exhibit photos: padgett and company inc.
It's no secret that keeping a new product under wraps until a dramatic reveal is a reliable way for companies to generate considerable buzz in the media and excitement among consumers. Apple Inc. is perhaps most famous for making its devoted fans breathlessly await the launch of the latest iteration of its tech gadgets. Secrecy on the trade show floor, however, where most companies' objectives are to lure attendees to the exhibit with pre-show marketing laden with attention-grabbing details and images, is more rare. Rarer still is keeping that tantalizing new product under metaphorical lock and key even after the reveal and making showgoers clamor for a limited number of private viewing appointments. But Siemens Healthineers, the recently rebranded health-care division of the $88 billion German juggernaut Siemens AG, used both unique tactics to debut a cutting-edge piece of medical equipment at the 2016 American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC) Annual Scientific Meeting and Clinical Lab Expo in Philadelphia.
Siemens has been no stranger to innovation during its 170-year history, and the Atellica Solution, the star product to be revealed at AACC (Siemens planned on unveiling eight pieces of equipment during the show), is similarly intended to push medical science forward by leaps and bounds. The first of an upcoming suite of products, the Atellica Solution is, most simply, a piece of equipment that processes and analyzes clinical lab samples and boasts a number of breakthroughs. For starters, the Atellica Solution features a bidirectional magnetic conveyor that whisks samples through the machine at 10 times the speed of conventional conveyors. The bidirectional system also allows "stat" samples to skip to the front of the line for faster processing, saving precious minutes when they count the most. An internal multicamera system and intelligent routing software allow for independent control over every sample in the machine, and a powerful immunoassay analyzer is capable of performing more than 400 tests per hour. What's more, the system can accommodate more than 30 types of sample containers for unparalleled versatility. These advancements mean labs are more efficient and can produce more accurate results.
Setting the Stage
Eight-foot-tall overhead signage and a kinetic light element added prominence to Siemens Healthineers' exhibit.
Marketers at Siemens knew they had a history-making product on their hands, and one of the top priorities for AACC was to make the unveiling an event that would leave attendees feeling as though they had witnessed something truly historic. An obvious solution might have been to inundate preregistered attendees with literature and flood media reps' inboxes with press releases, but Siemens didn't get to where it is today by pursuing the obvious. So with the help of its exhibit house and an experiential marketing agency, Siemens developed a strategy that would make the Atellica Solution seem as secretive as the Manhattan Project and as noteworthy as the moon landing.
Siemens' desire for a dramatic debut of the Atellica Solution isn't without precedent, according to Rich Korth, executive vice president of Pleasant Prairie, WI-based Catalyst Exhibits Inc., Siemens Healthineers' longtime exhibit house. "But Siemens wanted a 'reveal' experience unique to other unveilings it's done in the past, such as kabuki drops and special lighting effects," Korth says. "And since this product was highly confidential and not yet available, it couldn't be openly displayed on the show floor. So we had to find another approach."
The solution came in the form of "smart glass," a sheet material embedded with LCD crystals that can be adhered to glass or acrylic. These crystals are opaque in their natural state, but they turn transparent when an electric current is applied to the sheet. The idea, then, was to house the Atellica Solution in an enclosed structure featuring smart glass on three sides. Leading up to the reveal, the enclosure would be an enigmatic rectangle that refused to give up its secrets. But with the push of a button, the smart glass would transform into a crystal-clear window, giving attendees a glimpse at the groundbreaking product. Meanwhile, an offset concealed entrance would allow attendees to enter the enclosure and examine the Atellica Solution up close during private appointments.
Total visits to Siemens Healthineers' microsite for the 2016 AACC show increased 218 percent over the previous year.
Another advantage of smart glass is that images and video can be projected onto it. To create this content and plan the logistics of the unveiling, Siemens turned to TPG Trade Show & Event Marketing, an experiential marketing agency based in Westmont, IL. After meeting with the Siemens team, TPG came up with a plan for turning the reveal into a dramatic countdown. Prior to the unveiling, two high-definition projectors inside the structure would emit teaser videos and a wire frame-based drawing of the Atellica Solution onto the acrylic panels, both of which would hint at what was inside and stoke attendees' curiosity even further. A timer in one corner of the screen would count down to the reveal with all the excitement of a New Year's Eve ball drop.
