rom the outside, the medical-device industry looks more cluttered than the typical household on an episode of A&E's "Hoarders." A plethora of companies produce thousands of devices that bring in hundreds of billions in revenue each year. Despite stiff regulations for approval of new devices in the United States, they seem to keep coming out as quickly as new smartphones: The Food and Drug Administration approved more than 30 new devices in 2013. Like most other saturated industries, several big boys on the block rake in the majority of the cash and garner significant name recognition; Johnson & Johnson Services Inc. alone snags annual revenues that top $60 billion. That leaves smaller competitors to fill the niches and face an uphill battle to build a recognizable brand identity.
One such company is Carestream Health Inc. Based in Rochester, NY, the firm produces medical-imaging devices focused on radiology and information-technology solutions for health-care providers. With modest annual revenues near $2.5 billion, Carestream is a relatively new player in the medical-device industry. "As a newer and smaller company with specialized products, we are faced with the challenge of establishing a high-visibility brand identity at trade shows where we compete with large companies that have existing name recognition and exhibits that are often the size of small cities," says Diane Evenson, manager of worldwide events for Carestream.
In 2012, Carestream was also transitioning to a suite of digital products to support the shift in radiology from traditional printed images to an all-electronic process. This included a mobile, digital-radiology system called DRX and the MyVue Patient Portal, an online system that allows patients to view radiology images provided by their doctors and share them with other health-care providers. While Carestream substantially increased its trade show presence in 2010 by introducing a 160-by-80-foot booth at its biggest yearly trade show, the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) Annual Meeting, sheer size alone hadn't proved effective in delivering big-time results or establishing a clear brand identity. So when planning began in July for RSNA 2012, Evenson knew changing up a few graphics and relying on standard promotional practices wouldn't be enough to turbocharge exhibiting results.
Instead, it was time for a high-tech, visitor-friendly facelift and a creative and attention-getting pre-show promotional effort to drive booth traffic, build Carestream's brand identity, and send a message that the company had the prowess and products to hold its ground among industry giants.
"We wanted to create a memorable exhibit to help our brand stand out on the trade show floor and introduce our new products," Evenson says. "We needed something bold that communicated we were a forward-thinking company offering digital solutions." Working with an internal team, Evenson also employed the assistance of Catalyst Exhibits Inc. to develop a refreshed design concept, under the theme "A Smarter Way Forward," that would leave a lasting impression with the nearly 50,000 radiological-industry professionals that attend RSNA.
"We set out to establish a space that was digital in look and feel to portray Carestream's focus on digital products," says Mark Lynch, vice president of creative services for Pleasant Prairie, WI-based Catalyst. Carestream and Catalyst came up with a concept to achieve those objectives: a massive 166.5-by-4-foot overhead LED sign with scrolling messaging as well as vibrant product-focus areas for DRX and MyVue. "We knew we could stand out by going with a much more retail feel typical of consumer electronics by focusing on LED messaging, vibrant colors, and stylized product displays to create a space that was alive and digital in feel," Lynch says.
"When Catalyst first designed the exhibit in 2010, one objective was to ensure it had capabilities to effectively move the various components to accommodate Carestream's RSNA product strategy each year," Evenson says. This flexibility helped cut costs by allowing for the company's digital-design makeover without starting from scratch. But that didn't mean Carestream wasn't willing to invest in success; the project budget was approximately $1 million. With that kind of price tag, Evenson understood the importance of establishing measurable objectives to justify the spend, including ranking among the top 10 most visited booths at the show, ensuring at least half of leads collected were well qualified, and prebooking product demonstrations with a minimum of 280 new customers.
Measurable goals and a supporting design concept in hand, Carestream took the road less traveled by medical companies, focusing heavily on social media to promote the exhibit leading up to RSNA. The company developed show-specific advertising and informational content for the big four of social media (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn), including a series of ads conveying its dedication to collecting leads at the show and sending the message that Carestream had something sorely missing from most companies in the industry: a sense of humor.
To create a more relatable brand identity – and have some
fun in the process –Carestream Health Inc. turned to social
media for pre-show communication.
Playing off the hit 2012 song "Call Me Maybe," one image featured a mock RSNA show badge with the slogan "Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy, but you have a badge, I scan it maybe?" Another ad pictured a component of the mobile DRX radiology system with the caption "I'm gonna test drive this baby!" YouTube content included short videos providing high-level product information through humorous animated clips.
The company also built a microsite (www.carestream.com/RSNA) with detailed product info, purchased online advertising on key industry sites, and sent a series of six direct mailers to attendees registered for RSNA as well as existing Carestream customers. In addition, through an RSNA sponsorship, Carestream secured advertising in the official show newsletter along with company branding on 15,000 tote bags distributed to attendees.
Carestream also worked to spread more substantive details about its featured DRX and MyVue products before the show with informational blogs shared on its microsite and on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. These postings provided industry professionals with product studies and specifications. Additionally, Carestream released press information on the new products in September, a tactic the company claims generated additional unpaid media exposure valued at $50,000.
All promotional material featured Carestream's booth number as well as the option to pre-schedule in-booth product demonstrations. The company has found booking appointments in advance helps substantially boost exhibit attendance. Already exceeding goals before the show doors even opened, Carestream sales reps preregistered 554 customers for product demonstrations, including 321 new prospects – 15 percent above goal and a 28-percent increase over the previous year's show.
Training Boot Camp
With all indications pointing to steady booth traffic, Evenson and the Carestream team took a comprehensive and fun approach to pre-show staff training to get the company's 250 representatives prepped to provide a virtuoso visitor experience.
