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Exhibitor: Mindbody Inc.
Creative: Mindbody Inc., San Luis Obispo, CA,
Production: VMC Group Inc.,
Oakville, ON, Canada,
877-867-8868, www.vmcgroupinc.com
Show: International Salon
and Spa Expo, 2011
Budget: $11,080
 Generate 20 percent more leads.
 Surpass the average time attendees spend in the booth.
 Increase ROI by 10 percent.
 Convince management to expand the exhibit program.
 Generated 196 percent more leads.
 Doubled the time attendees spent in the company's booth.
 Increased the ROI by 36 percent.
 Secured management
approval for eight additional
trade shows in 2011.
pa owners, athletic trainers, and martial-arts instructors are all about health and wellness. In fact, many of them understand the human body the way a mechanic knows the ins and outs of a V-8 engine. Yet these heavyweights of health are often technology tenderfoots. While they can easily put their clients through their paces, they often struggle with the software and technology required to run their own businesses.

So for Mindbody Inc., a provider of business-management software designed for small-business owners in the health-and-wellness industry,
wooing this crowd is about as easy as pushing a 500-pound bench press.

"Our customers are passionate about their craft," says Nisse Noble, creative director at the San Luis Obispo, CA-based company. "But they don't necessarily see themselves as entrepreneurial, and many aren't technology enthusiasts. Often, then, they don't see technology and software as critical to their businesses, and they rarely view these tools as easy to use. So the main problem our exhibits must solve is to somehow remove the intimidation factor and show prospects how fun technology can be and how much our services can help them run their businesses."

Starting with the 2011 International Salon and Spa Expo (ISSE) and throughout 2011, Mindbody tackled this problem with a spot-on integrated program based on an object with which its target audience could easily identify - an orange. The healthy treat not only helped Mindbody bridge the gap between attendees and its technology, but at key shows like ISSE, it formed the cornerstone of a campaign that dramatically increased leads and return on investment - and scored a Sizzle Award to boot.

Birth of an Orange Blossom

Before Mindbody harvested the fruits of its orange-themed promotion, however, the company had done little in the way of integrated marketing. "Normally, our main in-booth activities were demos of our software," says Noelle Luchino, Mindbody's event manager. "We also offered targeted giveaways such as workout towels in our corporate-orange hue to promote our booth. But we had never done a promotional campaign quite like this."

Nevertheless, as Luchino and Noble sat down with the company's marketing team to plan the 2011 trade show calendar, they decided it was time to try something different. "We needed to offer something more than our typical demonstrations to draw people in," Luchino says, "because the demos alone do little to alleviate attendees' apprehension about technology."

Thus, Mindbody decided it would try to get attendees to focus on the company and its staffers first and then talk about its software. "We set about creating something nontraditional to generate attention on the show floor. But whatever we came up with also had to speak to our corporate culture, which at its core is fun, health conscious, and helpful," Luchino says. "We figured that once attendees saw the human side of the company, they'd be more willing to try to understand what we can do for them."

In an attempt to get techno-phobic attendees to focus first on its company and then on its software, Mindbody Inc. opted for a fruity, ­and nonthreatening, lure: the orange.

Promotional materials reinforced the orange theme while conveying information about Mindbody's software.

Booth visitors discovered a 10-by-20-foot space bursting with baskets of delicious fruit.

Orange-themed giveaways included branded T-shirts, tote bags, and pedometers, as well as orange lip balm and nail polish.
But taking the nontraditional route wasn't going to be easy. The marketing team would have to work within a 10-by-20-foot exhibit or smaller, and with a minimal budget of around $10,000 per show including everything from giveaways to staff travel.

Facing a mountain of challenges, the Mindbody creative team gathered in a multiday brainstorming session to find a solution. When they emerged, they'd settled on the orange as the central element of their campaign. "For us, an orange is fun, fresh, and colorful," Noble says. "And as a part of a healthy diet, it's a familiar element to almost all of the attendees we were targeting. What's more, orange is our corporate color, so it seemed like a logical element around which to base our 2011 campaign."

Oh My Darlin' Clementines

After a successful soft launch of the program at the Club Industry Show in October 2010 - a test run that proved to Mindbody management that this nontraditional campaign was worth further investment - the orange-themed promo officially launched at ISSE 2011 in Long Beach, CA.

Attendees first encountered the program via a pulpy pre-show e-mail. Featuring a white "Juice Up Your Biz" tagline atop an orange background and a stylized image of an orange tree, the e-mail included the text: "Mindbody Business Management Software, bringin' fresh squeezed fun to your business."

The e-mail also offered five fields into which attendees could enter their name and contact info. Text above the fields read, "Let us show you how to squeeze every drop of goodness out of your business. Take a quick, no obligation demo, and you'll understand why Mindbody software is so sweet!"

The simple, uncluttered e-mail murmured "fun" and "whimsical" as opposed to screaming "high-tech!"

