Can a creative exhibition stand really amp up ROI? Short answer: Yes

July 23, 2018

Creativity is often held up as the ultimate ideal for marketers – something we should aspire to, at all costs, as proof we’ve got spark. Pizazz. Something special, to stand out from the crowd.

But is it really?

Should exhibition marketers focus on building mind-blowing, never-seen-before creative campaigns, or should our focus be elsewhere? Like on delivering concrete ROI.

Maybe creativity is a waste of time and you should commit your precious trade show dirhams elsewhere. After all, how much does creativity really matter?

Let’s dig into that. Because actually, creativity matters a lot.

5 steps to use creativity in your next exhibition stand

Read on to discover how creativity impacts exhibition ROI, and get creatively inspired for your next exhibition.

1. Lighting that’s true to your brand identity

Create an eye-catching exhibition stand that shows your brand in the right light

Most people see lighting as purely functional – but change your perspective, and you can achieve greater ROI for your next exhibition.

Kaoru Mende writes in Designing with Light and Shadow, ‘Lighting design does not merely serve a practical or functional role but has the power to appeal directly to the human spirit or sensibility’.

This is exactly the point. Think creatively and lighting can be a powerful exhibition ally. Getting noticed is the first stage of the sales funnel, so creating a point of difference around your lighting design can help draw those all-important eyeballs.

                Think creatively and lighting can be a powerful exhibition ally.

But you don’t just want to be seen. You want to be seen in the right way.

Strobe lights might be cool, for example, but what do they say about you? If you’re an edgy, modern, eclectic brand, that might work well. But if you’re traditional, luxury, heritage-over-cutting-edge type company then soft, warm lighting is likely more appropriate.

Use light creatively and you not only attract more visitors to your stand, but you send those visitors the right sort of message about it. So you get more visitors and more leads, who are more likely to convert into customers because your story resonates with them.

2. Interactive interfaces that encourage more engagement

Use interactive elements to co-create a user experience your visitors invest in

Like lighting, interactive technology can boost your exhibition ROI by helping you attract – and keep – attention. I’m talking here about things like motion-sensitive technology, virtual reality, augmented reality, touchscreens. Anything visitors can interact with gives them ownership and helps co-create their experience. For example, a real estate brand might create a virtual reality tour of their properties, so visitors can choose the route they take.

That sense of collaboration is how you create an emotional connection with visitors. How you drive emotional engagement. And visitors who emotionally invest in your brand are visitors who are most likely to invest money when they become a loyal customer.

3. Letting your visitors feel part of your brand

Play on-brand games to attract, engage and convert more visitors

I’ve written about the British Airways installation in London’s Victoria station before. This is where the brand set up a super immersive flight simulator game where commuters could compete to win impressive prizes. The fact that more than 11,000 people played over a week should tell you something: no matter how hurried and harried people are, they still love playing games. Especially competitive games. Especially competitive games where you can win cool prizes.

It might seem like a different setup to your next exhibition, but London commuters are very similar to tired, worn-out exhibition visitors who’ve spent hours navigating thousands of stands.

Incorporate experiential marketing into your next exhibition, getting creative by developing a game that attracts and engages visitors, so they willingly invest time in your stand.

A bespoke game that links to your brand story – think BA flight simulator, not Candy Crush (unless you sell candy, perhaps) – so visitors aren’t just engaged with the game but they’re engaged with you. Which is the first step to turning emotional investment into monetary investment.

4. Avoiding the pitfalls of gifting

Gifting keeps on giving, increasing influence throughout the user journey 

Gifting is easy to get wrong. Nobody wants another pen, notebook, badge or mug. Especially not a cheap, branded pen, notebook, badge or mug. But when you add a little creativity into the gifting equation, the ROI can be impressive.

Creative gifts attract visitors to your stand by creating word of mouth. They increase engagement, build positive rapport and build influence – inciting Cialdini’s famous principle of reciprocity – all of which increase your chances of conversion. And they can extend those effects post-event, staying in the sight, minds and hopefully hearts of visitors once they get home.

So what does creative gifting look like?

Giving gifts that reflect your brand is crucial. As Barry Siskind writes in Powerful Exhibit Marketing, your gift ‘needs to connect with your corporate image and marketing message and should reflect the product or service you offer’. So unless you’re a bespoke pen supplier, don’t give pens.

Think about unique, high-quality promotional gifts that could represent who you are, and bring your brand story to life. Like a luxury travel pack if you’re an airline, for example, or a voucher for a personal shopping experience if you’re in retail.

Think about unique, high-quality promotional gifts that could represent who you are, and bring your brand story to life. 

While we’re on the topic of gifting, Siskind also mentions two more bits of gifting advice worth noting:

  • Don’t just brand the product, but put contact details or web address so recipients can find you again later.
  • Make sure your gift is something the recipient (not their children/other half/nobody) will use. The idea is to stay front-of-mind and build positive sentiment as a brand that adds value.

Creative gifting means unique, useful gifts that visitors are thrilled to receive. And when you do that, you get visitors who remember you – long after the exhibition closes. Visitors who are more likely to become customers in the future.

5. Getting attention – and keeping it

Get visitors to stop, stare and remember with a visually arresting display

It might be basic but it’s true: a visually arresting display will get visitors to stop and pay attention. As Gianluigi Guido writes, in his summary of marketing stimuli and consumer awareness, ‘things that stand out in an environment may receive more attention, and so be more easily recalled’.

That matters because when you get people to pay more attention to your exhibition stand, you pull more visitors through the sales funnel and achieve better exhibition ROI.

And when those people have better recollection, you increase conversion rates because visitors remember your brand, rather than competitors. Which means they’re more likely to buy from you, rather than competitors.

So how do you create a visually arresting stand?

Guido talks about ‘brightness, movement and complexity as the factors most able to generate attention – with bright colours, moving items and complex formats appearing the most noticeable’. Incorporate these into your stand design to catch the eye of visitors and increase brand recollection post-exhibition.

There is a balance here though.

You want a creative, visually arresting display – but you don’t want bright for the sake of bright. Think carefully about the psychology behind your colour choices, especially if outside your normal branding.

Think carefully about the psychology behind your colour choices, especially if outside your normal branding.

June McLeod’s Colour Psychology Today is well worth reading on colour, discussing hundreds of brands and their colour choices and how that’s impacted public perception and sales.

It’s impossible to summarise here but suffice to say colour is something you need to consider, lest you end up with an exhibition stand in ‘glorious, wonderful, erotic red’ when really you wanted ‘forthright’ orange, which is all ‘about togetherness and sharing, attracting a deep feeling of support and loyalty’ or green, ‘the calming one’ that ‘brings the outside in’ and ‘activates the bringing forth of new ideas and prosperity’.

Exhibition ROI 101: Above all, be different

Hopefully these examples have sparked a few ideas for your next exhibition, but the most important advice I can give you is this: be different. Don’t be afraid to push boundaries. Don’t be afraid to do what nobody else is doing.

As long as you’re true to yourself, being different is the secret to genuine exhibition ROI. Exhibition marketing will never become a tired channel as long as the people in it refuse tired ideas and seek out creativity.

TGP is one of the Middle East’s leading design and production companies, focusing on exhibitions, events, interiors, graphics, and audio-visuals for various industries. For more information or to meet the team, please call +971 50 636 7774, send an email to hello@tgp.aeor click here.