It might appear that Webroot Inc. has it all – ubiquitous brand awareness in the cybersecurity industry, consistent sales, and a solid, widespread customer base. While great for the bottom line, that type of far-reaching awareness can create a conundrum for exhibit marketers and their omnipresent goal: lead generation. Nevertheless, that topped Webroot's list of objectives going into IT Nation, an annual trade show for information technology solutions providers.
But when nearly everyone in your target market knows your company and a majority of them already use your product, drumming up new business at a trade show can be a challenge – just ask Cindy McElhiney, trade show and events marketing manager at Webroot. "We are becoming somewhat saturated with the IT Nation attendee base," she says. "A large number of attendees use Webroot already, so our biggest challenge at the show was reaching those attendees who didn't know us or use our products and giving them a reason to visit the booth."
Given that challenge, setting up a traditional, corporate exhibit and relying on the popularity of the product to attract new prospects wouldn't be enough. "Since the majority of IT Nation attendees already knew Webroot and its products, that kind of presence wasn't likely to generate the type of traffic we were hoping for at the show." So McElhiney and her marketing team needed to develop a promotion that would earn Webroot a place on showgoers' must-see lists at best and pique the curiosity of passersby at least.
Thankfully, Webroot had a fairly new marketing campaign underway that had proved popular among its target audience. "Our campaign sought to disprove the perception that easy-to-manage, up-to-date security programs will only be available 'when pigs fly,'" McElhiney says. "Basically, we were spreading the message that 'pigs are flying with Webroot!'" In other words, Webroot wanted to tell its customers and prospects that everything they've wanted from their IT security was now a reality, with the help of its technology and products. The corporate campaign thus far had comprised collateral with images of flying pigs and messaging such as "You think security can be profitable, automated, and easy to manage? Yeah, when pigs fly."
Webroot Inc. promoted its pigcentric integrated program for IT Nation through e-blasts and ads in the show program and on the official website.
Given its initial success, adapting the corporate campaign for an IT Nation exhibit-marketing program was a no-brainer for McElhiney and her team. But to make it work in a face-to-face, trade show context, McElhiney knew she would have to make a few additions.
This Little Piggy Went to Market
McElhiney needed to build on the flying pigs concept and transform it from a one-off, two-dimensional idea into a comprehensive exhibit-marketing campaign. Of course, having piglets wearing angel wings prancing about the booth would be hog heaven, but not very practical (for a number of reasons). Instead, McElhiney and her team thought in more realistic terms, such as staff T-shirts and branded giveaways with images of flying pigs on them. She also planned to use imagery from the existing campaign on the graphics panels and reception desk for Webroot's 10-by-20-foot in-line booth.
Next, the team devised a pre-show marketing campaign. The idea was to cast a wide net to all 2,700 IT Nation attendees, with the intent of capturing at least 270 engagements with small- and medium-sized business owners. That 10-percent goal might seem modest, but given Webroot's immense popularity, generating even 27 new-business leads would be a feat. To maintain consistency across all marketing initiatives, the same flying piggies gracing the T-shirts, giveaways, and exhibit would be used in the pre-show communications.
A single e-blast would introduce the concept and invite attendees to visit the exhibit, with similar text featured in the corporate campaign along with the addition "Buckle up, it's time for takeoff." The e-blast also included the URL for the flying pigs microsite, which contained product and contact information as well as the now ubiquitous airborne animals imagery. A similar treatment was used for a registration-bag insert. Webroot also placed a full-page ad in the show's program guide, a banner ad on IT Nation's website, and an ad on the show organizer's site. The company also placed branded carpet squares in the venue leading to the exhibit hall. Lastly, the company created a 90-second video ad to be streamed on digital signage throughout the event.
But a clever tagline and tongue-in-cheek imagery weren't going to be enough to lure both existing clients and new prospects to the booth en masse. An e-blast with a cute pig or two on it might garner a collective "Awwww," but that reaction is hard to convert to a sale. So McElhiney and her team came up with an experience that combined flying pigs with low-tech gamification: cornhole.
A Silk Purse out of a Sow's Ear
A cybersecurity colossus, Webroot Inc. employed the well-known idiom "When pigs fly" to combat its unique dilemma: stagnating newbusiness leads at trade shows such as IT Nation.
Attendees were given their custom, pig-printed beanbags (which doubled as cellphone stands) via a room drop at their hotel.
Booth visitors were entered in a drawing for one of two branded, regulation-size cornhole games.
In-booth giveaways included branded notepads, pins, and flying, squealing pig plush toys.
A Midwest staple, regulation cornhole comprises two wooden boards, each with a hole cut out, set at an angle and placed 27 feet apart. Players stand opposite their intended goals, similar to horseshoes. The object of the game is to toss beanbags into the holes. "We wanted an activity that anyone could play, and cornhole is a game that doesn't require any special knowledge or experience," McElhiney says. "Plus, we didn't want to go high tech, but rather create an experience with human interaction that we could use as an effective conversation starter."
