Are Your Trade Show Displays Giving Mixed Messages?

Follow these steps to present a unified brand

All the hard work you put into your trade shows almost certainly pays off in more business and better connections — after all, businesses generate an estimated $12.6 billion in annual revenue from trade shows, according to Statista.

But when different departments represent your brand at the same event, clashing marketing materials can derail a lot of that hard work. Your trade show displays, marketing and overall brand presence need to present a unified message. When they don't, it dilutes your company's brand identity so you make a much weaker impression on your prospects and partners.

Here's a four-step strategy to develop a winning brand identity for your next trade show:

1. Audit Previous Trade Show Content

Start by taking a closer look at previous trade show displays, marketing materials and product information. Auditing past marketing materials can help you discover where conflicts occur in your company's branding and presentation. Look for issues like:

  • Inconsistent color, logo and branding use
  • Lack of unified messaging and copywriting — for example, one department may strike a cheerful tone in its materials while another takes a more serious approach.
  • Printed materials that clash — such as different paper stock weights, paper types and glossy vs. matte finishes

Put these discordant materials side-by-side and bring your company's marketing decision-makers together to talk over the differences. Helping everyone understand the challenge will help you take the right steps to fix it.

2. Create a Unified Plan for Messaging

Each trade show attendee from your company may have different goals and messaging they want to focus on. Work across the organization to map out these different streams in advance. Then determine how to represent the messaging in a cohesive way across different customer touch points at the show.

Consistent guidelines for brand mentions, colors, visuals and other elements help deliver the full impact of a carefully coordinated marketing effort.

3. Make Sure Displays and Giveaways Mesh

Promotional items, sell sheets or other takeaway items are the most long-lasting part of the trade show marketing mix. Those are the things that prospects will keep after they leave, when they're reviewing their event experience and the companies they interacted with there.

Make sure your displays and takeaway items mesh. When a prospect leaves with an item from your business in hand, it should complement everything else you've presented. If your promo items feature a slogan and color scheme, for example, reinforce your branding by aligning them with the color and imagery of your displays. And although it's tempting to re-use leftover items from last year's trade shows, these must be in line with your overall messaging — and make sure the information they convey is up to date, too.

4. Use a Single Print Vendor

Often, departments use different vendors for their print needs. This results in different color scales or clashing paper stock, and makes it difficult to achieve consistent branding.

Work to consolidate your print vendors into a single supplier as early as possible. That will pay off in better consistency between all your departments and help your business present a unified voice to the world. You'll also save money, time and logistical hassle by working with a single vendor.

Busy marketing and print managers have a lot to consider when developing trade show displays for industry events. Focus on how to align the messaging and visual presentation under a single brand umbrella.