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case study

hey're known by a dozen names in a hundred different fields: Outliers. Alphas. Iconoclasts. They're the innovators of industry and the commodores of commerce who leap into the unknown when others are afraid to risk even a baby step - think Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook Inc. or the late Steve Jobs of Apple Inc. It was the raw allure of these behemoths of business with their maverick-y disdain for paint-by-numbers routine around which exhibit house Czarnowski Inc. built its strategy for EXHIBITOR2011 in Las Vegas.

Throughout its many appearances at EXHIBITOR Show over the years, Czarnowski has successfully cultivated a reputation for building booths that showcase its design DNA. But in 2011, with the economy as battered as an aging boxer who's one right cross away from going down for the count, it was more important than ever for the company to differentiate itself. So Czarnowski planned to not only erect an eye-catching exhibit, but to create an additional layer of differentiation by appealing to the aspirations of its target audience - the outliers, alphas, and iconoclasts of the face-to-face marketing industry.

"We wanted to pay tribute to the exhibit and event managers out there who see a little further, and in doing so attract those who aspired to be all-star marketers," says Janine Makar, the director of marketing for Czarnowski. It would be tougher, though, than just tossing a few bouquets of bon mots through press releases. Instead, Czarnowski wanted its pre-show promotions, in-booth activities, off-floor events, guerrilla-marketing stunts, and post-show follow-ups to combine in such a way that it would leave no doubt in attendees' minds that Czarnowski could elevate their game to sky-scraping levels. In doing so, the company hoped to match the 50 qualified leads it generated at EXHIBITOR2010, as well as engage in six meetings with new prospects that would last at least one hour.

Getting Jumpy

If "Well begun is half done," as the adage goes, Czarnowski's first step was crucial. The company had to establish an uncomplicated theme that would tie together all of its tactics in one neat conceptual bow. After debating the images, catchphrases, and slogans that might capture the root of its approach, Makar and Czarnowski's marketing department realized its soul could be bottled in one simple word: jump. The word was a simple, accessible metaphor - we jump for joy, jump at the chance, and jump on the bandwagon - that would suggest how extraordinary marketers hurdle over obstacles and bound past conventional restraints.

"The 'jump' concept also let us create a series of related activities that explored the theme colorfully," Makar says. After settling on the bouncy nomenclature, Czarnowski then decided to append it at various points with "curve," as in "curve jumpers," those outliers, alphas, and iconoclasts who spring so far away from the middle of the Bell Curve that they elevate themselves and their companies to new heights.

One month before the show opened, Czarnowski shot off the first salvo of its strategy by cultivating media attention. Focusing on three targeted industry publications, the company sent seven writers and editors working for those titles bags containing a 4-by-6-inch card elaborating on the jump-related theme, a red T-shirt with "Jump" imprinted on it, and a pair of Chuck Taylor sneakers shaded in the company's red and white colors. Prior to the show, the company also scheduled in-booth interviews with three media representatives.

Czarnowski followed its pre-show prep with a series of e-mail blasts sent to approximately 1,000 registered attendees. Four days before the show, the first e-mail explained the concept of the "Curve Jumper" as someone with the vision and the guts to attempt the new and explore the unrevealed. Building on that notion, the company's second missive introduced the idea of jumping the curve as being the way exhibit and event managers could take their programs to a new level. The last message, delivered the day EXHIBITOR2011 opened, invited attendees to the booth, become part of the movement, and jump the curve.

Hook Before You Leap

When attendees approached the Czarnowski booth, they could see the e-mails' themes brought to life graphically in the 20-by-30-foot
structure - such as the plasma screens displaying visuals of "idea shapers" (i.e., Czarnowski staff) vaulting into the air. Attired in dark jeans, a white or red T-shirt printed with "Jump Czarnowski," and, of course, the red Chucks, staffers lured in attendees with scripted opening lines, including "You look like a curve jumper," and "Are you ready to jump?"

Once visitors had been qualified with a set of up to six questions, staffers steered them to any of four available sitting areas, where they relaxed on white leather couches and chairs. Here, staff engaged guests in what would be the usual boilerplate banter about the attendees' challenges. But instead of formulaic questions that often elicit equally rote answers, Czarnowski used the opportunity to delve deeper into the jump concept to make it personal for each visitor.

