They say marketing has 4 Ps – Price, Production, Promotion, and Place. There are those who say that Positioning is the fifth P of marketing. What the exhibition industry does or should do if it wants to do a good job, is to serve marketing, be it of products, services or even concepts or ideas by being an adjunct of the 4Ps. Therefore, it may be time to ask if the exhibitions industry itself would need 4Ps of its own. If so, what are they? Much has been said about the importance of exhibitions in general and the specific idea of how they can and must change in the age of digital technologies in which a lot of what used to be done earlier through physical presence can be done online or through cheap technological means. In fact, surfing YouTube or Amazon websites these days is in some ways like visiting an exhibition in the good old days. But, as it has been rightly said, the touch and feel to all six senses is important and it takes the exhibition industry to give the feel beyond the two senses of sight and sound. That leaves us with four more senses to serve: touch, smell, taste and above all, the sixth sense: feel.
To engineer a “feel” we need a better understanding of all five senses, but what goes even beyond is a sense of community that creates the “buzz”. We can call the “buzz” the seventh sense in which the individual moves to a collective presence. The exhibition industry must do a decent job of generating the 7th sense and this is where the scope for innovation and expansion exist. Business-to-business exhibitions, if properly thought out, can now be transported to locations, industries and market segments that previously were thought unviable. For this, the exhibitions industry needs to develop close links with the logistics industry. Think about small and medium enterprises (SMEs). There are an estimated 4.2 crore SMEs in India. Many of them are now using, as individual entities, avenues such as Amazon.com or Flipkart.com or portals like Tradeindia.com or Indiamart.com.
The potential for exhibitions to help them serve the four unserved senses and generate the “seventh sense” is huge. Think of a slogan: ‘Spot them online, sense them in expos and sell them anywhere!’ Think of an idea like “exhibition in a box” where the same exhibition can be taken to a point that is the best for all concerned, be they sellers, buyers and what we might call “feelers” who want to enter an industry or partner an industry. The scope for partnerships is tremendous. The exhibition industry must go beyond the “seller-buyer” interface to multiple interfaces: partners, financiers, networks and promoters of various kinds. Each of this should become a part of the exhibition industry’s sophisticated focus.
Think of how we can take the exhibition industry to the 5th P of marketing: Positioning. Traditionally, a hub and spoke model helps efficient transportation. Exhibitions are like portable hubs if there is proper logistical support. If there are 100 types of coffee machines that confuse the Amazon buyer, the best place for her to decide on what to buy is the nearest exhibition because it is difficult to think of a Big Bazaar kind of retail chain that stores 100 types of coffee machines under a single roof. A portable exhibition can solve this problem. Positioning the exhibition industry as a “portable showroom” is the best way forward and for this, a smooth, ready-to-use kind of relationship with the logistics industry is most vital.
Sandeep Gurwara Managing Director,
Reed Services International