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Best in Show
To introduce a revolutionary new product, IDEXX Laboratories Inc. pairs an in-booth launch with a live-stream broadcast of the event, engaging 1,000 people in the exhibit and 4,300 viewers online. By Linda Armstrong
It's impossible to be in two places at once – unless maybe you're Criss Angel, and even then the feat is suspect. But that's exactly what the folks at IDEXX Laboratories Inc. did to launch a revolutionary kidney-function test for cats and dogs known as SDMA.
Prior to the birth of SDMA, creatinine testing (which had been the go-to tool to identify kidney disease) typically couldn't pinpoint the problem until kidney function had been reduced by 75 percent. But SDMA can detect kidney-function decline an average of 17 months earlier than other tests. Thus, vets can prescribe treatment much sooner and likely slow the disease's progress and improve both the length and quality of a pet's life.
Truly, then, SDMA was one of the biggest veterinary innovations of the last 30 years. So instead of merely announcing the product at a trade show, in the press, or to existing customers, IDEXX marketing reps wanted to hit up all three targets at the same time. Ground zero for this multipronged task, however, would be the 2015 North American Veterinary Community Conference (NAVC), hosted at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center and the Orlando World Center Marriott in Orlando, FL. Even though SDMA was set to launch July 13, 2015, six months after NAVC, reps felt they couldn't miss an opportunity to prime customers, prospects, and press with news of the innovation coming down the pipe.
"NAVC is the top U.S. veterinary show, which draws more than 16,000 of our key customers and prospects," says Mary Kay Horrisberger, senior marketing manager for education at IDEXX. "But we wanted to generate awareness across the entire industry, not just among NAVC attendees. Plus, we needed to build excitement for the new product with our employees in offices around the globe."
Given that directive, IDEXX marketers knew they weren't looking for an integrated program to blanket the show with messages, nor some kind of ongoing traffic builder. These options might generate buzz on the show floor, but they didn't do anything for the folks back at home. Instead, they theorized that a big, one-time event – something that could be easily captured via live-streaming video and yet retain some of the same impact on screen as it held in a live setting – would serve both the on-site and at-home audiences.
To tackle this two-pronged challenge, Horrisberger enlisted the help of Chicago creative agency Live Marketing Inc. The newly formed team quickly settled on a feasible plan. Paired with a series of pre-show promotions and social-media tactics, IDEXX would host a full-blown product-launch event in its booth, complete with a dramatic reveal that would be live streamed to its website, and hopefully viewed by veterinarians, media reps, and employees around the world.
The in-booth launch event was strategically scheduled to take place on the second day of the show. "We wanted upwards of 500 people in the booth during the SDMA launch," says Anne Trompeter, principal and chief creative strategist at Live Marketing. Data from NAVC indicated that day two numbers on the show floor were higher than day one. Thus, the team scheduled the launch for 9:15 a.m. (during a coffee break in the session agenda) on the show's second day. Holding an event in this slot would allow session attendees to pop down to the show hall for 20-plus minutes and take in the IDEXX presentation.
To ensure that attendees did just that, the marketing team came up with a series of pre- and at-show tactics to target both attendees and IDEXX clients that wouldn't be attending the show. Starting on Jan. 6, the pre-show promotional blitz included everything from mailers and email invites to social-media posts and good old-fashioned fax transmissions to existing customers. Most of the marketing missives briefly extolled the organization's 30-year history of innovation and then tempted people to visit the booth or tune in to the live stream and view the product launch to see just what crazy new tricks IDEXX had up its sleeve.
I Love a Parade
At the show, the promotions continued. Starting on Jan. 18, one day before NAVC opened, a couldn't miss street team – comprising four greeters in red, IDEXX-branded attire, and two stilt walkers (one wearing a Dalmatian costume, and the other dressed in a poodle suit) – roamed the public areas, restaurants, and hotels around the two convention centers. In addition to posing for pictures, the street team handed out 5-by-7-inch invitations to the product reveal. And just in case everyone hadn't stumbled upon the street team, IDEXX also dropped invitations in attendees' hotel rooms, along with other goodies such as 2.5-inch-long chocolates shaped like IDEXX snap tests, recognizable devices found in veterinary practices the world over.
