Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What Ecobuild can teach us about marketing



You might have heard of Ecobuild. It's the world's biggest event for sustainable design, construction and the built environment.

Imagine green walls, solar panels and responsibly-sourced timber - and you're thinking along the right lines.

Last week saw 000s of businesses selling these kinds of products pack into Earl's Court London to show off their wares.

And I was theres.

If it's green and it's a wall, it's a green wall


By chance, really, as on a train into Paddington, I'd overheard a woman talking about going to see the green walls. That's walls that are green with plants, not a band, btw.

That piqued my interest, having recently worked on some scripts for Masdar City, the world's first sustainable city.

I'm also still reeling from moving into a house where my energy bills are over 3 times what they used to be. I've got my free electricity monitor from British Gas. And now I know how much it costs to run every household appliance, from kettles and fridges to indoor marijuana factories.

She supposed to be doing that?

Okay well maybe not indoor marijuana factories.

I hope to share everything I've discovered in a newspaper article that I'm writing. There seems to be a lot of stories on the subject at the moment - and most of them are about the kind of things we can do to our homes to bring our bills down and maybe even start generating our own electricity (and get paid for it- good gosh!)

Get your free monitor from British Gas

One of the most interesting things I've read is that Labour is planning some kind of scheme whereby you can invest in solar panels and only pay back what you save every month in bills. Makes sense considering few of us can afford the £6000-8000 it would cost to buy and install solar panels.

If you'd like to DIY or don't think Labour's going to stay in power, then you might instead like to spend $1.99 on these instructions I found on ebay to make your own panels from scratch.

Anyway, so one reason I went to Ecobuild was out of interest. The other was because I thought it might be an opportunity to discover some interesting people to work with.

I called Pete, from TAP BANG, a video production company, who I met at a Baker Street BNI chapter to see if he wanted to go, too. He did so we met up before exploring the show separately.

Here's what I discovered:

A trade show is the perfect place to go to understand how you, your product, your messages and your design work in your marketplace.

What's going on?

As I walked around, I was struck by the endless barrage of words.

Company names, specifications, facts, figures.

I was also struck by how few of these companies had a one line statement that answered the question 'what's this about, then?'

Sure you can figure it out in the end by looking at the products and all the other bits of text on boards and brochures. But this takes time. It's a pain the arse. And it gives you a headache, especially if it's getting close to lunch time.

Why you?

Walking around a trade show, you'll also see just how important it is to answer the question 'what makes us different?'

There's not necessarily an incredible answer to this. After all, lots of companies do the same thing. But as good as a description as you can manage - as thorough as possible - helps people see exactly what you do.

It saves time and effort. Which means people won't get annoyed. You wouldn't like them when they're annoyed. And they wouldn't like you.

Stand out

I also saw how few exhibitors had anything that might really grab your attention. I'm not talking gimmicks but something different, something that shows a little thought, something that makes you stop and stare or think or act. Something that no-one else has.

Here's an example.

Out of the hundreds of stands I saw, only one (yes, one) advertised prices. Not only did this help you see what they sold, they also compared online prices with show prices, giving people a strong reason to buy NOW. This stand was packed. Some people were actually jostling to take a look at the prices. Others were talking about them. Why the secret? Is it true you're so expensive you don't even want to advertise the price because it might scare people off?

And another.

The Dyson stand. Textbook stuff:

The one-line USP - 'The fastest, most hygenic hand dryer' BING! IN ONE!

The attention-grabber - a tall, clear perspex box filled with paper with the copy 'If everyone visiting ecobuild this year uses the bathroom just once, the paper towel waste would stretch over 20,000 metres - the height of 194 Battersea Power Station chimneys' - BING!

Apart from the line 'if everyone visiting ecobuild this year uses the bathroom just once' making me ask the question 'What? Ever?', this is a great illustration.

It gives you a mental image that will stay with you. They've even made it London-centric. Nice.

Dyson also had a section clearly laid out for case studies. Apparently the Dyson dryer helps EDF Energy save 7 million paper towels and £30K - BING!!

And finally.

A big tick for Elmhurst Energy, whose backboard asked 'Are you a surveyor, architect or engineeer? Property developer or contractor? Local authority or housing association?

It sounds funny but by letting your target audience know who they are, you take a step towards saying what's in it for them. You want to get people nodding. Capiche?

Summary

Punters are bombarded with hundreds and thousands of products - and millions of words of information.

You really need to answer the question: 'what makes my product different?'

Failing that, make it easy for people to understand you.

Simplify your messages. Resist the temptation to overdo it.

Stand out.

Be remembered.

Get people's attention.

Spend some money and do it right. Dyson clearly had enough dosh to create a stand big enough to give a bit of space to each of the following: carbon trust badge, paper towel demo, case studies, hand dryer cutaway, its USP.

Of course, it's not all down to messaging. Dyson also benefits from its reputation. But that's another blog post.

And in case you were wondering, my name's Hayes Thompson, I'm a copywriter who can also write long copy. I am very, very reasonably priced. And Led Zeppelin is/was the greatest band in the world.