Employing touchscreens, staff used the company's combination presentation/lead-capture eLit system to show Czarnowski's offerings and products that would help boost them to the next marketing level. Whenever guests were interested in any text, graphic, or video that appeared on the touchscreen, they could tap on the item and send it straight to their e-mail or mobile device. Besides offering a less mundane way to explore the company's products and services, the eLit's slick, high-def imagery - often with the jump motif worked in - made Czarnowski look like the company itself had ascended to a higher plane than many of its competitors.

After the eLit excursion into the company's offerings (the interactions averaged about 15 minutes), staff escorted customers to the center of the booth where three massive rings awaited them. Looming 12 feet high and 16 feet in diameter, the sculptural steel circles, stacked one atop the other, looked like oversized Olympic rings gone rogue.

Every visitor to the booth - not just those qualified by staff - was asked to stand atop a circular platform inside the rings, where his or her picture would be snapped by a series of 30 high-speed cameras attached inside the steel hoops. Once guests positioned themselves on the white platform inside the red rings, staff asked them to jump on a given cue. As visitors launched off the pedestal, the cameras took several shots from different angles, and then combined the shots into a short film that made attendees looks like Keanu Reeves in "The Matrix," suspended in midair with more-than-human grace. Afterward, participants could view the video of their self-propelled launch on a 30-inch monitor, and e-mail it to friends or share it on Facebook, Twitter, and other social-media platforms.

All visitors to the booth received an e-mail thank you, which included a link to a montage of the jump videos as well as a link to a video of their own particular jump. Qualified attendees left with extra goodies, however; 200 designated as qualified leads left with a $5 Starbucks gift card to jumpstart their day, while a handful of those considered highly qualified walked away with their own pair of red Chucks.

Married to the Flash Mob

Like many exemplary exhibitors, Czarnowski understands the battlefield for attendees' mindshare isn't limited to the show floor. The night before the show's first day, the company held a customer-appreciation event at an upscale Asian restaurant, where 49 guests were treated to a bevy of beverages and an assortment of appetizers. Events like these are normally eat-it-and-beat-it for guests, but Czarnowski's celebration was spiced up by the first appearance of its flash mob. A group of 10 professional dancers drawn from Los Angeles and Las Vegas, the performers shook their collective booty to the tune of several songs echoing the company's theme, including the Pointer Sisters' "Jump (for My Love)" and Van Halen's "Jump." (Before
the flash mob made any of 15 subsequent appearances on and off the show floor, Czarnowski texted several hundred customers to alert them to the mob's imminent performances, and a company-produced video of the flash mob racked up several hundred views on YouTube.)

With the music caroming around the room, and 30-inch monitors scrolling photos of Czarnowski staff bucking into the air, the guests were invited into a makeshift photo studio to attempt liftoff themselves. After staff photographed the guests aspiring to a more physical kind of upward mobility, the company added the pictures to those appearing on the monitors. The guests also received a thank-you e-mail from Czarnowski, along with a link where they could download the jump photos from the evening.

In return for attending the shindig, attendees also collected a branded black-mesh bag that contained the same crimson "Jump"-inscribed T-shirts worn by staffers, a red hat with "Jump" printed on the front, a 4-by-6-inch card detailing the jump theme, a pair of red Chucks, and a copy of "Creating Customer Evangelists," by Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell. Czarnowski even arranged for Huba, a consultant whose forte is creating customer evangelists for your brand, to make a relatively brief 15-minute presentation.

A Soaring Success

The airborne exhibiting strategy helped Czarnowski exceed both its qualified-lead goal and its goal of meeting with six new prospects by 50 percent each. Furthermore, the average length of those meetings was 1.5 hours, far outpacing its target by 30 minutes. Dollars-and-cents numbers like these are essential to a company's viability, but the infectious enthusiasm that spells the difference between a Zune and an iPod can be measured in other ways as well.

While the company hoped that 200 attendees would take part in the in-booth jumping activity, 300 ultimately went airborne, generating 2,351 Facebook posts of jump-related videos (which attendees originally posted and their friends on the social network later re-posted). The resulting 14,439 total views smashed the company's target by 722 percent, arguably achieving viral-video status. Apparently, as Czarnowski proved, telling your customers to take a flying leap is one of the smartest moves you can make.E

Charles Pappas, senior writer; cpappas@exhibitormagazine.com

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