Topics Magazine Find It EXHIBITORLIVE eTrak FastTrak CTSM Certification Awards News Advertise
& Promotion
& PR
& Demonstrations
Social Media
case study
quick stroll down the dental-care aisle at your local drugstore will reveal an overwhelming cacophony of toothpastes, mouthwashes, dental flosses, mechanized toothbrushes, and white strips. "Clinically proven" to whiten your teeth, freshen your breath, and prevent gum disease, over-the-counter oral health-care products make up a mammoth industry that's growing faster than you can gargle and spit. In fact, a 2010 study by market-research firm Global Industry Analysts Inc. (GIA) projects the toothpaste market alone will reach $12.6 billion by 2015. What's more, the study found that 97 percent of consumers in developed countries use some variety of toothpaste, noting that when consumers choose a paste, brand and flavor take precedence over price.

A multibillion-dollar industry in which a vast majority of the developed world's population are brand-loyal customers not deterred by price seems like a marketer's dream come true. But a market that size presents its own set of challenges. For one, members of the industry's target audience are generally already brand-loyal customers, and with more than a dozen brands in the U.S. alone, they have a lot to choose from. Second, since price isn't likely to entice users to switch toothpaste teams, a bargain or coupon-based promotion is about as tempting as a root canal. So how does an oral health-care company like Colgate Oral Pharmaceuticals Inc. grow its business? Turns out, the secret to success is variety - which is why that oral health-care aisle looks like the toothpaste version of Baskin Robbins and its 31 flavors.

Colgate alone currently has more than 16 distinct categories of over-the-counter toothpaste, from Colgate Total and Colgate Cavity Protection to Colgate Optic White. And each of those 16 pastes and gels features a subset of specific flavors and benefits. But with so many choices, how does the average consumer pick a favorite and stick to it? The answer to that question is the dental professional, according to Kate Parrish, operations manager at Colgate. "We concentrate on demonstrating our key differentiators to dentists and hygienists, in hopes that they then recommend Colgate products to their patients." And fortunately for Colgate, there's a popular watering hole to which hygienists and myriad other dental professionals migrate every year: the American Dental Association Annual Session.

Rinse and Repeat

Marketing to dental professionals in order to reach the consumer is nothing new for Colgate, which has made the trek to ADA for years. And each year, the company tweaks its exhibit program like it tweaks the many flavors and properties of its popular pastes, but the core formula remains the same - education. "Our focus has always been on educating attendees," Parrish says. "We want them to learn about what differentiates our products from the competition." But at a conference that boasts more than 250 educational sessions and an audience keen on attending those sessions to earn continuing education credits, in-booth education can be a hard sell. Tossing a staffer in front of a projection screen and conjuring up a PowerPoint presentation is unlikely to illicit much more than an empty booth. In short, Parrish says, attendees don't want to enter a classroom-like exhibit for a professorial presentation when they leave their educational sessions and head to the exhibit hall. They want a change of pace and a little more excitement when they hit the show floor.

For that change of pace, Colgate turned to 3D Exhibits Inc. "Colgate's ADA exhibit in 1997 had incredible results, and we've been evolving with them ever since," says Michael Seymour, senior vice president of 3D Exhibits, based in Elk Grove Village, IL. That year, Colgate's exhibit featured a 3-D immersive product presentation, wherein attendees donned 3-D glasses as a booth staffer led them through the experience. A few years later, in 2003, the dramatic ante was upped quite a bit when Colgate and 3D Exhibits opted for fabric walls to envelop a presentation stage, creating an enclosed space. The fabric, which was hung from overhead truss, was lowered as the presentation began, and raised back up as soon as the presentation ended. "That was one of my favorite designs," Seymour says. "It was visually striking, very memorable, and ahead of its time." While each variation of Colgate's ADA exhibit was slightly different than the last, they all featured the primary element of education. What's more, attendees began to expect a theatrical flair from Colgate, making its booth a must-see.

In addition to being both highly engaging and educational, the company's exhibiting efforts were also quite successful. "We have a track record of meeting our sales goals and attendance objectives every year," Parrish says. "So we knew our approach of mixing education with a little wow factor worked." Parrish and Seymour took that winning approach straight to ADA 2011, where Colgate would be promoting two toothpastes: Colgate Total Gum Defense and Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief.

