you're launching a new product line, holding a specific promotion, or just looking to increase sales, an exhibit environment can be created in a modular manner so that elements can be fine-tuned to fit the objective of each show.
Of course, graphics and signage can be changed from show to show as needed to effectively showcase a particular promotion; standardized colors and images. Clear text in the company voice should be used to continue to highlight and reflect the brand. Messages should always be focused and concise. If there are brand and display elements that are likely to always be a factor at the trade shows you attend, these should be built permanently into the exhibit.
If You Build It…
There's no doubt that exhibit design, architecture and details can all combine in an extremely impactful way to tell a brand’s story without saying a word. A trade show exhibit that can clearly and powerfully communicate the value of your company's products and services can draw in new prospects and help to turn them into customers.
For four important tips about exhibit branding, we invite your to download our article “Maintaining Brand Consistency at Trade Shows” by MC2 Chief Marketing Officer, Rob Murphy.