To add movement, energy, and light to the exhibit, TPG proposed a kinetic overhead lighting element that also referenced Siemens Healthineers' recent rebranding. Since the new logo comprises a square of nine orange circles of graduating sizes, TPG pitched the idea of suspending an array of illuminated, moving spheres over the smart glass enclosure. "We wanted to bring the dots of Siemens Healthineers' logo to life and mimic the look and feel of this new brand," says Jean Howard, director of business development at TPG. The resulting design featured 81 globes lit by internal LEDs that alternated between emitting white light and Siemens Healthineers' orange and turquoise corporate colors. The rigging for each sphere incorporated a winch that was controlled by a master computer program, enabling the orbs to move up and down in a series of balletic performances that included gently undulating waves and rapid, coordinated "bounces."
The Final Countdown
Siemens Healthineers, the health-care brand of Siemens AG, used drama and secrecy to unveil its Atellica
Solution at the 2016 American Association for Clinical Chemistry Annual Meeting and Clinical Lab Expo. The new product was kept hidden inside a structure featuring "smart glass" walls that can turn from opaque to transparent at the push of a button. After a high-energy shouted countdown, the Atellica Solution was revealed to a cheering crowd of 500 attendees.
With the plan for the Atellica Solution unveiling in place, marketers turned their attention to the rest of the exhibit, where numerous Siemens products devoted to everything from chronic disease management to information-technology solutions would also be on display. "We needed to ensure there was a proper balance of new product launches and demonstrations of our existing portfolio of products and services," says Jeannie Wert, senior manager, exhibits North America for Siemens Healthineers. "Each element had to be given the proper time, space, and energy." To that end, the marketing teams began planning activations that would draw attendees through the space, such as a virtual-reality experience and a "Build Your Own 3D Lab" activity.
Mum's the Word
With the details of the Atellica Solution, such as its breakthrough features and even its name, kept under a tight lid, Siemens' pre-show marketing focused more on intrigue than transparency. Three months before AACC, Siemens sent direct mailers to its targeted attendees, chiefly lab clinicians and directors, C-suite hospital executives, and group purchasing organizations (businesses that aggregate purchases for multiple health-care providers), inviting them to visit the exhibit. The front of the invitations featured images of newspapers, one of which bore the headline "Witness History in the Making!" Copy on the back encouraged recipients to "see the unveiling of our game-changing, next-generation immunoassay and chemistry solution," along with information regarding Siemens' on-site workshops and a link to a show-specific microsite, where attendees could schedule appointments to view the Atellica Solution. Once prospects had booked an appointment, they received a second mailer confirming their viewing time.
The "smart glass" enclosure stayed transparent for only five minutes following the reveal.
To supplement the direct mailers, Siemens initiated targeted email blasts, executed Twitter and Facebook campaigns, purchased online search advertising, and placed ads in CAP Today, the news magazine of the College of American Pathologists and a popular read among its targeted attendees. But regardless of the medium, the messaging was just as coy as the direct mailers and piqued showgoers' interest with the promise of a game-changing innovation.
The Secret's Out
Showgoers arriving at Philadelphia's airport and train station were immediately greeted with advertisements urging them to visit Siemens at booth 2101 on Aug. 2 at 10:30 a.m. to "Meet the Game-changer" and book a preview appointment. The messaging continued outside the transit hubs, where taxi toppers and bus wraps spread word of the company's impending product unveiling across the city. And upon arriving at their hotel rooms, attendees discovered a doorknob hanger featuring a similar call to action.
As some 20,000 attendees stepped onto the show floor at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, the first thing many of them saw was Siemens' 90-by-100-foot exhibit, which was positioned directly in front of one of the main entrances. An aisle-facing 15-by-8.5-foot LED wall was angled inward and projected the new Siemens Healthineers logo along with videos highlighting the company's many products. In addition to the kinetic, color-changing spheres, the exhibit was topped by two white L-shaped elements measuring 8 feet tall and 192 feet long. Constructed from fabric stretched over a 6-inch-square aluminum frame, the rigged elements featured the new branding and added prominence to an otherwise open and airy floor plan.
Attendees rated Siemens Healthineers the No. 1 booth experience in intercept surveys taken on the show floor.