To ensure both products received equal billing within the 2011 exhibit, Colgate, along with its Highland Park, IL-based marketing agency RK Associates Inc. and 3D Exhibits, devised a multistage, interactive experience with an ending so fresh it would leave hygienists giddier than a dental patient hooked up to nitrous oxide. The 50-by-50-foot booth space would be split into three areas, and each area would feature an information station. In addition to the info stations, the booth would also include what came to be known as the "Science Bowl," a round, semi-enclosed structure that resembled a modernist take on the Roman Colosseum. The gargantuan structure, which would tower over neighboring exhibits, set the stage for the pièce de résistance - a lighthearted trivia game designed to test attendees' knowledge of Colgate's key messages, all of which would be sprinkled throughout the info stations.

The focal point of Colgate Oral Pharmaceuticals Inc.'s exhibit at the 2011 American Dental Association Annual Session, the 20-foot-tall
Science Bowl was bedecked in 12 touchscreen monitors, two 5-by-10-foot branded signs, and semitransparent red Lexan paneling.

Minty Fresh

Thanks to Colgate's premier booth space facing the entrance to the exhibit hall, the Science Bowl was the first thing attendees saw when they entered the show. Rising 20 feet above the floor, the imposing circular structure was outfitted with couldn't-miss Colgate-red signage, including two 5-by-10-foot banners and a triangular ceiling structure hung from overhead truss. A semitransparent wave of red Lexan paneling encircled the Science Bowl's exterior like ribbon around a spool, creating walls that were opaque enough to conceal the structure's interior, yet translucent enough to allow attendees to steal a passing glance.

In addition to serving as the structure's walls, the Lexan sheeting also featured key messages such as stats about the effectiveness of Colgate Total Gum Defense and Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief, images of the products, and the Colgate Total logo. The cavalcade of crimson bathed the entire exhibit space in the instantly recognizable hue, turning the Science Bowl into a sort of branded beacon that seduced attendees into entering Colgate's booth space. "The high visibility of the theater created immediate excitement," Parrish says. "Right off the bat, people wanted to know what was going on and get inside to experience it." Aside from its striking red façade, the Science Bowl featured another irresistible trait: noise. Cheers, applause, laughter, and music bellowed from within the structure like a siren song, full of the promise that good times were ahead.

Unable to ignore the visual and aural onslaught amid a show floor filled with exhibits that mustered about the same amount of excitement as parents telling their children the Tooth Fairy doesn't exist, attendees answered the Science Bowl's call and made their way to the entrance.

Much to the surprise of the booth visitors, the journey from the aisle to the entrance of the Science Bowl wasn't a straight shot. Rather, attendees had to earn their way into the structure by visiting each of the information stations. The trek began when a booth staffer dressed in a Colgate-branded lab coat interrupted attendees walking toward the theater and ushered them over to a stanchioned area, assuring them that a visit to the Science Bowl was just minutes away. When 10 people were gathered, the staffer unhooked the first stanchion, and attendees filed into a corral of sorts. Here, a presenter in a lab coat welcomed attendees while standing next to a 42-inch touchscreen monitor displaying an image of Colgate Total Gum Defense toothpaste. As the presenter extolled the benefits of the paste, he flipped through images on the touchscreen that illustrated each of the key messages.

For example, when he talked about how effective Triclosan and copolymer, two key ingredients in all Colgate Total toothpaste varieties, were at preventing plaque bacteria regrowth over ordinary fluoride paste, a graphic of two mouth scans appeared on the screen. The side-by-side scans showed two sets of teeth laden with equal mounts of greenish-yellow splotches representing bacteria: one labeled "Ordinary Fluoride Paste," the other labeled "Colgate Total." As he talked about Colgate Total Gum Defense's ability to help prevent bacteria growth, he used his finger to "brush" away the splotches on the Colgate Total side. When he finished brushing, he invited an attendee to step up and "brush" the Ordinary Fluoride side. The next screen represented scans of the same two mouths after 12 hours had elapsed, and wouldn't you know it, the Ordinary Fluoride side showed significant bacteria regrowth, while the Colgate Total chompers had mere traces.

Attendees took part in an interactive touchscreen activity, tasted Colgate toothpaste, and watched testimonial videos before entering the Science Bowl and answering a series of three multiple-choice questions.

