SHOWCASE: 3 at Mobile Life

Putting phones in people's hands was central to 3's strategy at the UK's first show for mobile users. Philip Chadwick reports.

With four out of five people owning a mobile phone, it's surprising that until last month there hadn't been a consumer show aimed at mobile users. All that changed when Mobile Life took over Earls Court for three days in June.

Organiser Brand Events was approached by mobile phone retailer Carphone Warehouse to stage the show at a time when everyone's eyes are on the latest technological advances - from picture messaging to video handsets.

It's the latter area in which mobile operator 3 specialises and the four-month-old brand made its presence felt at the show with a brace of feature areas.

"We felt we had to be here. We needed to show the consumer why we are different and give them the chance to try the product," says 3 head of external relations Edward Brewster.

One of 3's feature areas, See 3, was a white open-plan stand with handsets on show for visitors to play with while sitting on 1920s-style curved chairs.

No hard sell

"Visitors can just come in and browse," says Tim Bourne, joint managing director at agency Exposure, which worked with Project One and Jump to create the features. "There's no hard sell. People can have a look, have the technology explained to them and then have a go."

The second area, Feel 3, featured a white dome in which product demonstrations showed off the services on offer - from football highlights to music videos.

It aimed to show how the brand can be part of people's lifestyles. Bourne says the design of both features was crucial.

"When you look at exhibitions you sometimes see old-fashioned styling," he argues. "There are none of the values you see in modern exterior architecture. What we've tried to do here is incorporate a look that is more reflective of the way in which people live their lives today."

According to 3's Brewster, having two locations was critical. "We had to have these two features as they demonstrated communication via video calling, which is important as the technology is so new," he says.

Being able to demonstrate the technology lies at the heart of the event's philosophy. Brand Events business development manager Justin Clarke says: "Mobile Life is about showing people how the technology can benefit them, which is why we wanted to create a lifestyle show. It's geared towards 18-35 year-olds with a slightly male bias, as they are the major buyers of mobile phones."

Alongside the network operators and handset manufacturers sat brands and activities that reflected the lifestyle of the target audience. Lads magazine FHM set up a pub feature, Panasonic hosted a football penalty shoot-out competition against professional goalkeepers, and Honda gave visitors the chance to experience a Formula One pit-stop.

Industry heavyweights including Vodafone, Orange, T-Mobile and O2 were also present, but 3 says it isn't scared of its rivals. "Competition is a healthy thing," says Brewster. "It's important to differentiate ourselves in the market. To do that you have to put yourself alongside the competition, otherwise the brand remains a mystery."

And with such a big presence at Mobile Life, 3 reckons consumers are no longer in the dark about the brand. The company believes face-to-face demonstrations are crucial for customers to help them understand its offer, and attending Mobile Life was central to that strategy.

Playing with the product

"Our exhibition presence very much reflects the sales and marketing approach. It's about people having fun and playing with the product," adds Brewster.

That view encapsulates the point of the whole event: giving visitors the chance to have a go. With Carphone Warehouse selling about 40 million mobiles a year, events such as Mobile Life should be able to help keep consumers up to date as the industry continues to take giant technological strides forward.


3 at Mobile Life

Venue: Earls Court Date: 13-15 June

Show organiser: Brand Events

Visitor figures: 18,093 (unaudited)

Size of See 3 feature: 165 sq m

Size of Feel 3 feature: 160 sq m

Design: Exposure/Jump

Build: Project One

Lighting: HFM

Video: XL Video

Sound: Orbital

Staff: LoewyBe

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