In 2015, our client Sid Richardson gave us the green light to help plan the company's trade show experience for the rubber industry's most notable trade show, the ACS Rubber Division's International Elastomer Conference in Cleveland (aka the "Rubber Expo" for those of us that have been attending this for awhile).
> The Premise
The goal was to do something fun at the booth, to bring people by for some conversation, and to make a solid impression with various people tied to the industry. Sound familiar? Maybe that's because this is the goal of every exhibitor at every trade show EVER. Which is why give-a-ways, passing out swag, having contests, using video displays and so many of the typical trade show tactics are used year-in, year-out.
So we had to ask ourselves, what would make Sid Richardson stand out? How could go step further? What to consider? As it turned out, another company had a putting green -- these people like to golf, right? Another company gave away a Harley motorcycle -- wow, now that's lofty and sure to draw major attention (but, let's be honest, it's a move that had us wondering about the true ROI).
> The Strategy
Truth is, so many of these ideas and tactics we see at trade shows lack a relevant tie-in to the companies and brands they are supposedly representing. Not all booth traffic is created equal and even having the best chachkies on the floor only counts for so much.
So we had to do something that spoke to what Sid Richardson is all about. The strategy became clear to us. Our idea had to be based on Sid Richardson's brand-focus of being a straight talking, hand shaking, hard working, American made company from Texas – a company of people that answer the call. This is a major point of distinction (in a global industry with so much focus in Asia) of which Sid is proud to be based in the US with a focus on serving North America. With Sid, there's no corners cut and the company's 100 year history is still part of the brand today. This is where we make our mark.
> The Idea
The solution? Answer the call for lunch (when is food a bad call, right?). But do it the Sid way, with Texas BBQ. Make it free, and serve it with Shiner Bock, a beer with the same Texas roots as Sid. We even took this a step further – staging the booth with authentic long horns, a saddle, and notable western art from the Sid Richardson Museum collection in Fort Worth, TX. Looking across the show room floor, filled with you're typical Rubber Show booth contraptions, we felt Sid stood out just in the way we wanted – with a little western flair, a tip-of-the-hat befitting the brand.
As for the Sid gang, they ditched office wears for blue jeans and a combo black shirt, black cowboy hat. As we we began lunch service, sizable samples of a 14-hour smoked beef brisket and pulled pork sliders, we wrangled patrons into the quickly growing line in front of our "Chuck Wagon" (the section of the booth space we allocated for food service).
Now, Diversa had designed a few invites and some promotional materials for this event (shown below), but in truth most of the people came via word-of-mouth or they just followed their nose you might say. Between 11:30am-2:30pm we served over 500 people (which is roughly 65-70% of all attendees and exhibitors for that day). And with our booth's TV playing Sid's video material as people waited, Sid's VP of Sales and Marketing, Greg King, suggested that, "more people watched our video today than during the entire year."
Amidst the continual service, our Sid Rich team worked the crowd, chatting up colleagues, clients, media folk, and even a few competitors. In fact, we'd like to think our little event (within an event) may have helped trigger this piece (shown below, note, the first image being our chow line) written by Rubber & Plastic News (among the industry's largest, most respected publications). The author even noted our "marketing technique" of filling the show floor with the aroma of BBQ. And certainly, we thank our friends at R&PN for taking note and providing some press coverage online and across social media.
We also agree with the article's sentiment, suggesting that tactics such as these need to be measured for ROI. When compared to the cost of a single ad placement, sponsorships, or high-priced give-a-ways, we left the show feeling like our small investment (some catering and minor staging and promotion) out-performed most efforts we noticed this year. And most importantly, with hard-number results still being evaluated, we were proud that our event was true to the Sid Richardson brand. Hopefully, the experience left people with the image of a hands-on, down-to-earth company that's proud of it's history and those it serves.