#135 Trade Show Logic (2005)

All Rights Reserved © 2005 Thomas W. Day

You hate to kill the golden goose when the goose is spewing eggs in your direction, but it's a lot easier when the goose is in someone else's yard.  One of my all time favorite geese, when I was in industry, was the trade show.  It's practically impossible to imagine an easier gig for any salesperson, or any other working person, than staffing a trade show booth.  Execs, of course, see trade shows as "hard work," but that simply re-establishes the obvious fact that execs are unfamiliar with the whole "work" concept. 

Trade shows have become consumer product shows in the last couple of decades.  It only makes sense that vendors and show management would want to increase their profits by drawing consumers to their demonstrations.  It makes a little less sense that consumers would want to see the newest stuff as soon as the manufacturers have it ready to be seen.  What doesn't make sense is the idea that consumers would be willing to pay top dollar to experience the same sales pitch they'd receive in a store. 

This past weekend my wife worked her first trade show; a home products show.  The turnout for the show was abysmal, a disappointment even for the trade show management but a complete bust for the vendors.  Over a holiday weekend, barely 500 customers bothered to make the trip to half-alive downtown St. Paul, suffered the outrage of $15 "special event" parking, and coughed up $7.50 for the privilege of having a few hundred salespeople try to sell them stuff they didn't need.  In the end, even the large vendors wondered why they bothered with the show.  There were more vendors on the floor at any time during the show than there were customers. 

While I think that it's interesting perspective, it's even more interesting that so many trade show organizers think the American public is so stupid that we'll pay to be exposed to salespeople and their pitches.  From cars to computers, there are "shows" that are little more than small-time state fair vendor booths hawking their wares to a self-captured audience foolish enough to pay for the privilege. 

Why anyone would pay to be pitched is beyond my comprehension.  As we've all seen over the years of my publishing the Rat Rants, many things are beyond my comprehension.  Cable television, for example.  Originally, cable TV was sold as a way to escape ads by paying for the service directly, instead of indirectly through the irritation of 5 minutes of ads every 15 minutes of television programming.  Today, however, dumbasses pay to be pitched and television executives are laughing all the way to the bank.  The bank where they store their golden parachutes.  On the occasion that I find myself in a cable-ready motel room, I'm always amazed at the dearth of interesting programming and the wealth of advertising to be suffered on cable TV.  More evidence that no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the public; American or otherwise. 

May 2005

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