<i>In my view</i> Time for shows to move on from a lazy love of leather

Alright, I confess, I ride a motorbike. I have done for eons, and one of my secret joys used to be a trip to the Bike Show.

Alright, I confess, I ride a motorbike. I have done for eons, and one of my secret joys used to be a trip to the Bike Show. But to tell the truth, I stopped going about five years ago. Why? Because while I got a kick out of looking at the latest combinations of metal, rubber and plastic (don’t worry, it is the Bike Show I’m talking about), I didn’t feel the show was offering me anything new. Admittedly, I was getting older and perhaps my interests were becoming more specific, but there just wasn’t a strong enough hook to make me want to go back. Worst of all there were ‘the shows’. Grown (or should I say groan) men and women, cavorting about in dry ice and lycra, trying to make out that we were the future of commuting. In the last issue of this magazine, the front cover carried a picture taken on the Harley Davidson stand at the 2001 show, and guess what – dancers in black leather doing everything in their power to undermine the integrity of the Harley Davidson brand. If I ever needed a reason why I don’t go to the Bike Show any more, this was it. Why can’t clients and agencies stop being so lazy? Harley is one of the richest brand personalities on the planet and it deserves a bit more respect, as do the people who go to the Bike Show. Do I sense a touch of formulaic thinking creeping in among clients and agencies? ‘Ah, they’re all just greasers at heart, give ’em a tits ’n’ arse show and they’ll be queueing up’. Well no actually, we’ll stay away. The onus is on organisers and exhibitors to really think about their audiences – actual and prospective – and then develop a range of brand experiences that will engage and entertain different people. They must also look at innovative ways of communicating their brilliant product to a cleverly targeted visitor profile. Let’s face it, while there are some engaging campaigns for shows, the vast majority aren’t exactly inspired. Do all this and who knows, exhibitors might begin to add value to their brands through live communications, rather than take space because they feel they should. It’s not that difficult to make it work. So there, my (black leather) gauntlet is laid down. Colin Hatfield is director and co-founder of design agency In Real Life and a regular Event columnist

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