And guess what players would use as the beanbags? Flying pigs. Well, more like beanbags that had been printed with images of flying pigs. So with the novel theme, pre-show promotion, exhibit graphics, and in-booth activity settled, the Webroot team packed up the pigs and headed to Orlando, FL, for IT Nation.
When attendees checked into their rooms in Orlando, they each discovered a charming room drop from Webroot featuring a postcard and a custom flying-pig beanbag that doubled as a mobile-phone stand. The postcard's headline read "Profitable endpoint security? When pigs fly...", while additional copy invited recipients to "Come play cornhole! Drop by the Webroot booth with the enclosed bean bag to participate in our Cornhole game ... And don't worry, you'll get your bean bag back after you play, along with another great souvenir. Hint: It flies and squeals!" The intrigue was palpable. In addition to the invitation to visit the booth and play a jaunty game of cornhole, the postcard included the flying pigs microsite URL and information regarding a "buy three, get one free" promotion on Webroot products during the show.
The combination of airborne swine, product freebies, at-show discounts – and perhaps genuine curiosity about what playing a game called cornhole entails – proved to be hard to resist for attendees. They showed up in droves and with a mission: jettison some petite pigs into tiny wooden holes. As would-be cornhole connoisseurs made their way across the show floor to Webroot's exhibit, they were greeted by staffers wearing branded T-shirts with the prompt "Pigs are flying! Ask Webroot Why" on the front and an image of flying pink piggies and the company's logo on the back. "Attendees definitely showed up with their game faces on, ready to play," McElhiney says. After answering three short qualifying questions, booth visitors stepped up to the plate, or wooden board as it were, and tried to score a cornhole in one with their little piggy projectiles.
Regardless of their cornhole acumen, every player was entered into a drawing for one of two branded, regulation-size custom-skinned cornhole games, beanbags, and carrying cases. And everyone walked away with their flying pig beanbags. Additional giveaways included flying pig plush toys (for those attendees that brought their room-drop postcards to the booth) along with branded notepads, T-shirts, and pins.
"The response was tremendous, and there was a continuous line at our booth for almost the entire show," McElhiney says. Naturally, booth staffers took advantage of the curious queue. "When people were waiting in line, we had the opportunity to discuss computer security in general and how Webroot could help them in particular," she says. Those that wanted a deep dive into the company's offerings could get just that by viewing product demos on one of the three flatscreen monitors positioned throughout the exhibit.
In addition to the cornhole game and flatscreens, the exhibit featured a particularly charming cast of barnyard characters: a handful of bubble-gum pink, 3-D pig figurines suspended from a shallow serpentine canopy above the back wall. The dangling swine certainly caught the eyes of passersby, adding yet another whimsical element to Webroot's porcine promotion.
"We were very pleased with the outcome, particularly since it was a nice improvement over past shows. Our two prior booths at IT Nation had yielded badge scans from 7 and 9 percent of attendees, respectively; whereas, this promo attracted more than 11 percent of the show's attendees to our exhibit."
Even before the last piglet soared through the air and hit the cornhole board with a "thwack," McElhiney and her team knew they had struck marketing gold with the flying pigs exhibit program, word of which quickly spread across the show floor. "It seems that everywhere our team walked during the show, people – attendees, other exhibitors, conference staff – would tell us what a great, entertaining, innovative, and cool idea our campaign was," she says.
And the exhibit's success didn't stop with the verbal praise. Of the show's 2,700 attendees, 309 made it to the booth, surpassing Webroot's original goal by 39 visitors. Perhaps more impressive, however, is that of the 309 badge scans, 257 turned out to be actionable leads. "We were very pleased with the outcome, particularly since it was a nice improvement over past shows," McElhiney says. "Our two prior booths at IT Nation had yielded badge scans from 7 and 9 percent of attendees, respectively; whereas, this promo attracted more than 11 percent of the show's attendees to our exhibit."
In addition to the impressive lead figure, Webroot also garnered two IT Nation show awards: The Partner's Choice Award and the Biggest Buzz Award. Furthermore, the flying pigs campaign was used throughout the year at every trade show Webroot attended. It's not difficult to see why it was so successful. Whenever you let show attendees launch faux livestock into the air, you've certainly got memorability on your side.
On top of the number of kudos and leads the campaign generated, Webroot's bottom line also benefited from the other white meat. The company recuperated its entire exhibiting budget four times over via sales from the new prospects obtained at the event.
By pairing a well-known idiom with an unusual in-booth activity, Webroot was able to create the kind buzz and excitement often generated only by startups and companies with big budgets. An award-winning exhibit-marketing program that more than pays for itself? When pigs fly.E