Marketing shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo …

Today is the official last day of Shark Week. I wasn’t aware that this notable king of the ocean has been stirring up quite the frenzy for 28 years now on the Discovery Channel. That is impressive. As I started to research this a bit I found quite a few similarities amongst these highly skilled rulers of the ocean and exhibit marketing. So I decided to fill up this “great white” space and dive into this a bit more.

One of the first things I was reminded of is that sharks are not just aimlessly swimming around the ocean. They are calculated in their efforts and use a variety of senses to target their preferred type of prey. Sound familiar? A great marketing plan does the same by developing a strategy that incorporates these same tactics so you can take a bite out of the competition and attract attendees to the exhibit booth.

Sharks have been ruling the water for millions of years, and have developed a number of advanced senses that help them target the right prey, utilizing senses such as hearing, sight, and smell. And while our own senses are not quite as advanced, we certainly should be thinking of this when we create an exhibit booth. Knowing who our target audience is and what their needs are is vital. This means we must keep adapting, questioning, and measuring the effectiveness of our messaging. It reminds me of the hammerhead shark. Keep on hammering the message via the senses, be consistent, and soon you will nail it.

There are so many elements that go into creating an exhibit marketing plan and exhibit booth. A great plan of attack, some would say. Why not start by incorporating the five senses. I think that “mako” a lot of sense, don’t you?

It was once thought that sharks had poor eyesight but we know that to be a falsehood now. Optimizing the sense of sight in an exhibit by making sure it is well-lit so visitors are able to read your messaging is important. Also be sure that sight-lines are top of mind, making sure that signage and messaging is at an appropriate height so visitors do not have difficulty reading or finding the information you are presenting. Showcasing a product or service within the exhibit booth with a product demonstration, a video, or impressive studies that highlight results are also great ways for visitors to “sink their teeth” into your marketing efforts.

A shark’s sense of hearing is also very keen although they do not have ears. Underwater, sharks can hear much better than humans and are able to detect sounds from miles away. Sharks would have no difficulty hearing if they walked the exhibit hall. Conventions are noisy. They are not a tranquil, spa-like setting but rather filled with the hustle and bustle of crowds. Noise levels on a convention floor can be upwards to 80 – 90 decibels – equal to the noise on a busy street traffic. Giving thought to how well your visitors will be able to hear within the exhibit booth setting should be considered. Organizations typically have rules in the prospectus as to the allowable noise levels from each exhibitor so be sure to familiarize yourself. So yes, you’re “herring” me correctly, don’t forget to keep the noise levels reasonable.  

It may seem fishy, but smell is another way to attract visitors to your booth. This can make obvious sense if you are a cosmetics company with a fragrance or if your company is in the food industry, but incorporating the sense of smell in an exhibit booth can attract your prey. Utilizing smells that are calming or that evoke a man-eating appetite for more information is always welcome to exhibit marketers.  A shark’s sense of smell is directional in nature and they are sensitive to certain types of scents. This is also something to keep in mind in an exhibit booth. Scent marketing is a serious thing. There are studies that show that certain scents are more appealing than others depending on the demographic or the gender you are targeting. Here are some additional scents and responses they can evoke:

  • Peppermint, Citrus = Alert
  • Lavender, Vanilla, Chamomile = Relaxation
  • Leather, Cedar = Expensive
  • Fresh Baked Goods = Comfort
  • Cinnamon = Attentive / Focused
  • Lemon = Clean (and yes, I shall point out there is such a thing as a lemon shark)

Many conventions are huge in scope. Attendees walking around develop quite the appetite for some sustenance. Did you know there was such a thing as a cookiecutter shark? Here’s where we want to differentiate a bit. While cookies (or snacks of any sort) can be great to provide your visitors, try to make sure they are not “cookie cutter”. Whether it is the shape of the cookie or whether your company logo is included, try to make that cookie stand out from all the other cookies in the exhibit hall. Give the visitors something to talk about and remember. Providing the visitors water, snacks, or even a sample of your product, gives them a reason to stay longer at your booth and provides booth staff time to interact and engage. Give considerable thought on how best to stop a snack attack!

Sharks are curious creatures. They are drawn to interesting smells, sounds and sights. In an exhibit hall a visitor’s curiosity can be further piqued by allowing them the opportunity to touch and interact with your company or product in a tangible way. Incorporating touch can also be accomplished by adding touch screen monitors, tablets or interactive games. Adding an interactive element heightens the visitors experience and learning. It essentially provides visitors a great way to sink their teeth into your product and service.

Sharks use different types of body language to interact and communicate with one another and prey. As marketers we need to take keep this in mind as well. Engaging effectively with visitors is based on how well we know them and understand their needs. What demographic are we targeting? What gender, if any, are we hoping to connect with? How do our attendees like to receive messaging? These are key questions to address prior to developing our plan of attack for convention marketing. In these times, visitors can be drowning in a sea of information, so make sure you are communicating with them how they prefer. No bullshark.

And finally, did you know that sharks don’t sleep? At all. Yes, they fall into some semi-conscious state but no sleep. Very similar to us during some of the conventions we attend right? So you’ve been schooled. We have so much more in common with sharks than we knew. I’m “fin”ished.

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