Jan 31, 2003

Tradeshow Advertising for Exhibitors

Why It Matters More Now Than Ever for Exhibitors to Communicate with Attendees

Corporate management and marketers constantly have asked
themselves and their communications people how much does advertising
matter?  With the slower economy
and tight budgets the question has been raised even more frequently.

Ad budgets become an irresistible target for

When companies look even more closely at their marketing
budgets they often feel that there are shows they must attend because they are
pivotal to the industry. However, since they are participating in the show,
preshow advertising appears to be a needless added expense. The common reason
is, "We already are going to be at the show so we will get the time in
front of our customers we need without the added expense."

An August cover story in BusinessWeek points out that people
who starve their brands now will be paying for it in the future. At the same
time both allbusiness.com and about.com, two business information sites, point
out that going to a trade show without preshow promotion is a waste of time ...
and money.

Advertising in Bad Times

Kevin Keller of Dartmouth University notes that in an era of
wide customer choices with roughly comparable products and services, people
rely less on a list of features and more on a relationship that is built and
maintained by the company's consistency.

While the research isn't conclusive, Keller--and others who
study the subject--see indications that the best way to gain market share is to
sustain advertising spending during a downturn as rivals cut back. In fact,
Donald Uzzi of Electronic Data Systems (EDS) says, "Smart companies look
at these environments when other people go darker to advance their

Marketeers outside traditional consumer goods have shown
less willingness to support their brands. As a result, Keller and other
industry watchers say they risk losing their pricing power and, even more
important, their connection with their customers. Skittish customers need
reassurance that the investments they have made will pay off and that the
supplier will be there to support them. For example, IBM firml0y indicated that
it would absolutely stay on course. This long-term thinking may be one reason
why the firm only lost 1 percent of brand value in 2001 while other high-tech
firms suffered much larger declines.

Keller says that firms that tamper with their core commitment
to their brands are at grave risk. Those that stay on a steady advertising
course usually find their good names are worth a lot more when the tough times

Advertising Around Shows

Michael Zane, president of Kryptonite, Inc., producers of U-shaped
bicycle locks, says that even though the firm's name almost is a household
word, the company still maintains strong visibility around the major trade
shows. "It is vital that we reinforce our commitment to our products to
our channel partners," he noted. He also emphasized that in every market
there is a constant turn of key personnel and prospective customers.
Advertising prior to the show helps attract these prospective channel partners
specifically to his booth.

Post-show promotion equally is important because it provides
reinforcement to people who visited the booth as to the new products and ideas
they saw at the show. It also captures people who missed the unveilings at the
booth as well as those who did not or could not travel to the show.

Web Evolution

While the failure of hundreds of dot-coms has tarnished the
image of Web advertising, it still provides the best combination of broad and
selective reach as well as measurable results when used properly.

Scott Bedbury, CEO of BrandStream, notes that despite the
fact that the Internet has in many degrees leveled the playing field for B2B
companies, price is not everything. "Manufacturers also must recognize
that they no longer can make one product and ship it to anything that walks, on
or off the Web, and then turn their back on what happens next," he
commented. "The value proposition increasingly is becoming important.
Firms that create undifferentiated products eventually go out of business
without the real or perceived value and enhanced customer relationship."

Regis McKenna, chairman of The McKenna Group, emphasized
that the Internet has changed the course of many businesses but not advertising
and branding thinking. "It is not a broadcast medium like
television," he said. "It is much more of a service medium where you
have people interact and exchange information with you. Because of this, Web
advertising becomes increasingly important. Trying it once and not producing
results only means that you were doing it wrong. It takes the experience of
failure and time to learn and evolve to produce success."

Banner ads that sit like a valance atop the screen still are
the most popular form of Internet advertising, although sometimes they may not
be very effective. AdRelevance suggests that marketers try other ad shapes and
technologies such as the button or the form of the ad which includes text boxes
or drop-down menus. Under and overlay web ads also are proving to be
increasingly effective. The Internet and Web are in the formative and
evolutionary stages. Creativity will get more attention than a fleeting mix of
pixels. The key is to use the strengths and benefits of the Web to your best

Keep in mind that Web advertising can offer scalability,
online community demographics, targeted messages, deep content and detailed
tracking and measurement data. It cost-effectively provides companies with the
ability to extend the transaction. Most important is the fact that new online
advertising technologies are emerging that will produce a new generation of ads
that use animation, video and even built-in e-commerce capabilities.

These techniques can move prospects more easily to your
company to learn more about you, your products and services and your unique
selling propositions.

About the author

G.A. "Andy" Marken is president of Marken Communications, Inc., in Santa Clara, Calif. He may be reached at [email protected]