Start or Buy a Consumer Show… or Three…Today!

To be fair,  just as CNN or Fortune disclose that they are “a Time Warner Company”, I should let you know that although not in it now,  I grew-up in the consumer show business (my parents own and or operate a bunch in the Albany, NY market).  Consumer shows (Auto, Home, Bridal, Boat, RV, Ski, Sport, etc) have been around forever and yet for the most part have not been consolidated (although there are two companies working on that now), re-invented, grown, or even been on most of our radar.  Consumer shows are a huge growth area for the Live Entertainment and Branded Live Entertainment Businesses and something you should look into right away.

Certainly can’t speak for the rest of the world, but in the U.S., consumer shows are for the most part controlled market-to-market.  One promoter usually “owns” a city or region and does a majority of the shows in that market by locking-up the convention center or best venue or venues in town (e.g. Javits Center in NYC).  There is no reason for this model to continue, although if you wanted to start this way, there are markets open for you to jump into all over the country.  Because consumer shows are not seen as sexy to the entertainment industry (no real talent, very short windows to make money, low margins), we have ignored them.  As consumer show promoters’ die-off, there is no one there to take their place so the markets now lay dormant.  Opportunity there for sure, but what I’m thinking is looking at this from a whole new angle.

Consumer shows work perfectly into today’s economy.  What I’m suggesting is infusing what all of you do best into a model that in many cases needs some updating.  Have you been to one of these shows recently?  If not, go.  You would be surprised that with few exceptions (some of the auto shows for example), not much has changed.  Same booths, same pipe-n-drape, skirted tables, demos, brochures, promotional giveaways, and appearances by “celebrities” you’ve kind of heard of…you think.  What if there was real celebrity, real production, and great brands all built around the idea of helping consumers with a problem?

As an example, “the news” is full of reports that the new home starts are way down.  Makes sense since banks have no money to lend.  So what if Sears were to grab two big celebrities they currently work with, Tye Pennington (new school) and Bob Vila (old school) and build “Do-it-Yourself Workshops” around the country starring Tye and Bob?  Besides Tye Pennington and Bob Vila, Sears and Craftsman become the stars and their brand breaks through the clutter.  Sears and Craftsman advertising and promotions not only push the brands, but the upcoming events (which they also have a piece of), their stars and their stars’ brands (sold through Sear’s outlets and online).  You could do the same with Kmart, Wal-Mart, Target, Ford, Dell, AIG (no spa treatments please), P&G, Coke, Wells Fargo, and any other brand that wants to reach consumers.  Again, you must be helping people with a problem.

The keys to success are these.

1) Be Authentic.  Your event needs to be the real deal, not a mobile marketing campaign for your brand.

2) Have great talent involved up and down the line.  It isn’t enough to have a few celebrities involved; you need to have a first class event.  As an example (although not a consumer show), if you were to ever go to Michael Jordan’s adult fantasy camp, you would notice that you not only get MJ himself, but a whole team of NBA and NCAA coaches, training and hospitality staff.

3) Media partners are key.  Most consumer shows don’t spend much on advertising.  They usually will partner-up with a local print, TV, and radio partners.

4) Make money before you open the doors.  Between selling booth space and sponsorship your consumer show should be making money before you sell a single ticket.  Any money you make at the gate is gravy.

5) Don’t charge the public a lot of money for a ticket.  If your show is extremely talent heavy and in a major market, maybe you charge $20 with no coupons (of course there should be multiple places for consumers to get coupons for discounted tickets).

6) Solve problems for consumers.  As an example Wells Fargo (my bank) could setup “Get Back Your Money” shows where they bring in the biggest names in personal finance as well their best local stars to help consumers get back on their feet.

7) Start Now!!!

If ever there was a time to get into the consumer show business, now would be it.  Whether you are a brand, live event pro, or currently in the consumer show business, it is at least worth a look to see if you could find an opportunity for yourself or company in consumer shows.

Would love your input.

Talk to you soon…

Jim

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