Where were the brand experiences at this year’s Ideal Home Show?

Rather than discovering a host of creative ideas and exciting experiences at the UK’s leading lifestyle event, Rose McDonnell, Group Account Director at Sense, was disappointed to find that it was more like walking through the cosmetics section of a department store.

If your brand had the opportunity to engage with almost a quarter of a million people face to face, wouldn’t you jump at the chance?

This is what the Ideal Home Show offers its exhibitors over 17 days – including the first week of the Easter holidays. It provides a wonderful opportunity for related brands to take themselves beyond the printed page, computer screen, and mobile device to touch people in a deeper, more authentic way in the real world. And with recent research revealing that 38% of people are more cynical about brands than five years ago, this has never been more important.

Sadly the majority of exhibitors at this year’s show completely missed this opportunity to give visitors – and paying ones at that, let’s not forget – a truly engaging and immersive brand experience. That’s a captive audience eager to learn about new products and services; looking for inspiration about how to improve their home and lifestyle; keen to sample new and exciting experiences – surely a marketer’s dream.

Unless your product or service is absolutely unique, new, and innovative, you have to do more to stand out, be original, be memorable. Especially, if you are sited next to or in the vicinity of your key competitors, which many brands at this year’s event were. Unfortunately, each stand looked pretty much the same. It was basically like walking through the perfume section of a department store – only worse because you had paid to get in.

Panasonic and Vitamix, for example, were neighbouring exhibitors promoting similar products: food processors. Yet their stands were almost identical, both offering similar solutions: the same functional benefit from a blender. Where was the emotional benefit and the true experience? What would visitors gain from buying Panasonic’s over Vitamix’s? Who knows? Those brands certainly weren’t giving out any hints.

You’d think that at least disruptive startups Gousto, Hello Fresh, and Able and Cole, which are currently shaking up the grocery sector, would recognise the huge opportunities to sign up thousands of new members and really put on a show to differentiate themselves from each other. Well, you’d be disappointed. Each had a salesperson and a simple branded stand. And the even more bizarre thing is that taking a stand at The Ideal Home Show is far from cheap, so you’d think that every brand would be doing its utmost to maximise the return on this not-insignificant investment.

It’s not a case of having to throw money at it, but rather simply communicating what your brand is about in a creative and engaging way. People buy people and rarely do brands get the chance to be this close to the people who really matter, show off their personality and get across that they’re all about. For many brands at this year’s Ideal Home Show it seemed to be more about: “We’d better have some kind of a presence” – a token gesture. Perhaps they prefer to focus on other forms of marketing like digital.

Sadly, it seems that many brands failed to understand that by creating a truly effective live brand experience – especially over nearly three weeks – provides the ideal way to bring together all their campaigns and amplify them through digital and social media. Real world marketing is increasingly becoming the hub around which many campaigns now spin. It’s a shame many of the exhibitors at this year’s Ideal Home Show missed this point.

Rosemary McDonnell is Group Account Director at Sense.