The Un-Booth: Guerilla Marketing at the HR Technology Show

Sonar6 re-invented the trade show booth for a recent HR Technology show. Would your firm be so bold?
Written by Brian Sommer, Contributor on

Last week’s HR Technology show in Chicago always produces a lot of vendors and tire-kickers. As a result, the attendees get treated to a large assortment of brightly adorned, creative booths in the exhibition hall. It gets hard to remember much of anything specific about any one booth (and sometimes the products pitched within them).

Enter Sonar6. These are the folks from New Zealand who sell a great looking performance management solution and do so cost-effectively thousands of miles from home. Not only do I like how the product looks, but I like the way they re-engineered the way they sell SaaS (software as a service) software.

In prior years, Sonar6 has confronted HR Technology show attendees with irreverent t-shirt slogans (“I’m a 3” or “I shouldn’t have friended my boss to my Facebook account”). One year they invited attendees to send along the worst performance review comments they’d ever seen.

AND, they created all sorts of product excitement without ever having a booth at the show.

Apparently, Sonar6 executives were feeling some pressure to have a booth this year so they did one in a way that only Sonar6 can do.

Sonar6 booth - Copyright 2010 TechVentive, Inc.

Sonar6 booth - Copyright 2010 TechVentive, Inc.

They got a booth that was made show attendees pay attention and talk about them. They created the un-booth. It wasn’t creative, beautiful, artistic, etc. No – It was simply cardboard and it was memorable. And, it epitomizes the strategy of Sonar6: they put their money into developers and the product – not slick marketing materials.

You can argue as to the aesthetics of their booth but you can’t argue with this: almost everyone at the show not only noticed their booth, they talked about it and Sonar6. That, interestingly enough, is what a lot of other exhibitors probably wanted but didn’t get.

So, next time you’re thinking about some of these tired old trade show gimmicks:

- Drop a card in a fishbowl for a chance at a prize - Put down a fake putting green for a giveaway - Having a celebrity impersonator in the booth for photo opportunities with prospects - Giving out generic t-shirts or pens

remember why you’re doing so. The point of a trade show exhibit is to generate interest in your firm and its products. Spending money shouldn’t be a goal – it should be a means to an end.

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