During the ski season, I spend a lot of time on Interstate 80 in California. When I’m unfortunate to get stuck in “stop and go” traffic, it makes me realize the effectiveness of highway billboard ads. At the same time, however, I find that the majority of ads are poorly done and only a handful truly resonate with me.
I also got to thinking about the similarity between highway billboard ads and the signage in booths at virtual trade shows. In both cases, the “target audience” is highly transient, moving from one location to another. As on a highway, you may zip right past a sign (or booth) without event noticing it. With foot on the brake pedal, I pondered how the concepts behind effective billboard ads can apply to the design of your virtual booth.
1) It’s not about you.
Advertisers (exhibitors) all too often think in their own terms, when they should be thinking on their audience’s terms. Remember that prospects don’t care about your product offerings, they care about how to solve their business challenges. So talk to them about them and not about you.
Jiffy Lube had an effective billboard. It said, “My time matters.” Instead of talking at you (i.e. “Your time matters”), they put the advertisement in your own voice. In doing so, they made it about you, and not about them.
2) Make your audience interpret a bit.
My favorite billboard ad was from ING Direct. It said, “Drive Safely“. That’s it! The vast space of a billboard ad, consumed by two words. My first reaction was, “Thanks!” and my second reaction was, “Hmm, drive safely … and my money is also safe with ING.” The impact of an ad is enhanced when viewers need to think in order to interpret its message.
3) Eliminate the Gobbledygook.
David Meerman Scott (@dmscott) wrote about The Gobbledygook Manifesto, a set of overused and cliched business terms. While I don’t see much gobbledygook on highway billboards, I see them in virtual booths. As I mention in point #1, “it’s not about you”, so speak in terms that your audience understands. More often than not, that’s plain English (substitute your local language here).
4) Invite rather than declare.
Unlike a billboard ad where viewers can zoom by at 55 MPH (or higher), a virtual booth’s signage can invite visitors to start a conversation with your company. Rather than declaring your “market leading product” via gobbledygook, invite visitors to speak to you about their business challenges.
Remember, it’s all about their challenges and not about your products. If your products can help address those challenges, then you may have a sales opportunity. But don’t assume that “everything fits” at the outstart.
5) Less is more.
As Jiffy Lube and ING Direct demonstrated, eloquence is all about short and sweet, not about wordiness. Twitter taught us to go 140 characters or less – with billboard ads and booth signage, think about 14 characters or less.
Keep some of these principles in mind as you build your next virtual booth. If your visitors are flying by at 55 MPH, make your booth that highway lookout, where they stop the car, pull over and stay for a while.