IMG_20150611_124033The Exhibition and Events Association’s (EXSA) annual conference which took place on 8 and 9 June at the CSIR ICC featured an impressive list of speakers who shared valuable industry knowledge. Among these was Andrew Ross, managing director of Havas Sports & Entertainment South Africa. Andrew gave his talk on the current trends in the exhibitions industry and ways in which the industry can innovate to better serve a growing audience.

Appropriately themed adapt or die, his talk highlighted the importance of continued adaption and introduced the term adaptitude which refers to a company’s emotional capacity to adapt instead of its intellectual ability.

Social media has evolved the consumer and because of this brands do not want reach in terms of followers or likes anymore, but want engagement instead. Exhibitions don’t get put on the radar as often as they used to, and if they do it is for a specific purpose. Consequently, the industry needs to adapt and interact to keep up with the trend.

Andrew refers to the music industry, pointing out how it has adapted and changed through developments such as CDs, Napster and iPods. These developments were all feared to end the industry, however they have only sparked development and growth.“Industries survive change and make billions out of doing so,” says Andrew.

Consumers have become so focused on consuming a brand through their mobile phones that brands lack a platform on which they can interact and engage with customers. The exhibition industry can provide the ideal engagement opportunities for brands, and these opportunities will increase the brand love.

Andrew mentions four basic principles that need to be considered with regards to adaption:

  • Embrace change
    Brands and companies who do not embrace change die, and in an ever-changing economic environment, it is imperative to keep adapting. Often change will involve something completely new or different, but it refreshes your brand.
  • Retain your integrity
    When a brand loses integrity, it will fail. Companies cannot sell a dream which they can’t deliver, because consumers will call them out on it. Take steps to perform logical adaption.
  • Innovate to meet demands
    Brands need to change with relevance. Andrew mentions Uber, who doesn’t own a single car, and airbnb, who doesn’t own a single hotel, and are both two innovative brands who have grown purely through non-traditional word of mouth marketing.
  • Doing nothing is fatal
    Brands should not remain stagnant and expect to grow as a brand. “Worse than doing wrong, is doing nothing,” he concludes.


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