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Thinking Outside the (Trade Show) Box

June 9th, 2011 · 6 Comments · Trade Show Marketing

I’m a big fan of “thinking outside the box”, especially when it comes to marketing, and trade show marketing in general. It seems that many trade show exhibitors just try to copy other exhibitors instead of coming up with a unique marketing strategy or message. Of course, it is one thing to say that you should think outside the box. It’s another thing to say what that really means or how one does it. And the point of this post isn’t explain how to think outside the trade show marketing box… this post is to discuss the problem that many people get so focused on thinking OUTSIDE of the box, that they forget about the BOX itself…

I support the concept of thinking outside the box, but not at the expense of the box itself. It’s great to have a trade show booth that is the talk of the show, but the question then is, what are people saying about it? If everyone is talking about your trade show booth and the half naked trade show booth babe juggling kittens, but they have no idea of who your company is or what you do, then you’ve forgotten about your BOX! I’m reminded of how many great TV commercials that I see that I later remember because they were funny or unique, but I can’t remember what product they were for, or if I remember the product vaguely, I still can’t remember which company it was for.

Before you start thinking outside the box on how to promote your trade show booth, you want to make sure you have extremely clear trade show booth graphics that cover the basics, like what your company name is and what you do, and why people would want to do business with you.
I think it’s always good to set your company apart from the competition instead of being a carbon-copy of them, but don’t forget to explain what your box is and what it does. Then you can start thinking outside of the trade show box.

As always, feel free to drop me a comment and let me know if you’ve seen any trade show booths that really nailed the “outside of the box” part of the equation, but forgot about the box part.

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6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Will // Jun 15, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    I agree Steve – Think outside the rectilinear object is usually a good idea. Explaining what your box is and what it does is something I had not really thought of before, though.

  • 2 The Trade Show Guru // Jun 15, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    hey Will,
    Thanks for dropping by. I’m not sure if my post was entirely clear… While I’m also a big fan of “thinking outside the box”, I guess I’m saying that one shouldn’t step entirely outside the box (usually). The best thing is to straddle the box, with one foot outside of the box, and one foot still inside the box.
    I guess this is now probably as clear as mud. :) Steve, somewhere around the box

  • 3 Richard // Jul 24, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    You are spot on when you say “don’t forget to explain what your box is and what it does”. Sometimes some ideas can be good at being attention grabbing, but not actually get their message across very clearly. The message should remain the most important thing.

  • 4 Kate // Mar 22, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    Well, I can see we think the same about a lot of commercialism – reading this post after the one at the top. At trade shows, like so many other places, all the booths, tables, and boxes begin to look very much the same. What catches my eye is something that is different, especially if it is a sort of oasis in the chaos. I think people are looking for peace in the technology-driven world. All the gadgets that were supposed to make our lives easier and less hectic have almost become our masters. We are busier than ever and have less free time than was promised a few short decades ago.

  • 5 Sonja // Jun 20, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    I was with an advertising agency for over ten years, to say the least I have a marketing background. My former boss/mentor use to tell us all of the time, “think outside of the box”, so this blog caught my eye. He told us this so much that we actually built an entire campaign for our agency around that concept. What is funny is that a little over three years ago the agency had to close its doors…I guess he should have thought more about the box itself and not so much outside of that box.

  • 6 Murray Westfield // Aug 6, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    Interesting article, I don’t think “thinking outside the box” should stop at just your exhibition stand though, you should thinking about unique ways to stand out in every aspect of exhibiting.

    For instance giving out promotional items, let’s be honest.. who want’s some companies pen or keyring? lol, but if you can give away something that is unusual/or useful (and branded with your logo of course) that will actually stick with people, then when it comes to buy a product/service that you supply, the first company they’re going to think of is you.

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