Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder – Immersive Experiences that Connect

By Nancy Drapeau, PRC
Director of Research, CEIR

Allie Shaughnessy, dressed as Marvel Comics' character Mystique, attends Comic-Con 2014 in San Diego, California

Comic Con San Diego 2014, Reuters

Just a couple of weeks ago, Comic-Con International 2014 took place in San Diego. During that event, mass media channels of all kinds – broadcast tv, cable tv, multiple social media outlets, print and digital press – were buzzing with images and stories from that event, a veritable candy store of branding impressions. Comic book writers, artists, filmmakers and lots of other players convened with their most passionate consumers, those who take the time to travel to this event from near and far and many who invest time and dollars to become their beloved characters. A community, gathered under one roof, celebrating the industry, seeing what’s new and hot, pre-release promotions of films, a chance to get an autograph from one’s favorite star or even better, getting a selfie with someone famous! The opportunities are endless, and to commune with other like-minded individuals, there’s nothing like it.

This particular franchise of a consumer event, its genesis in San Diego and now having multiplied in a number of metro areas is quite incredible, very flashy and exciting for the consumers that love the genres of entertainment that they celebrate. Some of the pictures of attendees dressed in their favorite comic character costumes may prompt one to scratch one’s head and ask, ‘Why?’ Well beauty is in the eye of the beholder, those individuals are living their dreams, having their memorable experiences that will last a lifetime. Isn’t that what counts?

Isn’t it also the case for business-to-business exhibitions? These are in-person, live events that bring a community together, a venue to convene buyers and sellers of an industry to celebrate the community, see what is new and hot trend-wise and product-wise, a chance to hear from leading experts, a time to convene with likeminded individuals, peers, colleagues, to learn and share with each other. It is a very powerful marketing medium for brand marketers that use it well. And when an event or exhibitor ties event content into integrated marketing efforts, the brand reach and exposure can be quite powerful. Along with the brand exposure, it feeds the essential lead pipeline for organizer and exhibitor, capturing new leads, nurturing existing ones and closing sales for those ready to pull the trigger.

All industries aren’t that flashy, there are a few that I can think of that are and penetrate mass media channels, Consumer Electronic Show and E3 Expo come to mind. Though mass media isn’t penetrated as extensively by NAMM’s annual event, certainly makes a splash with its core audience and does an amazing job bringing the music industry together. There are so many others, I could go on…

So, for organizers and brand marketers alike, what about your approach can be ramped up to give players a chance to immerse themselves, have impactful experiences in a way that makes sense for your industry and will create buzz in your trade media and social media outlets of your participants? Who are the ‘rock stars’ of your industry that attendees are longing to meet? If you’re a brand marketer, who are the people behind the product that would exhilarate attendees to hear from and maybe even meet in person? Is there a team behind a new product launch that can become the ‘rock stars,’ a personification of the product? Remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, what is the ‘beauty’ that sparks passion in your target attendee audience base? What can you do to bring that to life and give attendees a chance to experience it, a chance to have an impactful, memorable visit?

Here a few CEIR resources that can help you in focusing your exhibition or exhibit to what business-to-business exhibitions hope to experience:

What Attendees Want from Trade Exhibitions
AMA Educator Conf – Highlights of Key Value of Exhibitions to Attendees

If you have a minute, take a look at a recently released report on Organizer Best Practices to Attract and Retain Young Professionals. This report includes 11 case studies.

Also, here is a resource on what organizers and brand marketers are doing today to integrate digital media into their exhibition marketing:

Digital Playbook (this one is free)

Visit https://www.google.com/search?q=comic+con+2014+photos&client=firefox-a&hs=597&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&channel=sb&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=6EPhU-mZOouWyASXxIC4Bg&ved=0CCEQsAQ&biw=1392&bih=822 to view photos from Comic-Con 2014 events.

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