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    Using Trade Show Giveaways Effectively


by Dr. Gary Witt
from the March issue of Exhibitor Magazine

    Giveaways are the most ubiquitous items at any trade show.
    Everyone has freebies, ranging from hard candy to expensive CDs. Yet, if
    you ask many regular exhibitors, they'll be hard pressed tell you if most
    of it works.
    From a Psychological Marketing viewpoint, what are the best types of
    giveaways? To answer that question, the exhibitor must determine what the
    giveaway should do.
    There are several overlapping reasons to give something to a visitor:
    * Branding -- the sample or giveaway reinforces the company's name and
    core benefit, such as a pencil with the phrase "Dinette Warehouse: Home of the
    Biggest Discounts in Town."
    * Image-building -- the giveaway helps to reinforce the company's
    image and niche.
    * Create a positive feeling -- in most situations it is human
    nature to think well of someone who gives you a gift.
    * Reminder -- a traditional and useful reason for giveaways is to
    help people remember the company's name and benefit after the show is over.
    * Build a List: -- giveaways that are exchanged for names and e-mail
    addresses of prospects offer one of the best values for a company's
    promotional dollars. It gives the company a low-cost way to contact
    potential buyers over and over again.
    Based on the psychological marketing analysis of desirable exhibit
    visitors and the potential benefits of giveaways, we can draw some
    conclusions about the most and least valuable types of giveaways.
    * Giveaways which are consumed will generally have little marketing value,
    unless the giveaway food is made by the exhibitor, in which case it is
    actually a sample.
    *Giveaways which do not have the company's name on them are useless.
    * Giveaways which do not have a branding message are of less value than
    those which do. That means a coaster with a company's name is of less
    value than one with a company's name and a slogan which enhances its
    positioning strategy.
    * Giveaways which involve the visitor are superior to those which don't.
    For example, a cable TV company offered a virtual reality experience -- two fascinating
    minutes in a virtual reality world of dinosaurs. It was exciting, new and memorable. And it
    gave visitors a chance to tell friends on the bus about a product most
    people had heard about, but few had seen.
    * Giveaways which offer an immediate benefit are useful. The chiropractor
    who offers you a thirty-second massage gives you immediate
    gratification, and creates a stronger positive response than those
    which give you something you must wait to use. It's important to also give something
    which will remind visitors of their company, such as a notepad. It is a terrible mistake to make your
    visitor fall in love with your product or service, then not provide a way to let them call you.
    * Giveaways which create involvement are better than those which allow the
    visitor to remain passive. Involvement can be created by many means.
    Involvement creates a personal relationship between the visitor and the
    show personnel and may help reinforce the company's message.
    * Giveaways which allow people to feel good about themselves are superior
    to those which are neutral or negative. Visitors feel good about
    themselves when they do something which is worthy of praise. This usually
    involves a contest of some sort, such as guessing the number of items in a
    bowl or putting a golf ball. The positive feeling is associated with the
    company and adds to its image in the visitor's mind. However, there are
    some hidden dangers in this strategy.
    Two evergreen trade show classics are putting and shooting baskets.
    For the giveaway -- putt the golf ball into the cup and win a coffee mug with
    the company's name on it. People line up for this, even thought they all
    have plenty of coffee mugs at home. Why? To test their skill, to compete
    with their friends, to DO SOMETHING, not just passively take in the show.
    There is a big problem with skill-related giveaways, like putting
    or shooting baskets. When a person is standing over that ball looking at the
    cup four feet away, their ego is on the line. Others are watching. Will
    they succeed -- and get applause -- or fail and feel like a loser?
    Most will fail. Many of them miss, try again, and again, feeling more and more
    like a charity case ("I couldn't sink a ball from just four feet away with three tries!")
    In short, this giveaway -- or any other requiring certain skills --
    is designed to make a few people feel good about the company, and embarrass
    the rest. That isn't an appealing marketing strategy. Even worse, there
    is generally no strong relationships between good putters and the most
    desirable customers.
    The end marketing result is the company often allows a person who has no
    intention of buying anything to feel like a prince, while making some good
    prospects feel like a spastic boob. Then the company then compounds the psychological
    damage by presenting the "loser" with a free charity cup in front of friends and strangers to help
    them remember this failure, and the company which made it possible.
    What alternative would be more marketing-friendly? From a
    Psychological Marketing standpoint, you want an activity which involves the visitor,
    looks like fun, and offers them a chance to compete for some prize. But there should be no losers,
    no one who gets the booby prize. The contest must seem challenging enough to suggest some
    physical or mental skills is necessary, but which in fact can be done by most people in a try or two.
    For example, you might use a tricky-looking miniature golf hole which is
    actually designed to draw the ball toward the hole. [Remember, you want to
    give them the positive experience and get them on their way so long lines
    don't discourage others from stopping.]
    Your goal is to help people succeed and feel good about themselves. That's
    why they play. They don't really want the cup. It is just a symbol of their success, and a reminder
    of the good feeling your company gave them. Don't make them feel like a loser with a booby prize.
    Giveaways can be an effective way to enhance a positive corporate image, gather prospective leads,
    and generate repeated reminders of your company long after the show is over. Or they can be a waste
    of money, and even create a negative impression. All giveaways are not created equal. For the best
    results, try to see them through the eyes of your targeted show visitors.


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