Booth Babes Are Out, Cosplay Is In
It seems clear that Booth Babes at tech industry trade shows are finally out. The culture has dramatically shifted and anyone that crosses that line risks negative reactions at the show and even bigger fallout on social networks as people pile on with objection and outrage. The risks exceed the rewards if there ever were any in the first place.
This article isn’t about putting the nail in the coffin for Booth Babes. I have never hired Booth Babes nor have I considered it effective at Technology conferences. But it’s a big world with lots of different markets requiring different marketing strategies and I am betting there are markets in which that model is still effective. It’s just not our market.
And it’s about time.
We all knew it was coming. Many of us felt it was a bad idea from the start and many have spoken recently with strong views on the subject. In 2015 The RSA conference added new clauses to it exhibitor rules barring suggestive or revealing clothes. Spencer Chen, a seasoned marketer with experience using Booth Babes, listed the results of his A/B split test in his Booth Babes Don’t Work:
- Booth babes are intimidating.
- Booth babes are lazy.
- Business and product execs don’t talk to booth babes.
- Booth babes produce low-quality leads.
The tech industry leads the transformation of the workplace by constantly improving workplace efficiency and finally we are beginning to lead in the arena of workplace equality and tackling big issues like equal hiring, equal pay and breaking down the glass ceiling women often encounter.
It’s time we lead on this topic too, but what is a savvy marketer to do?
What if I told you there was a solution that delivers better results with none of the downside? One that creates visual appeal at your booth. One that actually compels people to come closer to your booth and even stand in line. One that truly warms people up after taking selfies and having a few laughs.
Cosplay is short for Costume Players, who typically dress up as a character from comics, movies, games or anime. Cosplayers are available for appearances just like other types of talent but the key difference is the public’s perception. The best Cosplayers make their own costumes and can either visually suggest an established character, develop an original character or be suggestive of an established character.
Who cares about Cosplay?
Geeks are the new millennials for marketers, which makes for a huge opportunity. It’s also well known that there is strong crossover interest with high tech peeps for comics and gaming. Silicon Valley just had it’s own Comic-con in March.
Storylines and gamification are hot.
We understood this when designing our new service to help developers and database operators with a free online performance analysis for scaling MySQL. It’s called the Gibbs MySQL Scalability Advisor and it has a storyline to help engage users and we launched it recently at Percona Live 2016 in Santa Clara.
Gibbs is a reformed pirate monkey that spent his career advising Pirate Captains how to spread their bounty across many locations. The story line ties in with our Scalable Cluster for MySQL product which distributes data across multiple database instances. So we brought in a Pirate Cosplayer to help promote Gibbs at the booth.
Why was Cosplay a better choice for us?
• Supporting artists is legit. Cosplayers are artists: they can also be theatrical by transforming into a character after making their costumes from scratch which is an artform in itself.
• Cosplayers appeal to men and women alike.
• People take photos with Cosplayers, lots of them, with your brand in the background. Including executives.
• The show’s staff photographers came back again and again to take photos with their big cameras and our brand in the background.
• Name a time when a booth babe was asked by the event organizers, a team of women, to help hand out prizes at the show’s conclusion.
• We more than doubled our leads, compared to our previous show, and saw even more people go home with photos on their phones of our brand.
• In the end we all felt great about the experience and got a ton of compliments from other vendors and the show’s host sponsor.
What’s the best way to integrate Cosplay into your marketing presence?
• Find the right tie-in. You can’t just have Batman standing there for no good reason. It has to flow with storyline about your products or services.
• Find the right character. Percona for example has Database Superheros. Notably all original characters.
• Steer clear of the sexy characters or find yourself back in the danger zone.
• Find a professional Cosplayer that does appearances in your area and has a day rate. Find them on Facebook, Instagram or Reddit.
• Even better: find a Cosplayer that will create an original character.
• Set clear objectives for the Cosplayer and train them on the business’ objectives and storyline.
• Have fun with it!
Now, I’m not suggesting you have Superman and Batman fighting at your booth. That’s too gimmicky and won’t work. There are also tricky issues around copyright and fair use but that’s nothing new. You still have to get creative, but that’s what Marketers do best.
Also, check out the 10 minute presentation about Gibbs at Percona Live 2016 here.