When I first started working for a trade show organiser back in the far-flung 1980’s, I learned about brand building at trade shows.
Many exhibitors stated that one of their key reasons for exhibiting was, to “create awareness; to build and raise our profile.”
The word “brand” wasn’t really mentioned much back then but today’s version of this answer is much more likely to include the word “brand” within it as in “we are exhibiting to raise the profile of our brand.”
Me, at Olympia in 1985. Lots of stands were promoting their brand names back in the day. By the way, colour photography had been invented too...
My introduction to building brands at trade shows
Back in the far distant 1980’s, people didn’t talk about brands too much but they were very aware of the benefits that could be gained from having their company or product name displayed as strongly and as often as possible around the exhibition halls and adjacent space.
Today, just as way back then, trade shows offer a great opportunity for creating brand impact and awareness with the people and businesses that your company would most like to be doing business with.
In-hall branding opportunities
The direct way of achieving your business goals via trade shows comes from talking to prospective customers on your stand* -as many conversations as possible, at every show.
Supporting you in this objective and in the wider goal of creating awareness and trust in your product, service or brand, is event-related branding.
Brand building or the gaining of brand exposure in the trade show environment starts with the basics and that means your stand. Clear, bold graphics displaying your company or product name can help position your business strongly in the minds of visitors. Achieve this objective no matter how small or large your stand.
Stand branding basics
Your stand by its construction may also offer opportunities to display your company or brand name or your USP. Does your stand have raised sections that make it taller than some of the other stands in the show? If it does, are there opportunities to apply your name here.
Digital screens offer another opportunity, as does branded clothing for stand staff, the giveaways that you present to visitors etc.
Venue branding opportunities
Moving beyond your stand, most show organisers now offer opportunities for further brand exposure in and around the event space. These items will come at a cost, so you need to consider how an opportunity will support your objectives within the marketplace the show serves. Your budget will, of course, play a part in this too.
Some events will be stronger than others
In your event calendar, there will be some events that attract more of your key prospects than others. These are the events where spending on branding away from your stand, may well offer a competitive advantage. Events like these, are where more of your event budget should go anyway.
With all things in business; stick to the objectives and stick to your budget!
Measure the effect that improved or higher levels of branding have achieved by monitoring enquiries taken on your stand, spikes in hits to your website, orders taken within a fixed timeframe after the show plus any anecdotal comments that you and your stand team hear.
Repeat what works and where the returns justify it, do more of the same. Ultimately brand building is about consistently living-up to the promise that you make as a business. In the eyes of your clients, it is this quality that makes your brand desirable or not.
At a trade show, you endeavour to communicate your values visually in order to attract people that want, need or identify with what your business offers and the way that you choose to do business.B
And that hasn’t changed from how things were done back in the ’80’s.
*Back then we didn’t have websites or useful social media tools like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook etc. All tools which can help build engagement with prospective show visitors in advance of a show taking place and once it’s over too.