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editorial
A Tale of Two Traffic Builders


Promotions that are unrelated to the brand are two scoops short of a successful event-marketing sundae.
Recently, I attended the Society for Human Resource Management Annual Conference, where I found two different exhibitors, both with effective traffic builders. But only one was adeptly capitalizing on its attention-getting efforts.

First was an exhibit for Visanow Inc., which helps employers manage the immigration process. All the staffers had a peculiar accessory: a red hula hoop. Curiosity piqued, I inquired, "What's with the hula hoops?"

The staffer explained that you no longer have to jump through hoops when it comes to immigration. Visa-now reduces stress, saves time, and improves the employee experience. Nearby graphics encouraged visitors to "stop jumping through the hoops of immigration" and take one of Visanow's hoops instead. After having their badges scanned and obtaining info on Visanow's services, attendees walked away with a hula hoop in hand and multiple key messages on their minds.

A few booths down the aisle was an exhibit for Amazon.com Inc., which was mobbed by a crowd of attendees queued up near what looked like a Whack-A-Mole game on steroids. The two-player Speed of Light activity comprised a wall of 30 blue buttons that lit up in random patterns. The objective was to tap the illuminated buttons as quickly as possible, before they went dark and others lit up. A scoreboard tracked the points earned by each player, and the one with the highest total at the end of the timed duel was named the winner.

I approached a staffer and asked about the promotion. He looked up, obviously confused, and replied, "It's like an arcade game." Yes, that I could tell. But what was the messaging behind it? "The messaging?" he asked. "Hit as many buttons as you can before time runs out." I tried a different line of questioning: "What's the purpose of the game? Why is it in your booth?" He stared at me like a deer in the headlights until I gave him an out. "Is it just a fun way to attract attendees?" He nodded. I asked two other staffers but still came up empty. Nobody even scanned my badge or invited me to wait my turn.

Amazon's approach is everything I loathe about modern-day trade show marketing: apathetic staffers, superfluous activities, a lack of lead collection or qualification, and not a single discernable shred of strategic thought. What's worse is that the line of attendees waiting to play gave Amazon the impression that the tactic had worked. But to what end? At best, attendees left the booth with a memory of an entertaining experience. But what they didn't walk away with was any info on the company that they didn't have when they arrived.

It wouldn't have taken a marketing agency to link the Speed of Light game to a message about Amazon's uber-fast shipping or gift-card fulfillment. And staffers could have easily engaged attendees waiting in line, scanning badges, qualifying prospects, and educating visitors. But none of that happened, and Amazon will likely never know the lost opportunity cost associated with its inadequate efforts.

Sure, traffic builders are intended to build traffic. But an activity that just attracts attendees only meets one of exhibit marketing's core objectives: Get attendees to visit your space, capture contact info, qualify visitors, and convey a couple key messages. So even if they significantly increase traffic, promotions that are unrelated to the brand are two scoops short of a successful event-marketing sundae.

So next time you're contemplating trade show tactics, consider how your promotion relates to your brand, and whether or not it helps you communicate key messages. Ask yourself what visitors will take with them when they leave your booth and, ultimately, the show. If you eschew Amazon's myopic approach and instead aspire to Visanow's example, I can almost guarantee that you'll run circles – or hoops – around the competition. E


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