Victor Torregroza is the brand experience design program manager of global marketing and communications for Intel Corp. and a passionate pioneer of experiential marketing. He is responsible for the strategic definition and implementation of Intel's most dynamic tier-one events and trade show experiences. As the chief architect of Intel's enhanced face-to-face experiential marketing programs, Torregroza believes in keeping experiences authentic, shareable, and delightful. His mantra, "We eat with our eyes," informs his undeniable enthusiasm for bold, breathtaking experience design.
When it comes to experiential marketing, Intel Corp. is an undeniable standard-bearer. And Victor Torregroza, brand experience design program manager of global marketing and communications, is the man behind many of the company's most successful exhibit-marketing campaigns at the annual International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
Anyone who believes that Intel's award-winning program is the result of little more than a big budget and a globally recognizable brand need only spend an hour with Torregroza and listen as he waxes poetic on the painstaking detail that goes into each element of Intel's campaigns. Here, he shares his insights into the exhibit industry, his tips for fellow exhibitors
looking to stand out on the show floor, and the principles he applies to Intel's CES exhibits.
Intel has won a number of Exhibit Design Awards over the years. Why, in your opinion, is design such an important element when it comes to exhibit marketing?
When I first joined the exhibit industry, working part time for other brands, I noticed that design was an afterthought. Many exhibitors just repeated what they had done in previous years. Design was not at the forefront of the visitors' experience. Today, in our ever-connected society, the physical design of the brand space is an opportunity to provide the kind of emotional connection that cannot be experienced online. Informed design is an opportunity to further convey what your brand stands for and to do it in a way that is unexpected, emotionally powerful, memorable, and engaging.
Furthermore, I always say that we eat with our eyes. Whether we're talking about an entrée or an exhibit, it's important to acknowledge that if something isn't visually appealing, it's not as likely to be consumed. You want attendees to see your space and be drawn to it, so the aesthetic value of arresting design cannot be overstated. Good design attracts, while bad design repels. If you think about it in those terms, design becomes less about making something pretty and more about making it magnetic.
How important is it to develop specific, measurable goals and an overarching strategy prior to designing a new trade show exhibit?
This is the most critical component in the event-planning process. The approved, measurable objectives and strategy serve as the foundation for the entire event activation. Nothing should take place until the event objectives and strategy have been approved by top management. This is so important, as the defined corporate strategy serves as the guiding light for all the teams involved.
Once you have approval for an exhibiting strategy, what questions do you ask yourself to help flesh out the design parameters?
What's going to help us communicate our messages and engage with our target audiences? What will delight them? How can we connect with them in a purposeful manner? No matter our titles, as human beings, we crave unique, delightful experiences. My goal is to ensure our brand experience stands out purposefully and our messages come through clearly and authentically within a uniquely designed environment that's visually engaging and shareable.
When you say "shareable," I assume you're referring to social media. So in the context of trade shows, how important is social media?
Social media provides the opportunity to reach your target and new audiences beyond the walls of the convention center. It is an excellent opportunity to further leverage your physical brand experience and package it in a way to be shared globally. You don't need a massive exhibit in order to do this. You can take a meaningful, "snackable" experience from your 10-by-10-foot booth and share that with your social-media followers.
Even if you have a shareable, well-designed exhibit with defined strategies and objectives, you can still fall flat on the trade show floor. How do you avoid that kind of misfire?
Intel prides itself on having an authentic, engaging, informed staff. How many times have you been to a restaurant and had the worst dining experience due to rude, absent, or overly attentive servers? That exact same principle applies to exhibiting.
Whether it's staff members talking to each other, sales reps standing with their arms crossed or checking their smartphones, or staffers completely ignoring attendees, the wrong representatives can ruin everything. It's the single most criminal error I see on almost every trade show floor.
In college, I worked as a waiter at a fine-dining restaurant. I learned a lot of simple ideas there that I've brought to my career in the events industry. Every evening, before the dinner shift began, the chef would hold a formal tasting of that night's specials and features. It enabled the restaurant to allow all employees to experience the restaurant's offerings. It was a sincere, familial experience that informed and inspired us to work toward a common goal. As an event manager, I truly believe in providing my staffers a full "tasting" of the show's components: event strategy, key messages, social media, press/media priorities, demos, exhibit experiences, exhibit/event design concept, and more.
At Intel, we do several pre-show virtual training sessions focused on key messages, how to deal with the press, and social-media tips to best represent the brand, among other things. It's important to inform all team members about the full scope of the brand's strategy and goals for attending that particular show.
What mistakes do you frequently see other exhibitors making?
