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No booth? No problem. How one company used partnerships, guerrilla tactics to get the word out

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Making a splash at a trade show doesn't necessarily require a booth of one's own. That's what Brickstream, a provider of intelligence technology, learned when it rolled out a late-season rebranding initiative leading up to the National Retail Federation's Annual Convention & Expo earlier this year. The company wanted to reintroduce its technology to buyers representing supermarkets, big box stores, quick-service restaurants and specialty retail outlets. These customers use Brickstream in-store devices and cloud-based analytical capabilities to learn more about their foot traffic and to better manage queues. The 12-year-old company had enjoyed global success, said Christina Ellwood, VP-marketing, but as cloud analytics grew in popularity and in-store applications became more complex, it needed to elevate the visibility not only of the company name but also of its product line. “It was time to rebrand and raise awareness,” Ellwood said.   The 2013 National Retail Federation's Annual Convention & Expo offered an opportunity to carry a branding message to that market. In January more than 500 exhibitors were expected to crowd the floor of the Jacob K. Javitz Convention Center in New York, vying for the attention of 27,600 attendees. But as of November, Brickstream had not reserved a booth for the sold-out event. The company enlisted Atlanta-based Arketi Group to help it prepare for the show—whether or not it would be able to have a booth presence. To begin, the two companies renamed Brickstream's in-store devices, once known only by model numbers, as SeeMore 2D and SeeMore 3D.   The names spawned the creation of a corporate character. Seymour, a personification of the company's technology, has a head that is a brick-shaped video-capture device with two lenses positioned as eyes. Brickstream created a blog that Seymour authors at hate2wait.com and decided to introduce the character at retail convention, where he would invite attendees to squeeze into a photograph next to his 5-foot-wide head. Images taken with the mascot would become part of a social media contest that benefited victims of Hurricane Sandy.   But the company needed more than an eye-catching mascot. Brickstream reached out to partners that were exhibiting at the event, requesting to share their space. The company chose to sponsor the map within the event mobile app as well as the opening reception. It bought ad space on a 30-foot-long floor tile at the entrance to the convention center, and it developed a mobile-booth strategy.   “We had to have a strategy that would work if we did not share space,” Ellwood said.   In the end, the company managed to share real estate with multiple partners who had reserved space on the show floor. Brickstream paid partners for the favor, building a footprint that included a luxurious 20-by-15-foot stake in one booth. The colocations worked so well that the company will continue the arrangement at events around the globe.   Brickstream also enlisted sales representatives to dress in matching attire and walk the aisles with tablet devices loaded with presentations and demos. The clothing ensemble featured the Seymour character on the shirt and included a pair of orange checked pants so bright that Brickstream CEO Steve Jeffery had to don a pair as an example of good sportsmanship.   The pants proved to be an icebreaker that the company carried over to two trade shows in Asia. Photos of the Seymour mascot were posted to Facebook and Twitter, raising visibility.   The company developed almost 30 new leads and engaged with 200 new prospects at the event.   “If the partners hadn't come through [with booth space], we would have still made an impact,” said Rory Carlton, principal at Arketi Group. He did not apologize for a color palette that paired orange and lime green, or for suggesting the pants. “We didn't know what kind of presence we were going to have, but we were going to be visible.”
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