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11 Ways to Build Your Brand at Trade Shows


Want to build your brand at trade shows?  Your company has company.

Exhibitors tell us in survey after survey that building awareness is their #1 or #2 trade show marketing goal.

Building awareness comes in several different levels, depending on how well known a company already is.  Exhibitors want to build awareness:

  • For their company
  • For their brand
  • For their division
  • In a (new) industry
  • In a (new) geography
  • For a (new) product
  • For their re-brand, after a merger or re-positioning

Are You Building A Leadership Brand?

Companies that are concerned about their brand usually don’t want to be known as second-best.  They want to be known as the leader in their industry.  However, leadership comes in different flavors, depending on the industry they are in.  Exhibitors often tell us they want their brand to:

  • Be seen as high-end
  • Be seen as a high-quality manufacturer
  • Be seen as an innovator
  • Be seen as high-tech

Sound like your company?  Let’s see how to build your leadership position through your exhibit and exhibit marketing.

How to Build Awareness at a Trade Show

Once you know what your goals are for building awareness at your upcoming trade shows, how do you do it?  Here are 11 ways to help build your brand into an industry powerhouse:

  1. Get a bigger exhibit:  There’s a reason everyone wants to see the Grand Canyon: it’s really big! Similarly, one of the key factors in which exhibits attendees remember most is booth size.  So get a bigger booth space, and then fill it with a bigger, taller exhibit that demands attention and fills their senses.  A caveat: if the key audiences you want to meet can’t be found at one single show, you may do better to go with smaller booths at various regional or vertical market industry shows.
  2. Create graphic impact: Ensure attendees don’t ignore your exhibit by using bright, bold colors, big images such as photos and illustrations, and easy to read messages.  The fewer elements you put on your exhibit, the larger you can make them, and the more impact they will create.  Large, taller exhibits can have branding at 2 to 3 heights for as visitors approach from far away, just down the aisle, and in the booth.
  3. Design for 3 dimensions: Create impact and messaging for all public-facing sides of your booth, especially for island exhibits that can be viewed from 4 sides.  Consider making your biggest brand impact on the exhibit side that faces the aisle that will get the most traffic.  Some of the most memorable exhibits use shape that conveys the brand personality, even the company logo in 3 dimensions.
  4. Build a hierarchy of messages: Your exhibit usually works best when you have a hierarchy of messages, starting highest with who you are, then what you do, and finally what you can do for people.  For larger companies, your exhibit may have sub-levels of messaging for multiple divisions or products within a single booth.  Be sure the overall brand is understood as primary and that the sub-brands balance each other out.  Another pitfall to avoid is confusion between your company and product names.
  5. Be consistent with your other marketing: Your trade show exhibit and your trade show promotions should reinforce the look and messages you share via your website, brochures, and advertisements.  Otherwise, if you contradict your existing brand, you will cause confusion, which weakens your brand, rather than build it.
  6. Remember that your brand is more than a logo: Your brand is not just a unique graphic shape and a PMS color.  Your brand is defined by the position you’ve taken in the marketplace, the promise of value you give to customers, and the personality your company has in its interactions with the world.  Keep that in mind when you design your exhibit, and even the overall trade show experience you give visitors.

Which leads to …

  1. Create a brand experience:  Trade shows are an immersive environment that takes place over several days.  Take advantage of that by creating an experience that activates your brand in the minds of your booth visitors, so they understand and remember your brand at a deeper level.  So if you want a high-tech brand, give them a high-tech experience.  If you want to be known for service, then be the best host you can be when they visit your booth.
  2. Exhibit at more shows:  If you can afford it, expand your show schedule to reach more key audiences, especially if you are building your brand in a new vertical market for your company, or have introduced a new product that could help a whole new group of buyers than you traditionally serve.
  3. Bring your brand ambassadors: Bring to the show your employees who best exemplify your brand.  Have them staff your exhibit – and more.  Ask them to schmooze at networking events.  Have them attend educational sessions and ask the speaker questions.  Better yet, offer them up as speakers at your conferences – and not just your CEO, but subject matter experts who can teach how-to sessions.
  4. Do more promotions:  When you want more people to know you, pre-show and at-show promotions can give you that lift.  Consider sponsorships, ads in the show book or show daily, and other ways to reach the attendees going to the show.  You can offer giveaways that will attract more people to your booth, and that will remind attendees about your brand after the show is over.  Better giveaways even reinforce your brand message.
  5. Meet the press: Use the trade show as a forum to meet face-to-face with the key influencers who will share your brand message long after the show is over.  These include your industry press, bloggers, highly connected social media people, and analysts.