Once they checked in at the exhibit's welcome desk, attendees were able to participate in guided tours of the exhibit or explore the many product stations at their leisure. Way-finding signs made from square aluminum tubing with edge-lit acrylic panels dotted the stand and specified the focus of each area, which featured actual Siemens products or computer workstations and touchscreens. In the back corner of the exhibit stood the Build Your Own 3D Lab, which comprised a 3.5-foot-square pedestal, on top of which attendees could arrange roughly 1-by-1-inch scale models of Siemens equipment in any configuration they wished. An adjacent workstation offered a similar experience in the digital realm via LED screens that displayed corresponding product specs and 3-D animated renderings, allowing attendees to explore multiple products and bring their own dream lab into focus. In another corner of the exhibit, two 6-foot-tall triangular acrylic pylons emitting an orange glow courtesy of internal LEDs called attention to the VR walk-through experience. Here, attendees could don Google Cardboard headsets and disposable ear buds and be immersed in an environment in which they could learn how Siemens' point-of-care solutions help provide accurate testing results in and out of a clinical lab.
A Healthy Mix
In addition to revealing the Atellica Solution, Siemens Healthineers' marketers prioritized showcasing the company's existing products and services. To that end, areas of the exhibit were dedicated to specific divisions of Siemens' health-care offerings and, depending on
the subject matter, featured any combination of working product models, computer workstations, and touchscreens. Meanwhile, LED-lit way-finding signs helped attendees navigate the booth.
In the center of it all stood the 28-by-16-foot smart glass enclosure, which housed the Atellica Solution behind opaque acrylic panels onto which teaser videos were projected. Not a single attendee, including Siemens' VIP clients, knew exactly what was hidden inside. (Keeping the Atellica Solution a secret was such a priority that the product name wasn't mentioned during rehearsals for the unveiling, nor was the smart glass ever made transparent.) While the majority of the exhibit featured carpet, the smart glass structure rested on dark gray, dot-textured laminate embedded with pin lights. Overhead, the lit spheres cycled through their choreographed movements and color changes, calling attention to this particular area of the exhibit from across the trade show floor.
At 9:30 a.m. on the third day of the event, attendees who downloaded the AACC show app received a push notification from Siemens announcing "We're unveiling our game-changing, next-generation immunoassay and chemistry solution today at 10:30 a.m. in booth #2101. Join the celebration!" It didn't take long for a crowd of roughly 500 attendees to amass near the smart glass structure, and professional brand ambassadors were on hand to coordinate the traffic flow as booth visitors clamored for an ideal vantage point. As the time for the unveiling drew nearer, the overhead spheres accelerated their speed and rate of color change, giving a clear indication that something exciting was about to happen. A master of ceremonies then launched into a high-energy presentation before introducing Franz Walt, Siemens Healthineers' president of laboratory diagnostics. As Walt led the crowd in a shouted countdown, the lit orbs formed an arrow pointing directly at the enclosure below. When the countdown ended, Walt touched the smart glass wall, which immediately turned from opaque to crystal clear, revealing the Atellica Solution. Attendees broke into applause and rapidly took countless photos of the game-changer they had waited so long to see. The smart glass stayed clear for only five minutes before turning back to opaque for the rest of the show. Attendees who had scheduled private viewing sessions then lined up for their turn to get up close with the Atellica Solution, and those who didn't rushed to the closest staffer to secure one of the coveted remaining appointments.
Visitors to Siemens Healthineers' exhibit could don Google Cardboard headsets and explore the company's point-of-care solutions.
Word of the Atellica Solution spread like wildfire across the show floor, and showgoers who didn't attend the reveal were able to watch video of the unveiling that was replayed on the smart glass structure. Meanwhile, members of Siemens Healthineers' U.S. and global public-relations and senior-level executive teams were on hand to field questions from the media. Siemens also had its own video team who circulated throughout the exhibit gathering footage of its product launches, booth activities, and on-site interviews, all of which was fed to the large LED screen at the front of the exhibit and put on YouTube, ensuring the buzz on the show floor spread across the industry and around the world.
While Siemens' strategy of keeping the specifics of the Atellica Solution under wraps may have been a gamble, it's one that undoubtedly paid off. The company's pre-show e-blasts, which functioned as little more than teasers regarding the unveiling, led to a 218-percent increase in total visits to the company's AACC microsite compared to 2015. At-show exhibit tours increased 145 percent over the previous year, and on site intercept surveys conducted by Marketech360 found that attendees rated Siemens the No. 1 booth experience at the show. The company's bottom line also got a boost, with the sales value per lead more than doubling compared to AACC 2015. What's more, a healthy majority of the leads gathered were what Siemens classifies as "new hot leads," i.e., prospects that indicated they had not previously been in contact with the company.
By creating an air of mystery, exclusivity, and drama around the debut of its paradigm-shifting product, Siemens proved that it can keep a secret – and generate impressive results in the process. E