There is probably no more nerve-wracking experience for an exhibit manager than to be charged with responsibility of a new product introduction.
For most companies, the introduction of a new product has far reaching implications. A successful effort may result in a significant increase in company business or perhaps even reshape a total market. An unsuccessful effort can destroy the reputation of a firm that may have taken a lifetime to establish and could result in a change of employment for those responsible.
You may have 5,000 sq. feet of space or 100 sq. feet. You may have unlimited funds or practically no funds. Whether you are a Fortune 500 company or a local start-up firm, your risks and rewards are the same.
Let's take a look at the elements that are critical to insure a successful new product introduction. Let's also take the position that a new product introduction involves telling a story to the audience. We will need to consider the following elements to provide an effective message:
A question to consider when developing the message is does the market drive the message or does the message drive the market?
Once you've answered that question you can proceed — What do you hope to accomplish? What do you want the audience to remember about your product or company when they leave?
A new product introduction may involve unveiling a product that will significantly change the status quo or solve a perceived problem. It may be used to create a need in a market or to redirect a market segment. (Remember the GPS and the integrated cell phone.)
Often the new product event will also contain an element of corporate image — one that ties the new product to past design, quality or styling achievements. The new product may strengthen a corporate image of leadership in an industry or market.
Whatever your message, be sure it is one that can withstand the test of the market. Don't try to cover past problems with a white-washed message.
The method is the "how" or the technique used to gain attention of the visitor. It should demonstrate a degree of creativity. In addition to being creative, it should be in alignment with the message.
There are many techniques one can employ to grab attention — live presentations, product demonstrations, video, multi-media productions, unique lighting schemes, sound, motion, mimes and magicians, kiosks, models, and certainly not to overlooked — a well trained staff.
The method must fit the message. Any inconsistencies will quickly cause your message to be doubted by the audience. At the Auto show, Hummer wanted to a deliver a message of strong, tough and comfortable. Had they chosen to convey the message by using ballet dancers and flowers, the message would have been suspect.
Had Ford used non-recyclable materials in their presentation, their message of environmental stewardship would have been received as hypocritical.
Consider trying to appeal to all five senses. The more sensory the method, the greater the effectiveness.
You may try using a live model to describe the inner workings of a new type of oven baking cookies while at the same time inject the smell of fresh baked goods to the audience, or better yet provide the audience with samples of the finished product. In this example, you have introduced all of the senses to your audience. Not only does this tie into the message, it gives it strength.
While we are talking about method, we must not overlook the selling materials needed to support the effort.
The materials include everything used to build and furnish your exhibit, to convey the message and to engage the visitor.
Materials must be consistent with the message and the method. Using high-tech materials like thermoplastics, aluminum and high intensity lighting won't work for an exhibit trying to introduce a new product designed to bring back the "good old days".
Now that we have looked at the message, the methods and the materials and their relationship, it is time to reach a conclusion. The conclusion is a re-statement of the original objective. It is the point at which all the elements come together in a cohesive manner to leave the visitor with a favorable and lasting impression.
You may not have the resources of a large multi-national corporation, but you can achieve comparable results. The most important resource is creativity. Creativity is priceless. It is limited only by imagination. With good planning, imagination and a clear understanding of the mission, you can engineer a new product introduction with all the enthusiasm, of the big guys!