Soft-Sell Citrus

As attendees arrived at Mindbody's 10-by-20-foot booth (constructed by Oakville, ON, Canada-based VMC Group Inc.), they discovered a mini orchard of sorts. While literature racks and three demo kiosks peppered the space, bushels of oranges and artificial orange trees took center stage. Staffers also filled one bushel with apples and a sign stating, "We like apples, too!" - which was a subtle way to highlight the software's ability to run on both Mac and PC platforms.

An orange-colored back wall featured the Mindbody logo and its five primary offerings - online scheduling, e-commerce, mobile applications, prospecting and marketing, and staff and client management - in white text. Beneath the wall, bushel baskets full of giveaways (orange-colored
T-shirts, nail polish, lip balm, etc.) littered the floor.

Staffers clad in orange "Juice Up Your Biz" T-shirts offered passing attendees free oranges, each one of which had a sticker that read "Mindbody grown with love." And one lucky staffer got the honor of acting as the campaign's mascot, the "Mindbody Orange," and was dressed in a poofy orange costume with green tights.

In addition to the free fruit, booth visitors also received an orange 5-by-5-inch napkin into which a similarly sized promotional card had been tucked. While one side of the card read "Squeeze more value out of your software! Schedule a no obligation demo!" the other side featured the "Juice Up Your Biz" tagline, and a stylized image of a juice glass. The glass image comprised various words such as "online scheduling," "free tech support," etc. that drew attention to Mindbody's offerings. The words "regular ecommerce education" in orange-colored text formed the straw protruding out of the top of the glass.

"By offering people an orange - a treat this crowd surely enjoyed - and providing a bit of collateral in a discrete manner, we opened a dialogue with attendees rather than hitting them with a hard sell they weren't ready to hear," Luchino says. "This simple interaction made people stop and take a second to at least wonder what it is we do. The nonthreatening opening then allowed us to ease into a conversation with them about their needs."

After the Acid Test

As attendees conversed with staffers and munched their oranges, almost invariably they asked, "So, what do you guys do?" At that point, staffers slowly eased attendees over to one of the demo kiosks and suggested they take a quick demo to not only learn about Mindbody's services and how they could help their businesses, but to earn their chance to receive one of the company's orange-themed giveaways.

Staffers then guided willing attendees through a five-minute demo, scanned their badges, and led them to one of the orange trees positioned throughout the booth. Prior to the show, staffers decorated the trees with hundreds of prize vouchers (pieces of orange paper hand cut into the shape of oranges). Attendees selected a voucher, which when opened revealed which free giveaway item they would receive, e.g., a branded pedometer, orange-flavored lip balm, a branded flash drive, orange nail polish, an orange tote bag, or an orange "Juice Up Your Biz" T-shirt.

Once attendees collected their giveaways, the in-booth interaction - which Mindbody estimates averaged 10 minutes, a figure that doubled the 2010 booth's average - was complete. However, according to Noble, attendees often hung around to talk shop with their new-found friends and maybe even munch another orange.

Following the show, Mindbody sent booth visitors an e-mail thanking them for completing the in-exhibit demo. The e-mail also encouraged recipients to click on a YouTube link and relive the ISSE adventure through the eyes of the Mindbody Orange. Throughout the show, the marketing team videotaped a tongue-in-cheek segment featuring the Mindbody Orange on her search for love (available online at www.ExhibitorWebLinks.com). Containing no product references and minimal branding, the video helped cement the mental link attendees had created between the fun-loving orange and the software company.

The Fruits of Their Labor

While Mindbody's program may have been based on a fun, healthy fruit, there was nothing fruity about the results it garnered. Not only did the booth take home Best Booth honors at ISSE, but compared to the 2010 show, leads increased by 196 percent, smashing the company's 20-percent goal. Plus, Mindbody's ROI skyrocketed well past its 10-percent objective, increasing by 36 percent compared to the previous year.

"Mindbody went from 0 to 100 mph in one year," said one Sizzle Awards judge. "And the takeaway for all marketers is that it really doesn't matter if you have a tiny budget and a small booth. If you're creative and you come up with something relevant, it can have a big impact and generate a remarkable return."

Mindbody management was equally impressed with the program's juicy results. Based on the program's performance at ISSE (and its soft launch at the Club Industry Show), management gave Luchino and Noble the go-ahead to implement the strategy at Mindbody's largest shows in 2011. Given the time and energy required to run the program, however, the company still offers a pulp-free presence at some of its smallest shows.

But perhaps one of the most interesting outcomes of the campaign is that Mindbody has now incorporated the orange and "orangified" terminology into its website and social-media sites. In essence, the exhibit-marketing strategy has woven its way into the culture of the company. "What started as a great little exhibiting idea has become a much larger strategy for the entire company," Luchino says.

It just goes to show that just like a little orange-tree seed, seemingly small ideas can blossom into a serious cash crop in no time. And that's a fact, not pulp fiction.E

Mindbody created a whimsical character - the Mindbody Orange - that appeared in the booth and via a YouTube video after the show.

The video follows the Orange's quest to find love. Throughout the show, she gets fresh with attendees by asking "Do you love me?"

After being rejected, she finally finds love at the Mindbody exhibit. She sends one last note to her ex-boyfriend, letting him know she found true love.
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