Exhibit A

Look in the bin, and you’ll see a carrier bag full of bumpf. Just after I’d photographed it for this post, someone else put their bag of bumpf in the bin too.


To start at the very beginning, let’s talk about what happens at an exhibition…

You are given a bag of bumpf at the registration desk. If you look at any of it, it’s the exhibition guide so you can see if anyone you know will be there, and to find your way round the stands.

As you walk around, you give each stand a maximum of three seconds to grab your attention. You are trying to avoid making eye contact in case the exhibitor talks to you. Most stands will offer free sweets, so you might grab a few of those and eat them on the spot or put them into your bag for later. Some stands will offer other free goodies, such as branded mugs, mouse-mats or pens. You might collect those too (note that you will never contact, remember or buy from those brands). Many stands will have a free Champagne draw in return for your business card, so you pop your card in the bucket just in case (note that the bottle won’t have the company name on, so even if you win, you won’t remember who they were). If you do get trapped talking to someone on a display stand, chances are they will give you more bumpf for your collection.

If you bother to take the bag home, you will probably give the freebies and any leftover sweets to your kids, and put the bumpf straight into the recycling bin (note that you will never read it; you might not even flick through it).

Are you nodding in agreement?

So here’s the thing.

Somebody paid for those carrier bags. Someone paid to design and print all the bumpf. Someone paid for the promotional giveaways. They did it, presumably, in the hope of ultimately generating more business.


If you ever think of exhibiting, first read my tips on Birds on the Blog.

In this instance, there were only two stands that ‘stood out’ for me. The flood defence company that had a ‘name the rubber duck’ competition in return for capturing email addresses, and the HR company with ‘angels’ in its name who dressed up as Hell’s Angels (bet they get more PR coverage than the rest).

What do you think?


Marketing Lens · July 3, 2013 at 11:32 am

I think it’s a symptom of the ‘tick box’ mentality that most people approach exhibitions with. Space? Tick Hotels? Tick Branded giveaway and plastic bag? Tick.

I wonder if anyone has ever bought from a company because they had a logo’d bag? I doubt it. It’s typical of the general attitude in marketing. The good ideas stand out because they’re rare.

Guy Clapperton · October 28, 2014 at 12:43 pm

OK…and extending the discussion still further, has anyone ever opted for an HR company because they had really good costumes?

    Jackie · October 29, 2014 at 8:22 am

    Great question. What is the objective of the costumes? To grab attention. Why? To make it easier to start a conversation. Why? To find out if the exhibition visitor has a need for HR or knows someone who might. And to establish whether or not the HR exhibitors can meet that need. Then the secret of success is in the followup. At an exhibition, you (usually) generate leads, not sales.

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