Training included four in-person sessions that were recorded for viewing by staff unable to attend as well as trainings specifically developed for Carestream's online employee training
system called eCampus. While this training included bringing staff up to speed on the new products, it also focused on customer-engagement tactics and in-booth behavior to ensure staff delivered Carestream's friendly, approachable brand promise at the show.
To infuse some fun, trainers quizzed staff on key concepts and handed out prizes that included orange scarves and bow ties. At one point, they even rolled out a T-shirt cannon, shooting out T-shirts featuring the internal show theme logo "Get your orange on."
Plus, the day before RSNA opened, all staff received in-booth training to familiarize themselves with the exhibit layout and key selling points.
Follow the Orange Carpet Road
On Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012, doors opened on the RSNA conference, held at McCormick Place in Chicago. Given the enormous venue, plethora of competitors, and sizeable booth, the Carestream exhibit featured simple visual cues and a streamlined, open design. "The sheer size of the booth and new overhead signage created an oasis within the show hall with highly visible branding and messaging that visitors could see from several hundred feet away," Lynch says.
"We constructed a main pathway through the display in Carestream's trademark orange color to give guests a subliminal sense of direction and movement through the booth," Lynch says. "Oftentimes attendees can get lost or confused within a space this size. But by positioning the DRX and MyVue product pods along the pathway, it was easy for visitors to know where to go and to ensure they came away with key product information." Making good on pre-show promises, the exhibit also included an open floor space, deemed the "revolution floor," where guests could test drive the mobile DRX radiology equipment.
Hidden in the rear of the booth were 10 conference rooms used for prebooked one-on-one sessions. "This helped keep visitors in the booth longer without impeding traffic through the main pathway and product displays," Lynch says. For the conference rooms and a number of other, heavier booth structures, Catalyst employed rental structures instead of building from scratch to help cut costs. "Additionally, we chose lightweight, fabric paneling for the walls within the booth and branded them with generic messaging to make the display more portable and easily reused at smaller trade shows," Evenson says.
Designers placed lead stations strategically throughout the booth to accommodate badge scanning and lead qualifying. "One pre-show goal was to ensure at least 50 percent of leads collected were hot leads, which are people in a position to purchase a Carestream product and/or who have a key role in the decision-making process for purchasing," says JoAnn Linder, director of global marketing communications for Carestream. The company provided incentives for staff to capture as many leads as possible through daily contests that rewarded staffers who collected the highest number of leads with Amazon and American Express gift cards, as well as post-show prizes awarded based on lead value.
Taking its cue from the pre-show promotions,
Carestream's staff training featured
a humorous slant and fun activities to
keep employees interested and engaged.
Carestream also installed 10 Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) sensors inside the booth to automate visitor data capture. Official show badges for attendees included an RFID chip, allowing the sensors within the booth to track data on the number of booth visitors, the duration of time spent in key areas of the booth, and the names and demographic data for visitors who didn't interact directly with staffers. Carestream used this data to assess the success of various elements of the booth design for future planning and to follow up post-show with potential leads missed on the show floor.
Finally, throughout the RSNA show, Carestream had a dedicated staffer whose sole responsibility was to create videos for post-show posting on the microsite and social-media sites Carestream used to promote the event. The videos included interviews with well-known industry experts and testimonials from Carestream customers, and would help the company extend the conversation long after the RSNA exhibit hall closed.
Surveying the Aftermath
Following RSNA, Carestream looked to a third-party research firm to provide comprehensive data on the results of its exhibit makeover, unexpectedly lighthearted pre-show promotions, and comprehensive staff-training sessions. Key highlights of that data included ranking fifth in RSNA booth traffic, well within the pre-show goal of making the top 10. Pre-show training also paid dividends, with 84 percent of booth visitors rating Carestream's exhibit staff as "very good" or "excellent," up 17 percent from the previous year's show. The Carestream exhibit also ranked among the top three overall favorites of show attendees. In addition to touching on the positives, the data revealed areas for improvement such as additional face-to-face interactions and less booth crowding, items Evenson says are taken into consideration for future booth planning.
Post show, the Carestream team also immediately followed up with the 1,823 leads collected in the booth. While that number was in line with the prior year, 66 percent of those leads were considered hot leads, exceeding the 50-percent objective. Carestream also sent a post-show mailer to all registered attendees and leads, which directed them to its microsite to view product information featured at the show, in addition to new blog posts, videos, and other content added by the company following the event.
While Carestream doesn't have an exact return-on-investment figure available for RSNA 2012, the portable design and generic messaging allowed the company to increase profitability by revamping the 2010 booth for RSNA 2012 and using portions of the booth at smaller shows following RSNA 2012. "One of our objectives was also to ensure that our branding and messaging was used consistently at other shows worldwide throughout the year," Evenson says. "We accomplished this objective by infusing the RSNA 2012 concept into one of our larger international shows, European Congress of Radiology (ECR), which followed RSNA and was held in Vienna in March 2013."
When the time came for planning RSNA 2013, Carestream was able to use the majority of the exhibit again with a few slight modifications. "In 2012, the rear of our exhibit faced a pathway with very little traffic, so we positioned the conference rooms there," Evenson says. "In 2013, our booth was located with heavy traffic on all sides. Based on the versatility of the exhibit configuration, we were able to modify existing corporate ID headers and reconfigure rental conference rooms within the same footprint as 2012, which enabled brand recognition on all four high-traffic aisles." Evenson says results for 2013 continued to show improvement for Carestream's brand recognition.
Evenson feels the company's comprehensive RSNA exhibiting program was a smashing success and the first step to establishing Carestream as a brand that mixes cutting-edge products with an approachable demeanor and serious sense of humor. While that's something competitors can appreciate, Carestream's impressive results across the board certainly won't leave them laughing.