I spent a productive morning yesterday at the TFM&A show in London's Earls Court, doing a video report with our friends at The Peloton. But as I queued outside ready to get in at 9.30, with the surprising throngs of eager attendees, gazing at the promotional signage, I was almost overwhelmed by acronyms.
As well as TFM&A, the banner also included OA&A and DMX… not to mention Publishing Expo (which seemed rather out on a limb by having a title that was actually made out of words). It looked like someone had emptied a tin of alphabetti spagetti on the table and taken photo of it.
Technology for Marketing is/was a brilliant name for an exhibition - it did/does exactly what it says on the tin. So why did they have to go and add 'and Advertising'? Isn't advertising part of marketing? Does the extra word or letter add any value? Very little, from my perspective. It is a little irritating, but even with my low pedancy threshold I think I can bear it.
But the branding of co-located shows does genuinely furrow my brow - OA&A and DMX (together with TFM&A) are simply acronym overload. The organisers intention is (presumably) for these brands to function as shows within shows, drawing in exhibitors and attendees who are interested in these areas but not in the central proposition. It's a nice idea, but the reality is that the co-located shows (with the exception of Publishing Expo, which is targeted at a distinct audience - publishers and journalists) don't have any sense of identity or a compelling proposition of their own to make people attend. All they have is different coloured carpet. They are simply window dressing, and personally I think they undermine the a beautifully simply proposition that was TFM.
Of course, UBM aren't the ones constantly making meaningless changes to the titles of events. I've noticed this year (although it might have happened the year before without me noticing) that the Ideal Home Show is now called just that again, after a number of years as Ideal Home Plus.
Was this based on the in-depth customer research? Or was it just marketing people trying to look busy, making changes for the sake of it? More to the point, did anyone notice? Was there a significant increase in visitor numbers as a result? I guess we'll never know…
Whilst this post is intended generally as a mildly facetious rant, I'd like to flatter myself that there's at least a grain of truth here in what I'm saying. Good marketing should be about creating simple propositions which customers can buy into - both intellectually and financially. Brands should have the courage of their convictions to stick with their propositions - if it's not selling, change the proposition, don't just dilute it and hope it will live on.
My guess is that UBM were pushed into developing the sub-brands in a bid to gain more exhibitors. I hope it succeeded. But if they took them away, would anyone notice? I suggest probably not.
All this aside, it should not detract from what did seem to be, yet again, an excellent event, which was well attended and created a good buzz. I had some good conversations with exhibitors and attendees alike. So well done UBM… with the show anyway...