This article originally appeared on FreemanXP.com.
Walking into Mobile World Congress for the first time is like walking into Times Square — it encapsulates all of the senses. Add to this the sheer scale of the event — you’re sharing the halls with an impressive 100,000 other people, and there are hundreds of well-designed stands vying for your attention — it’s clear that disruption is the name of the game if you want draw attendees in.
As we explored the MWC floor to understand the strategic and creative approach employed by brands at the event, it became obvious there was a clear theme at play — our business and consumer worlds are becoming increasingly intertwined.
The Need for Attendee-Centric Spaces
Simon: When it comes to any experience, the attendee needs to be at the centre. There’s a lot that we can learn from the retail environment here — brands invest significant time and money into understanding shopper behaviour, and their stores are carefully mapped out to ensure the customer experiences their brand in the best possible way.
This is equally important when designing exhibitions — it’s our job to help visitors navigate, and we need to remember that people can only take in small amounts of information at one time. A stand design can look great on paper, but how does it work when it’s filled with hundreds of people who are all trying to get a first glimpse of a new product?
I saw this on a lot of occasions at MWC — there were great looking stands, but some of their key messages could be easily missed, as they were hidden behind a sea of people. Brands such as LG, on the other hand, did this really well — they played with different height configurations to ensure attendees could see all of the features of their stand, even from afar.
Emily: The most effective and gratifying experiences come from a true understanding of who the audience is, why they are attending an event, and what they expect to take away with them. This is particularly important at a show like MWC, which now draws people from a variety of industries who are increasingly clued in to the fact that mobile is at the centre of everything we do.
Equally brands have myriad reasons to exhibit at MWC, and this was most notably demonstrated by the level of access around their stands. Brands that chose open spaces which invited people into their world crafted meaningful narratives around their purpose, which in turn created the most compelling experiences.
Take T-Mobile for instance; the brand is entirely focused on enhancing people’s lives by facilitating connectivity everywhere and all of the time through service. Their transparent business strategy and brand values were expressed in three pillars and gave a clear context around which the entire stand was designed, and it determined things like navigation and zoning.
Putting Ourselves in the Attendee’s Shoes
Emily: We humans are predictable up to a point, but we cannot assume people will always navigate a space the way we want them to, and so we should design spaces with this in mind.
At MWC, I noticed many people took comfort and delight in the small details. Google created a closed space in the form of a beautiful white architectural box, but we were still invited to play by pushing buttons on its exterior wall, where lights moved into different iterations of the Google logo. Elsewhere we were surprised by cushioned vinyl flooring and soothing soft lighting.
Product launches were abuzz with emotion as well as function — words such as intuition, feelings, and connectivity were used by various brands. Conversely, in many instances these sentiments were communicated in text and signage on stands rather than being incorporated in to the design and layout of the space itself. Paradoxically the connected life, by definition, is fluid and completely integrated.
Simon: It was clear to me that the exhibitors that have a consumer-facing part to their business were also having the most fun. And being fun makes you memorable.
Purely enterprise-focused exhibitors have a more difficult task when their content is very functional, as dependability, trust, and precision are messages easily lost when you’re flying laser-guided monkey drones around. That said, as the marketplace becomes increasingly crowded, more thought needs to go into making an impact.
Exhibitors that tell a story in more creative and interesting ways will delight their existing customers, but also reach out to new ones too. While they might currently be talking to CEOs and CFOs in suits, these people won’t be at the helm forever. The next generation of business leaders is made up of a more varied mix of global citizens, tech-savvy individuals, and entrepreneurs whose work and personal lives are intertwined, from the content of their social feeds to the coffee shops they work in. These brands have an opportunity to tell their story in an engaging way, and in doing so they’ll cement a place in their hearts and minds of the future.
Overall we feel there is a need for businesses to design stands with the human experience in mind. When we feel, we feel as humans, not as machines that respond to data like our phones or tablets do. By blurring the lines between the solid, fact-based B-to-B approach to marketing and the emotional side of B-to-C marketing, we believe brands can really have lasting impressions on their audiences — both new and old.