Event Marketing in the Age of Internet

The importance of trade shows and event marketing has changed in the last decade. Major industry events used to be one of the primary ways for industry professionals to exchange knowledge, network, and explore new technologies. But just as ecommerce and online retail has changed the brick-and-mortar retail industry irrevocably, similar influences have diminished the role of these massive annual industry events. Still, a company may choose to maintain a presence at an event for the sake of branding and market position signalling, and must attempt to maximize the marketing impact even in the face of diminished attendance. Presenting the ‘right’ appearance is essential.

Avantes at Photonics West

In the Optics and Photonics Industry (and related fields) SPIE Photonics West is one of the largest events in the world, welcoming thousands of exhibitors and tens of thousands of attendees from around the world each February in San Francisco California. 

For Avantes, Photonics West is THE headlining event of the year where new products are announced. The company triples its investment in booth space and makes special effort to have the highest quality displays and marketing collateral.

2020 was no exception. I created a series of four brochures and three video displays for this year’s event. I am quite proud of the quality of these marketing materials .

Video series

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After Effects

I am not an expert in video production, film editing or Adobe After Effects. Like so many other things, I know enough to be dangerous. I can take a template and break it until it does my bidding. And I freely admit that I did not edit every keyframe from conception to completion on these videos.

But I did take a generic template and crunch it into a matching series of three videos for booth display monitors- and it was completed in about three weeks. The production budget? A $199 annual subscription to StoryBlocks.com and three weeks of overtime.

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InDesign Print Production

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Industry Segment Brochures

These two brochures, featuring Life Sciences and Semiconductors, are industry specific booklets (16 pages, 4 cover pages and 12 interior pages) were available alongside the respective demo display kiosks and corresponding video display. The content of the booklets and the matching videos mirror each other very closely.

Printing was a minor challenge. At small quantities, the price per unit was too high to give away at a trade show event. By increasing the order to a quantity of 250, we were able to drive the price down to $1.40 per booklet, easily something that can be widely distributed at events for the remainder of the year.

Product Highlight Bi-Folds

The two bi-fold brochures promoted smaller display areas within the tradeshow booth, the CompactLine/Featured Product display, and the Light Sources display rack. We had new, well-produced items of print collateral to support customer discussion in each area of the booth. The bi-folds were much easier to produce cheaply at smaller quantities, allowing for more rapid re-issue for product updates throughout the year.

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Event Promotion

With decreased attendance adding pressure to maximize impact at events, promotion campaigns cross all channels and begin well before an event and continue for a follow-up period after an event. 

This included, but was not limited to email campaigns, print ads in event publications, banner ads in event web properties, social media posts, web posts, and more. After the event, lead information will be imported to the CRM and follow-up campaigns will begin.


Management and Logistics

SPIE Photonics West is the largest and most important event on the marketing calendar for Avantes. Logistics are key to a successful event. This includes everything from reserving booth appointments like carpet and utilities, negotiating LTL freight delivery to the advance warehouse, and stocking collateral. 

The total expenses for this event are in the to $20-30k range, representing +/- 1/8th of the annual marketing budget. There is no room for waste or leaving any opportunity on the table. Preparations for each Photonics West begin almost as soon as the previous event ends.

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