Reimagining the booth experience

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The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is one of the largest trade shows in the United States. As a result, the show floor is a hectic place. Brand messages abound, and it is difficult for individual presenters to cut through all the clutter. Motorola, a broadband, wireless and communications company, attended CES this year hoping to reach network operators, service providers and financial analysts. But the marketer knew before it arrived that targeting its audience in a sea of nearly 150,000 attendees would be difficult. In order to meet the goals set for their booth, it would need to make a strategy change. “The sea of products and number of decision-makers” had an impact on the change in booth design, said Suzanne Martin, senior director of global marketing strategy and operations at Motorola. “The lack of a core strategic focus for these events was probably the instigator. About a year ago, we started talking about: "How do we take expensive events and make them work harder and better for us?' “ The first organizational decision the company made was to take the event planning out of the hands of the business unit and give it to the marketing team. “To the outsider, the [previous] booths may have seemed exciting. We had successful experiences and events, but we wanted to take it to the next level. We wanted to be better branded and iconic,” Martin said. So the marketing team posed some questions to help them reach their goals: “How do we organize? How do we plan better? How do we train staff so they're on-message? How do we make it more cost-effective? We broke it apart and put it back together,” she said. When the marketing team made it to CES, the booth was new and improved. Rather then offering a series of product demos—where booth staff demonstrate how products work to an audience—Motorola took the space and created brand experiences focusing on its core messages. One presentation, which incorporated music, was designed to show network operators that Motorola had a useful portfolio of products. “We had a jukebox and a huge plasma wall,” Martin said. “Attendees could pick up our product and use the product itself. We had a couple of things we wanted to promote: user interface, fast scrolling and great sound quality. So we built the experience around those things. Attendees could put on our headphones, pick their tunes, put their names on their playlist and it would go up on the wall. You could hear your song being played through the entire booth, then walk away with the unique selling proposition.” In addition to the experiential side of the booth, the company ensured that the staff—who would no longer be physically demonstrating products—were well-trained. “In the past, we would have a kickoff meeting, a passive approach,” Martin said. “But [this year], we did immersive training in advance for each group in each section. Onsite, we gave them hands-on training.” The training, which took place in two parts, focused first on each staff member's expected area of expertise at the booth, the message and technical aspects of what they would be expected to communicate. Second, the staff was trained on the overarching message that Motorola wanted to communicate as well as the purpose and goals of the booth's immersive experience. “The first time, it was tough,” Martin said. “We were trying to explain the difference between an [event] and an experience. An experience is different because it's individual. [Attendees would need to] manage their own experience. We told the staff: "You need to facilitate it, but they're doing it as opposed to you showing them.' They had to pull people in and say: "Hey, do you want to make a movie?' Grab them with something simple and make sure they're letting the attendee do it. It's different then the traditional "Let me tell you about my product.' “ The staff training was so successful that another exhibitor at CES approached the Motorola team to learn how they had gone about training their staff, Martin said. That interest from other vendors, she said, was a good measure of the new booth's effectiveness. Ultimately, Martin and the Motorola marketing team counted the new booth a resounding success. With each small product demonstration its own packaged experience, the booth is now easily transported to other shows. “Doing it in a way that we can roll out at other events made it easier, cheaper and more consistent,” Martin said. “Trade shows are extremely expensive. I felt there was a lot of low-hanging fruit [in our old booth]. I committed to a 30% cost reduction and, frankly, we got a better experience and higher impact just on managing the money better and knowing where to spend it. We were named one of the top 25 booths at CES.”
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