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  • Writer's pictureEleanor Loveday

How does storytelling help you stand out in event marketing?

Updated: Jul 19, 2023

Standing out above the crowd is always a crucial part of our projects. After all, when you look better than the competition, we look better too. But there’s more to making events extraordinary than appearances alone.

To make sure that your event reaches its full potential, it’s crucial for us to understand your aims, overall marketing strategy, and the needs of your customer. That way, we know that not only is it eye-catching, it’s memorable in a way that supports your brand positioning and aims for the event. Perhaps it could be another award winner too.

It’s important to be noticed, but it’s even better to be remembered.

An exhibition stand for Barenbrug at BTME 2023. The exhibition stand is themed as a golf 'club house', with wood effect panelling and a carpet subtly embedded with the Barenbrug logo. On the left hand side, there is a green area with a pitch and putt game. The clubhouse space also includes leather armchairs, a fire, and graphics that create the look of windows overlooking a fairway.
Barenbrug, winner of Best Medium Stand at BTME 2023

We’re proud to say that 2023 has brought with it two stand awards already. At BTME in January, Barenbrug won Best Medium Stand with their Clubhouse themed exhibition stand. More recently at Property Investor Show, Auction House won Best New Stand with their warm living space.

An exhibition stand for Auction House at Property Investor Show. The exhibition stand has brick wall effect graphics and a wooden floor. It is furnished in the way of a living room, with a faux fire made from a digital screen and comfortable furniture. Auction House's logo sits as a backlit sign on the wall, and there is a photo frame with the words 'Get comfortable with property auctions' inside.
Auction House, winner of Best New Stand at Property Investor Show 2023

But what makes an award-winning exhibition stand?

The differences between Barenbrug and Auction House go to show that successful exhibition stands don’t have to be bound by budget, footprint, or sector. Yes, a generous budget can open doors, but it won’t get you far without creativity. As the second greatest multiplier of effectiveness in marketing campaigns, creativity has the power to transform your events in a way that can be tailored to suit brand and budget.

Looking at Barenbrug and Auction House’s stands, they have one important thing in common.

Strong storytelling.

Storytelling doesn’t just mean words on a page – it can exist in physical spaces too. Whether applied to an exhibition stand, museum, or retail space, the core of physical storytelling is the “unique ability to connect at a deeper level and stir emotion”.

If you want to tell a story through your exhibition stand or brand experience, start with the basics. What do you want your customers to think about your brand, and how do you want them to feel? Not only will figuring this out help you ensure your story is cohesive, but it will reduce the risk of putting a creative idea before market orientation. For example, Barenbrug wanted to project their position as a premium, market-leading expert in grass seed, and our Clubhouse concept helped them bring this brand image to life during the event. Meanwhile, Auction House wanted prospective clients to “get comfortable with property auctions” and dispel the rumours rife in their industry that make prospects uncomfortable with auctions. We created an immersive space that would first get them noticed, and then encourage guests to get comfortable in the Auction House themed lounge.

The image shows a corner of Barenbrug's cosy exhibition stand at BTME 2023. In the space there are several leather Chesterfield chairs in front of a faux fire. Above the fire there is a digital screen displaying information about Barenbrug's products. To the side, graphic 'windows' make it look as though there is a fairway outside. The walls are wood panelled and the floor has a chequered carpet.

With the fundamentals cracked, we can start planning your concept.

Sometimes an idea for your exhibition stand might come easily, sometimes it’s a more layered process. Either way, our experience always favours simple, distinctive and sometimes seemingly ‘obvious’ concepts. Often, that's where the magic of the story is hiding, uncovered with strong creative and consistent delivery. A Clubhouse for golf may seem like an obvious choice now, but it hadn’t been done before at BTME. In the words of Barenbrug’s Brand Manager, “sometimes the most obvious things are the best”. Similarly, theming a stand around a living room at a property show might not sound too special, but it’s clear, recognisable, and embodies the message Auction House needed to communicate.

“The event was a roaring success. We are so happy with how smoothly it ran, and we met all KPIs for the stand. We couldn’t have asked for a better show.”
- Marketing Campaign Executive, Barenbrug UK Ltd

You know the theme of your stand. You know how it connects with your strategy. And we’ve got a creative idea to bring it all together. Now, we can consider the specific elements that make up the space.

And because storytelling is all about how people feel, drawing on all five senses can play a big part.

Lighting, for example, can set the tone of your story. Both Barenbrug and Auction House wanted to create a sense of warmth and comfort on their stands, and avoiding harsh white lighting was key to achieving it. Touch and textures are important too. On Barenbrug’s stand we included a range of textures through the carpeting, a variety of furnishings, and wood effect panelling.

Making use of the senses doesn’t have to be ‘real’ either.

For example, nobody would’ve thought that the fire on Auction House’s stand was a real one, but it didn’t matter. The flickering fire was one of the key factors in bringing the living room theme together and creating a cosy feel. In fact, it’s been found that a virtual fire can even create an illusory sense of warmth, as well as encouraging relaxation and happiness. In a similar way, the colours red and yellow can trigger hunger, and the smell of suncream can make us feel happy. Taking advantage of these sensory opportunities can be hugely effective for storytelling in live events.

The image shows a side view of Auction House's exhibition stand at Property Investor Show 2023. The exhibition stand is designed to look like a living room, complete with a virtual fire, comfy armchairs, rug, and photo frame on the wall.

How do you balance brand with storytelling?

When designing an immersive experience, it’s important to make sure that your brand isn’t overpowered. With our creative support, this wasn’t the case for Barenbrug or Auction House. For Barenbrug’s Clubhouse stand, the logo and brand codes were embedded throughout the space in a subtle but distinctive way. With a smaller footprint, Auction House’s branding is more overt with an illuminated feature on the main wall. But, LED backlighting gives it the look of a piece of wall art, rather than a stark contrast to the living room scene.

So, is storytelling essential to impactful events?

Well, it goes without saying that there shouldn’t be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach in events, and we will always be honest if we think that a concept or design idea isn’t right for your business. In many cases though a storytelling-based stand can be a great way to make your brand stand out, and in turn increase memorability post-event. The successes of Barenbrug and Auction House go to show that with the right concept, this can be achieved regardless of budget, footprint, or sector.

Interested in starting your own award-winning story in the world of live events, exhibitions or brand experiences? We’re always happy to help, so feel free to get in touch.

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