Last week this hum­ble dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing enthu­si­ast packed his bags and went off to Ger­many to attend what the old world likes to call a “good ol’ tradeshow”. Even as I smiled, spoke, delib­er­ated and mas­saged my tired feet, I spent much of my time won­der­ing what learn­ings from the dig­i­tal world I could infuse at our “booth” (love that word). Was it my inher­ent per­son­al­ity trait to think dig­i­tal or was it the sit­u­a­tion that was dri­ving me bonkers?

Sev­eral years ago, Phillip Zim­bardo (psy­chol­o­gist and a pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus at Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity), faced with the same ques­tion, con­ducted the Stan­ford Prison Exper­i­ment. Even though in 1971 this was a study spon­sored by the US Office of Naval Research, it now mer­its in a list of 3 Famous Psy­chol­ogy Stud­ies That Would Be Ille­gal Today. Stu­dents who vol­un­teered for this exper­i­ment were ran­domly assigned the role of pris­oner / guard and sub­jected to a sur­pris­ingly real sim­u­la­tion envi­ron­ment. In only about 6 days the exper­i­ment had to be called off as some of the “guards” took their job rather seri­ously (was I suf­fi­ciently vague there?).


Well quibble-squabble aside, the con­clu­sion sug­gests that sit­u­a­tions rather than indi­vid­ual per­son­al­i­ties, can impact behav­ior. Voila, that explains so much about life!

But com­ing back to the tra­vails of a dig­i­tal mar­keter at a tradeshow or any other form of a live event, there is much to be said. I list here the top 10 sit­u­a­tions or thoughts that engross the wired (and pos­si­bly weird) brain of a dig­i­tal mar­keter. These 10 points are in no par­tic­u­lar order. Or are they?

  1. You have to shave in the morn­ing and com­pletely give up the unkempt but trea­sured crop of facial hair. By the end of it you turn up at the event venue look­ing like a poo­dle just out of the bath. Stow away the den­ims and A&Fs. “Comb my coat well honey, it’s the annual summit.”
  2. “Hello! I’m @parthsm from @Adobe.” When you meet peo­ple you still won­der about their Twit­ter pro­file. Didn’t the guy in the red tee shirt un-follow me recently? Are you @spottythesundancekid? “You look con­sid­er­ably thin­ner than your pro­file pic­ture. Gosh, are you offended? It was a compliment!”
  3. “I tagged you in a photo. Yes, I know you were scowl­ing at the buf­fet. But you know what? Our logo behind you looks fan­tas­tic!” Before you are done stir­ring the day’s first cof­fee, cream and sugar, the social media paparazzi have you and your inti­mate moments cap­tured and shared with­out fail. “Can you at least take it off LinkedIn?”  
  4. The world’s my browser and my booth a web­site. “Why is the col­lat­eral stand here? Is it not more vis­i­ble in the mid­dle of the cor­ri­dor?” Before you know it, you are try­ing to con­trol the bounce rate and turn­ing the booth into Azk­a­ban. “No, you can’t leave right now!”
  5. “Can you keep your response to 140 char­ac­ters?” I often wished there were a way to browse from a per­son to another, stop­ping only long enough to hear the first 50 char­ac­ters and ascer­tain inter­est. Also, I’d love a lit­tle hash­tag hov­er­ing over your head to tell me if I should stop to say hello or just smile and wither away.
  6. “All male vis­i­tors, 35 and above, please line up towards the right.” Seg­men­ta­tion would be such a lovely gift to have at an event. Tail him well, his prod­uct Inter­est = <competitor’s prod­uct>! Will the real return vis­i­tor please stand up?
  7. I “Like” what you said. Oh wait, I can’t! There are no “Like” but­tons in life (that is how my novel will start, if I ever write one). “I wish, oh I so wish, there were a way to share and spread your words of praise every­where. Maybe make it viral! Oh no, don’t run away, I did not mean the flu!”
  8. “Can you track Vis­it­ing Cards per Foot­fall?” That was the last time my friends from event man­age­ment ever smiled at me. Even as they moved away to a dis­tant and safer cor­ner, they said “we know you like to mea­sure and quan­tify every­thing, but there should be a limit to it don’t you think? Ever thought of mea­sur­ing your bald spot to head ratio?”
  9. Back­drop ideas? How about a giant QR code? Though I do not know why the cre­ative agency thought I’d have any­thing valu­able to add, but the truth is I did. I added a swath of black and white, the good old que-aar code that would take the peo­ple I met in real life back to my com­fort zone – the dig­i­tal world. Since I was the cus­tomer, I was told that it was a great idea, but its absence from the even­tual booth setup was tes­ti­mony to this alleged great­ness.I really only had nine points. But in the inter­est of ROI, let me use this dig­i­tal real estate to tell you that Adobe now offers you the Mar­ket­ing Cloud, tells you to believe in met­rics, not myths and that my next blog is going to be about both of these new developments.

I will depart from the humor­ous tone of this blog to bring it to a more seri­ous end. Tradeshows and events are an inte­gral part of any organization’s mar­ket­ing mix and in no way less impor­tant than dig­i­tal media. The sit­u­a­tion of hav­ing been at an event can often over­ride the per­son­al­ity of the dig­i­tal mar­keter to great ends. There is much over­lap between the dig­i­tal and the “real” world and therein lies the mag­i­cal future of marketing.