As the presentation concluded, a staffer unhooked a stanchion leading to the next info station and invited attendees to file in. Here again a presenter in a lab coat stood next to a monitor, poised to begin an interactive demo. This time, however, the focus would be on Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief toothpaste, and instead of a highfalutin touchscreen activity, Colgate offered up a marketing tactic as old as your grandma's mercury fillings. "When it comes to toothpastes for sensitive teeth, we've learned from dental professionals and consumers that flavor plays a huge role," Parrish says. "So rather than tell attendees our paste really does taste better than the competition, we provided samples of it in the booth." The presenter squirted lentil-sized amounts of Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief paste onto plastic strips and invited attendees to have a taste. And just like grocery-store food
samplers on a Saturday morning, attendees ate it up. So with a minty-fresh mouth and a new appreciation for the taste of paste, attendees moved through stanchions to the next area.

Forming a semicircle that hugged the exterior of the Science Bowl, the third info station featured a flatscreen monitor mounted to the wall. The presenter explained that the best way to learn whether Colgate's products worked was to hear it straight from the mouths of colleagues, peers, and patients. So attendees watched a brief video featuring dental professionals and consumers raving about why they liked Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief and Colgate Total Gum Defense. At the conclusion of the three-minute video, the presenter unhooked the final stanchion and ushered attendees into the place that initially sparked their interest in Colgate's exhibit: the Science Bowl.

Dental Retention

The Science Bowl's interior featured 30 chairs separated into groups of 10 that faced a small, slightly elevated stage. As attendees filed in, a presenter introduced the Science Bowl concept and explained that attendees were going to be tested on everything they learned that day. What's more, the three groups of 10 - named the Red Team, the White Team, and the Green Team - would be competing against each other using audience-response system remotes to answer a series of three questions.

Once everyone was situated and had their game faces on, the presenter asked the first multiple-choice question: "Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief Toothpaste provides faster relief versus Sensodyne at two weeks. How much more relief does it provide?" As he read the question and the multiple-choice answer options to the audience, the text appeared on a 6-by-36-foot projection screen above the stage, along with a timer than counted down from 10. When the time ran out, scores for each of the three teams appeared on the screen. The process was repeated for two more multiple-choice questions. The Red, White, and Green teams each received one point for every member that answered the questions correctly, with a total of 30 possible points. At the end of the game, the presenter announced the winning team, members of which received a medal featuring Colgate's logo, "#1" in red, and the text, "Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief Toothpaste." And in the true spirit of friendly competition, even the losers of the Science Bowl received a parting gift - a Colgate-branded tote containing the Holy Grail of ADA: product samples. "Dentists and hygienists love samples," Parrish says. Indeed, not handing out samples at ADA is akin to opening the door for trick-or-treaters only to inform them that there's no candy. Every attendee that went through the exhibit and participated in the Science Bowl received Colgate Total Gum Defense, Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief, and a toothbrush before heading out of the theater into the booth's retail space, a series of kiosks at which attendees perused additional Colgate offerings and ordered products for their respective dental practices.

In addition to getting swag into the hands of dental professionals, Parrish says the Science Bowl served a higher marketing purpose. "The Science Bowl provided the cool factor ADA attendees had come to expect from Colgate, but it also served as a measurement tool we used to gauge how well we were communicating key messages." Turns out, Colgate was doing a pretty good job. By the end of the show, 3,161 attendees had participated in the Science Bowl and answered the questions with a 66-percent accuracy rate, a figure that equals success for Parrish.

"We never expect 100 percent, but knowing two-thirds of attendees retained the information presented at each of the three stations is a huge win for us," she says. Beyond retention of key messages, the Colgate booth generated another result: cold, hard cash. According to Parrish, on-site sales of everything from toothpaste to dental floss exceeded Colgate's pre-show goals by 110 percent. With results like that, one thing is clear - Colgate's tried-and-true exhibit strategy continues to be a breath of fresh air. E

you might also like
Join the EXHIBITOR Community Search the Site
Measurement & Budgeting
Planning & Execution
Marketing & Promotion
Events & Venues
Personal & Career
Exhibits & Experiences
International Exhibiting
Resources for Rookies
Research & Resources
Subscribe Today!
Renew Subscription
Update Address
Exhibit & Display Producers
Products & Services
Supplier to Supplier
All Companies
Get Listed
Exhibit Hall
Exhibit at the Show
The Program
Steps to Certification
Faculty and Staff
Enroll in CTSM
Submit Quiz Answers
Sizzle Awards
All-Star Awards
Exhibit Design Awards
Portable/Modular Awards
Corporate Event Awards
Company News
New Products
Shows & Events
Venues & Destinations
© Exhibitor Media Group | The Leader in Trade Show and Corporate Event Marketing Education 310 South Broadway, Suite 101, Rochester, MN 55904 | (507) 289-6556 | Need Help? Ask Scott