(This story was updated on 6/7/2023.)
Anyone can set up a booth and hand out swag. Capturing an attendee’s attention and getting them to engage with, and even purchase a product is another matter altogether.
Companies need to provide a reason for the potential customer to stick around, whether it’s something fun like a competitive game, or an experience that has tangible value, like providing a shower at a campsite.
“It’s all about creating an engaging experience for event attendees that not only drives onsite sales, but also fosters a lasting impact on consumers’ brand loyalty,” said Jessica Kirchner, senior vice president of marketing for consumer events at Emerald.
Kirchner is the co-founder of Lodestone Events, producers of Overland Expo.
She and the rest of Overland Expo’s team of consumer event professionals joined Emerald in January as part of the acquisition of Lodestone Events.
In partnership with Outdoor Retailer, Emerald’s new consumer event division team is rolling out Outdoor Adventure X (OAX) on June 17-18 in Huntsville, Utah, at Snowbasin Resort.
OAX is a gathering of outdoor adventure consumers coming together for a weekend of family fun, camping, product demos, gear vendors, and education.
Attendees at the Outdoor Retailer Summer show get a free pass for Sunday’s OAX event.
The Daily spoke with three companies with experience activating at previous outdoor events, including Overland Expo.
Here’s what they said.
When you’re offering free showers at an event attended by campers and overlanders, it’s easy to be popular.
Camping shower system manufacturer Geyser will set up a shower booth so attendees who are camping nearby can get clean in the morning or before they hit their sleeping bag.
At the space, a worker with the company provides towels and soap along with a personal demonstration of how to use the system.
Jonathan Ballesteros, founder and CEO of Geyser Systems, said some people have what appears to be a spiritual experience. The company has provided showers for thousands of campers.
“When they walk out of the shower, they’re like beaming gods and goddesses,” he said. “They look totally different. To give them that unbelievable moment is the fulfillment of our mission.”
Ballesteros said beyond the cleansing experience, the company is also able to demonstrate how little water the system requires to take a proper shower.
“If you’re serious about buying a vehicle, you’re going to test drive it before you make that decision,” he added.
Ballesteros also pointed out that the attendees can interact with the people behind the brand, which helps build trust in the company.
“There are some intangible elements that come as a result of the conversation when somebody’s at our activation booth,” he said.
After the shower, the refreshed person is then sent on their way with a Geyser sponge.
The Geyser shower booth will be at this year’s OAX event.
If you want to be successful, don’t just show up at an event with a pop-up tent and a table full of stickers.
So says Azul Couzens, senior vice president of sales and marketing for outdoor adventure equipment company Helinox.
“Events in the outdoor industry are built around a shared experience and a sense of community,” Couzens said.
Companies should strive to educate consumers about a new product and answer questions, “but ultimately, there’s a feeling they’re going to walk away with.”
Couzens calls that feeling the “warm and fuzzy,” which is what he says brands should strive to create in the moment.
At a show such as the Overland Expo, where Helinox has been a past exhibitor, brands should be looking to transcend the product they’re trying to sell, according to Couzens.
For example, he cited a booth at a bike event he attended where an industrial bike designer made pancakes in the morning, building an experience for attendees that went beyond the brand.
Providing food and drink is generally a good idea, but if that’s not allowed, try setting up a game of some sort.
“People go to events to interact,” Couzens added.
Helinox is signed up to exhibit at upcoming Overland Expo shows, and Couzens is still working out exactly how best to show off the company’s new products.
The booth will function almost as a showroom for its best-selling products, including its lightweight camping chairs.
“But that’s more aligned with commerce,” Couzens said. “That doesn’t necessarily leave somebody with the warm and fuzzies of a brand activation, which has lasting value from a brand affinity standpoint.”
Power of Moments
Not every brand can park a car with a specially designed air mattress inside it next to a booth to ensure attention and foot traffic.
But that’s exactly what car-camping gear company Luno Life does.
From there, the company executes standard lead generation practices, including a chance to win a free mattress if the visitor provides their contact information, according to Sarah Van Berkum, chief marketing and creative officer.
The visitor will then receive a follow-up email or text message.
That’s all pretty basic exhibitor stuff.
To go beyond that, Luno likes to offer something fun at the booth, whether it’s cornhole or a contest or a sandwich board touting free naps on its air mattresses.
“It’s always a fun thing instead of like ‘show discount 25% off,’’’ Van Berkum said. “That’s just not our brand’s approach. We’re a little bit more just ‘come on over, hang out. Our product will speak for itself.’”
People can also climb in the car and test out or inflate the mattress. They’ve also had a contest to see who can blow up a bed the quickest.
Van Berkum stressed the “power of the moment,” and how important it is to give people a reason to come into a booth.
“Give them something to remember you by that is beyond just the product on sale,” she added. “Because people buy from brands, and they connect with people that way versus just the product.”
Bart Schaneman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.