7 Event Trends That Will Make Your Brand Stand Out in 2018

February 15, 2018

Scott Schoeneberger

Scott Schoeneberger is the executive vice president of marketing and a board member at Bluewater Technologies, a company devoted to helping enterprising brands bring innovation, experience and messaging to life.

We saw a lot of trends emerge within the trade show circuit in 2017. Virtual and augmented reality became ubiquitous, mobile technology was used almost everywhere and even Amazon’s Alexa found its way to a more corporate setting. Brands upped the ante by bringing experiential marketing to new levels with pop-ups galore while offering niche entertainment and culinary offerings.

The bar will only continue to rise and the stakes are getting even higher in this nearly $13 billion industry. According to a recent Bizzabo survey, 63 percent of marketers plan to increase budgets and participate in more live events moving forward. In fact, event marketing is viewed by most marketers as far more effective than any other avenue – that includes content marketing, email marketing and digital advertising.

If you want to stay ahead of the curve, keep an eye out for seven emerging event marketing trends that will dominate 2018:

1. Contextual booth designs: Brands are moving away from boring billboard-style booth setups and toward immersive, contextual designs. Customers are seeking the unexpected and gravitating toward displays that have a “wow” factor. Traditional trade show booths look more like an amateur science fair display covered in marketing language. This simply won’t cut it in today’s market. Instead, use technology and art to create an interactive experience that envelops your entire space and captivates anyone walking by.

2. An increase in nontraditional events: A trade show booth can be expensive and not everybody can attend a major show. Bring the experience out into the wild with pop-ups in unique and unexpected places. Portable activations that can travel are going to create big wins in 2018 for the brands bold enough to position them in the right places at the right times. It’ll drive a higher ROI for the money spent on the booth experience by keeping conversations going on social media long after the trade show ends.

3. More personalized experiences: We’re seeing demand for personalization skyrocket in everything from retail products to experiences. The event marketing industry is going to follow this lead with more direct interaction that makes passive messaging obsolete. Create a game show, gamify your message, encourage user-generated art and do whatever you can to put the power into your customers’ hands. People don’t come to events to see the same ads they can read online, they come to participate. Make it happen.

4. A focus on entertainment: There’s more noise introduced to the marketplace every day and breaking through it means connecting with audiences in more entertaining ways. Don’t be afraid to have fun with your trade show booth. Invite special guests and host an event that makes people feel like they’re the star of their own show. Whether it’s a talk show, a cooking show or a game show (or whatever fits your brand), the desire for entertainment will bring more people in who will stay longer. At the end of the day, trade shows are about business but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun along the way.

5. Integrated large-scale LED: Advances in LED video technology with decreasing costs mean marketers can create high-resolution video displays anywhere. It’s modular, scalable and bright enough to be used in any lighting situation, and the pixel counts are high enough for close-proximity use. Stop wasting paper and plastic when you can create an entirely digital LED installation to offer virtual environments that leave visitors in awe.

6. Increased pixel mapping: Don’t just stop at LED; high-tech companies have been mesmerizing audiences with jaw-dropping pixel-mapping presentations. New software, better media servers and more trained professionals mean pixel mapping is more attainable than ever. We’re going to see these become more common in 2018 and beyond, so now’s a good time to start integrating the technology into your own trade show booth, showrooms, lobbies and retail locations.

7. AI and data analytics: AI and data analytics are more than just buzzwords. They represent the new way of doing business and everything from wait times to inventory control to customer tracking can be accomplished with them. These technologies are elevating the trade show game by providing faster responses, better customer experiences and moments of sheer delight. Think beyond Siri and Alexa to discover how these technologies can turn your trade show booth into an unstoppable marketing machine.

Event and experiential marketing will only continue to grow. You already know these events are important to attend but showing up empty-handed is like going to prom in torn blue jeans. To achieve a healthy ROI, you need to stand above the crowd – these trends will help you do exactly that in 2018.

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Partner Voices

So much is involved in planning for a trade show. Among the many decisions show producers and exhibit planners must make is whether to rent or purchase the technology required for a successful show or exhibit booth. When weighing these options, it’s important to consider not only the expense involved in procuring this equipment, but also the time, freight, logistics, and staffing required to set up and break down your own technology.