The reason for building your brand is so that you are remembered – and preferred. So when you are at a trade show, do these 11 things so that attendees will walk away knowing exactly who you are, what they can get from you, and that you are their best choice.

Brand-building exhibit examples

Here are several examples of trade show exhibits that positively build brands, be it for companies, products, or divisions:

Activision:  The video game maker Activision introduced the 3rd version of their popular product, Call of Duty, Modern Warfare 3 with dominating graphics that exemplify their personality, plus an immersive experience that echoes the War Room from the movie Fail Safe.










Polaroid: The consumer electronics company made a shift in their brand strategy for CES, pivoting from targeting resellers, to going directly to consumers.  That made for a big shift in branding, as they wanted to be seen as cool and contemporary.  The exhibit design matched that hipster vibe, as did their in-booth activities – including a new product launch by Lady Gaga, which garnered nearly 1.7 billion media impressions.











Availon: To help put an exclamation point on their new name and rebrand, Availon revealed their new identity with an exhibit shaped like their new logo, which evokes the shape of a wind turbine. The open architecture and light graphics infer the clean energy of wind power.  Notice the statement on the reception desk: “Same Service. New name,” which tells what part of their old brand Availon wanted to keep.














Eurocopter:  Eurocopter made a 14,400 square-foot brand builder with an exhibit filled with structures that echoed both their corporate logo and the shape of their helicopters and helicopter blades.  The prominent “thinking without limits” tagline, extensive use of advanced audio visual technology, and the look and feel of the exhibit helped communicate the innovative leadership position Eurocopter holds.











Huckabee: This architecture and engineering firm builds their brand with light, using a completely backlit exhibit covered with graphics that call attention to their promises of exemplary service and collaboration, visionary leadership, and proven results. The booth’s clean lines and integrated presentation technology reinforce their innovative brand.












Viz Media: As a leading publisher, Viz Media has many popular manga series books. They made their star books be the stars of their exhibit, with branding larger than the corporate Viz Media brand.  Most of all, their exhibit makes huge brand impact with their billboard sized illustrated characters.

Viz Media











Veolia Environmental Services: This exhibit builds their brand with bright red brand colors, big photos that show their employees at work providing services, and their brand name at three height levels for attendees from different distances from their booth.  As this was also for a Canadian show, their company name is in both English and French.














Quebec: This exhibit promotes for the Quebec province of Canada their overall Quebec and “partner to prosper” messages with big backlit graphic shapes and modern architecture.  At a lower level, multiple organizations have meeting/presentation spaces – and their own brands – underneath the overall Quebec brand.

Province du Québec













Healthland: This exhibitor understands that a brand position is just as important for what it isn’t.  Their tagline is “bringing EMR to rural hospitals” and they also include the statement, “we’re not for everyone.”






















Bauder: It takes great discipline to reduce your brand elements to so few elements as this exhibit.  There is one predominant color, orange.  The message – flat roofs, green roofs – is simple and repeated for viewing from different sides.  With so little to say, the message is said large and clearly.  There are no doubts or confusion about their brand offer.













Read the Using Promotions & Social Media to Get More Trade Show Visitors book to learn and perfect how you promote your brand and your presence before, during, and after a show. Click here for your free copy.



About the Author

Mike Thimmesch is the Principal at Thimmesch Marketing. For over 25 years, he has created and implemented innovative marketing, lead generation, and exhibiting strategies that profitably grow company sales and brand awareness. Mike rose to Director level at Skyline Exhibits, where he helped generate over a half million leads, resulting in over $1 billion in sales. He published 11 industry white papers and eight exhibiting books, presented over 100 trade show webinars, and wrote over 200 exhibit marketing blog posts.

4 responses to “11 Ways to Build Your Brand at Trade Shows

  1. This is a powerful article. This is exactly what my brother and l needed to prepare for Ndola International Trade Fair in Zambaia. This is an annual event that take place every 3rd, 4th and 5th of July.

    I can’t wait to use much of your kind tips in this article.

    Thank you for empowering entrepreneurs with this knowledge!Much appreciated!

  2. Great article! Hiring professional brand ambassadors is critical when building your brand presence at Trade shows. Take this seriously and you will see your engagement and leads grow. At you can hire talent direct and vet your own talent to be sure they can deliver when representing your brand.

  3. Excellent article–it helps us who are new to trade shows focus what we do to provide a consistent message. Thank you. Wish I could talk to you for advice.

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