Expo Marketing Rock 'N' Roll


Jun 08, 2012 - by Sterling Doak
Expo Marketing Rock 'N' Roll

My buddy Brian Holt had the great idea to run in the Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon series this past weekend here in San Diego. Several months ago he started training. Part of that training meant running a lot. Part of that training meant buying some of those silly five-finger shoes. Part of that training meant a stress fracture down the middle of his left foot from all the running in the silly five-finger shoes. Nevertheless, he sucked it up and came to California.

First stop, get Brian registered at the San Diego Convention Center.
I had an expectation that EVERYONE would be jogging in place as they registered. (This didn’t happen. Lame.) My next expectation was I’m going to be getting sold pretty soon. So, Brian gets registered (standing), gets the goodie bag and off we go into The Health & Fitness Expo - which we were conveniently forced to enter after registration. Boom, I’m magically in the land of shills. Which brings me to the point of this blog: Expo Marketing!

Oh, you thought this was a blog about Brian running a marathon? HA! Oh, wait so you are hooked into the Brian thing and want to know how he did? OK, OK, fine, I’ll weave in some Brian stuff. Turns out he had his iPhone on him and was journalling his run.

I go to a lot of these things because, you know, I work in marketing. In fact, I’m a bit of an expo marketing connoisseur, so this is the part where you get to hear my opinions on what I saw working and not working. We’ll rate them Poor, OK and AwesomeSickFaceBurn. OK, let’s go.
Marked: Poor
Sony. I know, I know, you wouldn’t expect that. I hope they (if they ever read Great Matters) take this as constructive criticism and not a slam. So, what was so poor?

The display?

No. They probably spent $500K on the two story tree-house they built - it was stunning, typically. The people? No. Sony is notorious for letting some of their best associates cut their teeth at these events, since they do a zillion of them.

So, what was it? 3-D.

I know this is Sony’s #1 deal in the world right now; to get us all hooked on 3-D. But what does 3-D have to do with health and running and marathoning and stuff? Nothing really. So when Brian and I were led up into the dark, second story of the booth, greeted by a set of 3-D glasses and a 3-D TV screen - which was running a video of the course route in 30x speed so we couldn’t even register what was in front of us anyway - I was a little deflated. I felt like this.

The moral of this story is this: You’ve got about six seconds to get someone into your booth area and get them engaged. To do that, your offer has to be hyper-relative. This offer was not. Oh, and did I mention that about thirty seconds into our viewership, the Sony staffer announced that we weren’t actually watching in 3-D. #SMH

I also marked down Poor for any company who had associates actively barking at me and jamming coupons into my face as I walked by. That’s not a pull tactic and frankly I didn’t see a lot of people engaging with companies that employed this tactic. Give me a better reason to talk to you.

Let’s check in with Brian on Mile 8: “I’m killing it! I think I’ve got Kenyan heritage. I might finish this thing in 3 hours.” Brian’s heritage is Serbian by the way.
Marked: OK
Five Hour Energy. Relevant offer. Simple display. Non-invasive staffers simply handing out the little bottle and a leaflet. Boom. I was good to power thru the Expo for another half-day. I started jogging in place.

Jamba Juice. Again, relevant offer: They had some new delish little super-berry they found in the jungles of Antarctica and a nice, simple display with some drink samples on it. You took a sample, they casually sold you, it was cool. I like.

ZOOT shoes. Never heard of them but ZOOT played to their audience: They had a confident and simple display, they weren’t throwing themselves at you like a desperate housewife, they looked like they were legit athletes. You wanted to hang with them.

Most companies will fall into the OK pile. And you know what? That’s OK. They know their product offering will connect with their audience if they just get out of their own way and let the Expo do its job: get people in front of your product.

Back to Brian at Mile 14. “Mile...fourt…een. Not Kenyan. I hope I see a port-a-potty soon.” Welcome to the TMI Zone.
Marked: AwesomeSickFaceBurn
I am just going to call out one company here because they NAILED IT. They nailed the product (solves a major problem for runners) and they nailed the Expo marketing. I am talking about Yurbuds Sport Earphones, a product developed by athletes for athletes.

Brian and I came across their booth because they had a lot of action going on and were drawing a lot of attention. I first noticed the booth, which was actually pretty simple - just a big black banner backdrop with their bright red and yellow branding. But then I began to take notice of how they had managed to get such a crowd in front of their booth: they trapped them, willfully!

Just as I had been corralled into the Expo itself, Yurbuds had set up a row of stanchions leading up to a Prize Wheel and then to their display table. Simple yet brilliant methodology. All I wanted to do was get to that prize wheel, honestly.

(Aside: What is it about prize wheels? It’s in our DNA to play these things, I swear it.)

Anyway, I got in line because of the Prize Wheel and something happened: I got my ear measured!

Ohhhhhh! I see what you're doing here; you’re going to get me with the wheel and then have me try out your earphones. Well, I (looking back at the 15 people jammed in line behind me)…WANT THAT TOWEL!!! LET’S GO WHEEL!!! YESSSS! I GOT A TOWEL!!!!

Once I wiped the sweat from my brow I was pointed into the demo area where I was greeted with size 5 earphones which had one very unique quality: they had an ergonomic, protruding speaker piece that you put in your ear and then twisted. That’s cool! (I realized I was totally being sold and I was totally fine with it.)

Yurbuds had me hook, line and sinker because they had done everything, in my eyes, correctly.

  • They had a hook that got me into their world, willfully
  • I got a widget so they could get my time
  • Their staffers let the product sell itself (trial)
  • They provided a cool brand experience

And that my friends, is great expo marketing.

P.S. Brian did make it to the finish line of his first marathon, in one piece, with a time of 4:06:59. Very proud of my friend. To celebrate, I’m buying myself a pair of new Yurbuds.


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