Showcase: Consumer Shows - Advice

Three industry experts on the value of consumer events.

THE ORGANISER - FINLAY MCALLAN, MANAGING DIRECTOR, MCIE

"On any kind of show that has a retail element to it, the exhibitors' return on investment is largely down to them. There are companies that make an effort, and there are those who spend their time on the stand with their arms folded, talking about how things used to be. They are the people who don't have a good show.

With the International Motorcycle & Scooter Show last year we took a huge gamble, because we moved not only the dates but the halls we were using. We put entertainment in every hall, gave the show a pulse. We were very nervous but the feedback has been positive, and we had 149,000 visitors over ten days, an increase of 3% on the previous year.

With these annual shows, we are always looking for something different and it can be something as simple as changing the show layout. I have always changed the floorplan year on year; it stops an exhibitor becoming territorial and presents a different show to everybody. But if you still have it generally laid out the same way, people can get tired of that as well.

The internet is powerful, but a show will always have that personal element. I can buy something from the internet and I can buy it cheaper, but if I can speak to people, check the product and see how it works, that is one thing the shows will always have over the internet. You can look at a car online, but nothing beats sitting in it."

THE STAND DESIGNER - CARL CRISCIONE, SALES AND MARKETING MANAGER, EQUINOX DESIGN

"I think the major thing that is happening (with face-to-face marketing) is that the boundaries are really blurring. With everyone so time-poor at the moment, the issue is that the brands have got to do more than just establish themselves at a show. That is why the experiential market is coming on great guns - it's about being in the shopping mall or the supermarket that your specific target market is going to.

The increasing trend in what we do, which is primarily design and build of exhibition stands, is facing new challenges, not just in the exhibition halls. When you are put in an exhibition environment, you must have something that is quick to install and works with the brand.

Sometimes you will get away with generic structures when you go to these exhibitions. Some people will use a stand and you could quite easily replace its logo with another and it could be someone else.

The way it is going now, moving into non-exhibition hall environments, is that brands need to take ownership of a design, rather than just having a generic stand to sell from.

There is still a thriving consumer exhibition market, but this is probably linked to the niche side of things. You go to the National Boat Caravan & Outdoor Show and it's a great show - you have a lot of people who go there for a day out. Shows like that have a good, strong focus."

THE VENUE DIRECTOR - JEREMY REES, EXHIBITION SALES DIRECTOR, EC&O VENUES

"We have 36 new shows this year. In an average year, we would have between 25 and 40, with a broad mix between trade and consumer, and this year half of the new events are going to be consumer, across a large number of different sectors. The vast majority are from small-to-medium-sized organisers who have lots of experience delivering shows and tend to specialise in one sector.

There are quite a lot of innovative launches in niche sectors that are addressing people's needs, such as Move It, a dance show, or bigger events such as A Place In The Sun Live, where they are following broader consumer trends.

Entertainment at a show is important, but it needs to be relevant. There needs to be a reason for people to leave their office or home to go to an event.

Organisers I speak to are investing more in the content of the show, and that doesn't mean it has to be more fun; they are making sure exhibitors are as relevant as possible. A good example is Spirit of Christmas at Olympia, where Clarion pre-selects exhibitors and makes sure they offer high value to visitors.

There are so many terms: experiential marketing, field marketing, face-to-face marketing. The truth is that for any brand that wants to make face-to-face contact with its consumers, an exhibition is still a sensible and proven platform from which to do that."


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