When the show's first day dawned, everything went off as planned for IDEXX. Horrisberger purchased two adjacent booth spaces on the show floor, each of which was designed by Global Experience Specialists Inc. A 20-by-50-foot beauty topped with a red ID header featuring compelling pet and owner images functioned as the main product-centric space. Filled with vignettes featuring various diagnostic solutions, it offered an aisle-side theater with multiple stools, which were later cleared out for the launch event on the second day.
Meanwhile, a 10-by-20-foot exhibit located directly across an aisle from the larger booth was designed with more of a lounge-like setting in mind. Here, staffers offered veterinarians tools, products, and information to foster better client interactions, particularly when sharing test results or providing information to improve pet health. But since the launch event wasn't to take place until the following morning, first-day attendee interactions focused on existing products. But at 9:15 a.m. on day two, the spotlight shifted to SDMA.
As attendees headed to the IDEXX booth in anticipation of the launch, a four-piece band started a ruckus at the back of the building. Before long, a one-of-a-kind parade was winding its way through the hall and toward the IDEXX exhibit. Led by the band, whose members' faces featured painted-on, black dog noses, the parade included six dancing ribbon twirlers – dressed like cats and dogs, of course – along with the two costumed stilt walkers from the street team.
A Breed Apart
The visual and auditory spectacle of the animals on parade eventually concluded at the booth, where a trail of followers squeezed into what had already become a huge crowd. An emcee welcomed the audience, which clustered around a roughly 12-by-18-foot presentation space. Meanwhile, as anticipation built, staff distributed glasses of champagne and apple cider, and the costumed cats and dogs provided entertainment with ribbon twirling and comical antics.
A 5-by-10-foot fabric box sat front and center in the space. Positioned above it, a large monitor displayed images of the crowd, and would later feature the live-streaming video seen around the world. Off to the left, a digital clock started a one-minute countdown as the emcee revved up the crowd and music began to play.
Finally, just as the clock hit zero, the music reached its climax and spotlights hit the fabric enclosure, which dropped to the ground to reveal a molecule-like structure. Featuring three monitors, each of which provided different content, the structure also displayed five static graphic cards bearing messages such as "The future is now!" and "Diagnostic breakthrough." While all of this was going on in the booth, the video stream as well as a press release about the new product went live on IDEXX.com.
On stage, an emcee launched into the presentation, with her live narration accompanied by videos and images on the aforementioned monitors. She first explained the need for the new product and then eventually revealed the incredible benefits SDMA could offer veterinarians and their patients.
At the end of the 15-minute spiel, the cats and dogs jumped to center stage and sprang into a brief dance routine as Jon Ayers, chairman and CEO of IDEXX, grabbed a mic and a glass of champagne. Ayers raised his glass to the crowd in a toast: "Here's to the bright new future for preventative care diagnostics!" He and the emcee then encouraged attendees to learn more about IDEXX by exploring the rest of the exhibit. Amid a flourish of dancing characters, rousing music, and a blast from a confetti cannon, the launch event came to a conclusion.
The in-booth event drew a whopping 1,000 people to the space, double the objective set by the IDEXX marketing team. Plus, while IDEXX reps were posting about the company's presence throughout the show, attendees created a media storm on their own by sharing comments and pictures of everything from the street team and in-booth reveal to Ayers' toast. All told, then, the campaign generated 74,000 social-media impressions, which was 47 percent higher than the firm's pre-show goal.
In addition, more than 4,300 people around the world tuned in for the launch via video stream, obliterating the target of 2,000. And after the press release went live on IDEXX.com, it racked up 4,283 views, far surpassing anticipated page views. Industry publications, online news organizations, and even online investment-research sites, such as RTTNews, Veterinary Practice News, Examiner.com, Zacks Investment Research, and DVM 360, all carried coverage of the product launch within one week of the event. IDEXX employees, who were able to tune into the live stream, were also jazzed about the new product, and the company's internal-news hub ran a story titled "Well Worth the Fanfare," which outlined the campaign's success.
Ultimately, the in-booth launch event generated a wealth of at-show awareness long before SDMA ever left the starting blocks. And because the IDEXX marketing team had the foresight to live stream the presentation, the firm reached five times as many clients, prospects, and press reps than if it had confined its efforts to the show. So perhaps you can be in two places at once – as long as you have a reliable Internet connection and a dancing dog or two. E