Too often, exhibits simply contain too much. Less is more. Always be in edit mode to ensure what's on the floor plan is purposeful and supports
the event strategy. Similarly, many exhibitors seem to dismiss open space. We live in a crowded world – physically, socially, and digitally. And at a trade show, space is definitely at a premium. But it is important to fight for open space, whether that is white space on a graphic or digital sign, or open space for visitors to experience your brand in an environment that we know is going to be crowded.
Secondly, many exhibitors are failing to properly utilize the volume of space that they actually purchase. This applies to everything from 10-by-10-foot exhibits to large-scale product launches. Brands pay a lot of money for the space they occupy, but often the focus is only on the ground. That cold, hard concrete on the show floor is expensive, and if you don't look to activate the entire volume of space that you've rented, you are underutilizing that investment. Think beyond eye level and consider the beautiful possibilities above your booth.
It can be difficult for "ingredient companies" such as Intel to measure return on investment. How do you gauge an exhibit's success?
We set concrete metrics for every event. It's part of our responsibility as show managers to track the event's impact to the brand, such as purchase intent, message retention, and overall brand perception. Early in my career, I met Joe Federbush, CEO and chief strategist of Evolio Marketing Inc. He taught me the importance of measurement, as well as the value in knowing your activation's net promoter score, staff interaction rate, and more.
At Intel, we conduct, pre-, at-, and post-show measurement that's aligned to our corporate metrics for the brand. The data we get from the resulting reports is a valuable part of the program. It informs the activation during and after the event. Many brands have absolutely no concrete, defined process to measure the impact of their events or trade show activations. But if we are not measuring our programs, no matter how small, we are failing as marketing professionals.
What advice would you give to others who face the challenge of exhibiting ingredient products?
My advice is to work with your campaign or strategy managers to extract and define the essential value of your product or technology. Once you have that defined, preserve it and communicate it to your internal and external teams along with your ratified event strategy and objectives. And don't clutter your essential offering. Ensure it is conveyed through unique experiential activations and compelling product demos. The trade show floor provides a rare opportunity to give life, value, and meaning to your "invisible" product offering in an amazing and tangible way. E
Learn more about Intel Corp.'s approach to exhibit marketing during Victor Torregroza's two educational sessions at EXHIBITORLIVE: How to Make Your Brand Stand Out on the Trade Show Floor, and Reimagine Your 10-by-10 Exhibit. For more information, visit www.ExhibitorLive.com.
Victor Torregroza explains the seven event-marketing principles he applies to Intel Corp.'s award-winning exhibit program.
1 Ratify event objectives and strategies.
This is the most critical component for any exhibit, no matter how small or large. And don't forget to define both the metrics and measurement strategies that will be used to gauge success. The approved event objectives and strategies serve as the foundation for the show through the months-long planning process. If something doesn't support the event strategy, it should not be included.
2 Create captivating, immersive, experiential spaces.
We all love and crave beautiful things, and so do attendees. Too often, the show floor is a sea of mediocrity. Use the approved event objectives and strategy to inform your agency brief. Don't settle for less. Great design doesn't have to be expensive, but it should be informed by your strategy. Successful design should inspire your target audiences and increase positive perception of your brand.
3 Carefully select and train your staff.
Make sure that you have an internal team with clearly communicated roles and responsibilities. You also want to have the best agency team in place to deliver a program that's on brand, on time, and on budget.
4 Plan for engagement.
At events and trade shows, this goes beyond just defining the desired attendee experience. Refresh staffers on basic human etiquette, body language, and simple skills such as listening and making eye contact. In this age of illuminated screens, it's important to wake up some of the behaviors we learned as children. When visitors are greeted, listened to sincerely, and engaged with authentically, they will leave your event with a delightful memory of their moment with you.
5 Embrace open space.
Our world is crowded. As such, people cherish breathing room, which is hard to find at most trade shows. But there is value in that open space, and people will flock to it. Offer attendees an experience and give them an area in which to enjoy it. Don't get too enamored with structure, rows of product displays, and unnecessary accoutrements. Sometimes if you don't build it, they will come.
6 Design for the eyes.
We eat with our eyes. We are visual creatures attracted to appealing imagery, whether it's a beautiful red sports car, a gorgeous autumnal coat, or a juicy cheeseburger with steaming french fries. Design for the eyes and the senses. You will touch visitors on an emotional level that they'll remember.
7 Design for screens.
If you give attendees something remarkable, they'll take out their phones to capture and share those experiences with the world, extending your brand's presence exponentially. So don't give in to mediocrity. Be an advocate for purposeful, amazing, captivating design that Instagram will adore.