Marketing Events Then and Now

July 5, 2016

By Elizabeth Johnson

In a 1996 article published in the Harvard Business Review, “The Future of Interactive Marketing”, the authors noted, “Clearly, marketing’s tool kit is experiencing unsettling amounts of innovation today. The boom in direct and database marketing, the dawning of electronic commerce, new ways to automate sales force management, and the sudden blossoming of the World Wide Web all suggest that the discipline is under pressure to reshape.”

In honor of TSNN’s 20th anniversary, we’re taking a look at some of the marketing tactics events used in 1996 and comparing them to today.

Not surprising in 1996, much of the marketing tactics were print based. Conferences and trade shows relied heavily on direct mail, print advertising and even faxes. 

“We did a big brochure that had, registration instructions and a form to mail or fax, housing information – information on each hotel, map, housing form to mail or fax, tour information and forms, program information and promotional language,” said Moya Phelleps, senior vice president Member Services at National Mining Association of MINExpo INTERNATIONAL®.

Jean Whiddon, president of Fixation, echoed that, saying of her work on Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute’s PACK EXPO and other trade shows, “We did 48-page brochures, because we had to include every single detail of every show including registration forms and housing forms, descriptions of hotel options. They were information heavy because there was no other way to get that information.”

“There were also a lot of phone calls and faxing. The pieces were not customized and everything was print,” Phelleps added.   

Overall, trade show marketers seem to agree the shift to digital has been gradual.

Today, MINExpo tasks its agency, Frost Miller, with using digital tactics from email to content marketing to build a far-reaching campaign.

“When we first started working with MINExpo on the 2004 show, we created a multi-language brochure that we mailed to our international prospects,” explained Frost Miller President Kevin Miller. “Now, we can reach more people around the globe much more effectively through both organic and paid social media campaigns as well as mobile advertising.”

In relation to PACK EXPO and their other clients, Lina Attai, senior account executive at Fixation said, “Social media has become huge. We’re placing digital ads, tracking hashtags and tracking engagement. We can get instant data, and see how things are tracking by the minute. We’re able to reach more people and target what you say to them based on the data that you know about them.”

The Vision Council’s Vision Expo events also have experienced a gradual shift in marketing strategy during the years.

“We’re always refining innovation on the show floor, focusing on peer-to-peer marketing and moving away from things that were popular in ’96 such as fax,” said Angela Harar, senior director of Shows, The Vision Council. “We’re also always trying to optimize our attendees’ time better so they don’t spend time walking booth to booth without a plan. They can pre-plan their show experience before they arrive at our Vision Expo events by taking advantage of our mobile tools, matchmaking to better optimize their time better on the floor.”

Some tactics seem to weather the test of time. Both Fixation and Frost Miller report that there still is a place for print advertising and that email and telemarketing get results.

“Email is sort of the workhorse of digital marketing,” Miller said. “It’s not glamourous or even trendy any more, but it gets results from audiences that know you well.”

Whiddon shared a keen observation, “Twenty years ago, we employed local grassroots campaigns with local affiliates, supplying resources that could help them promote the show locally. Now, digital allows us to do that in different ways - digital toolkits provide materials for those multipliers to use. But it still take personal service, it’s not enough to send an email and lay out the benefits. What really works is calling a person and asking what do you want. That high touch, white glove service has carried over, but has taken a turn.”

In 1996, the article authors stated, “mass-marketing concepts and practices are taking advantage of new ways to become more customized, more responsive to the individual.” Turns out, that was an accurate prediction. 

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