A successful comedian once said, ‘Comedy isn’t about getting the most laughs. It’s about what you leave in the room.’ Essentially, this means that you can make everyone laugh and still fade from memory the next day. A comedian that makes a lasting impression is the one audience members will pay to see again. The same law applies to exhibiting. Bold, loud and flashy will turn heads, but may vanish from attendees’ minds in the days following the event. A surefire way to remain entrenched within visitor imagination is to create a custom, bespoke theme for your exhibit. Recurring motifs, whether it’s natural and grassroots, digital and futuristic or simply a striking colour scheme, will give your exhibition stand an identity that holds up to the test of time. With that said, a good theme requires considerable planning to properly execute. How should you go about choosing one?

An extension of your branding

It goes without saying, but an exhibition stand theme should mesh into your wider branding strategy. If you’re a company with a pre-established branding aesthetic, this will be much easier. Timberland, for example, need only capitalise on the outdoor, rugged aesthetic it has developed to create an eye-catching exhibit.

But what about software companies, security providers, and businesses with no obvious visual imagery to fall back on? In this case, an exhibition is actually a good opportunity to explore some creative branding opportunities that could extend beyond the event itself.

Image association

Employ a method of image association to establish a series of images that are connected to your business. Say you’re a security provider — the aesthetic attached to security is generally professional, high-tech, Men in Black-type suits, sleek colouring and robotics. Colours that mesh well into this aesthetic are dark blue, metallic grey, black and white. Anything futuristic works — security companies want to seem futuristic as this implies cutting-edge technology and an understanding of modern systems.

Once you have an aesthetic foundation laid, try to look for some individuality, some creative flair that expands upon your chosen theme. This could be a particular use of lighting, interactive screens or visual graphics. Look to the silver screen if stuck for ideas. Successful movie franchises often build up recognisable aesthetics that get their consumers hooked. The James Bond films, for example, use the iconic black silhouette of a man in a suit in their artistic, somewhat cartoonish intros. Of course, you don’t have a creative design team as well-funded as the makers of James Bond, but from their films you get an idea of how great designers can craft their very own aesthetic, with unique components that fit into the imagery of the franchise (or company) as a whole.


Work closely with a contractor

It’s your business, your story and your branding image, so you need to be part of the creative process to draw as much authenticity out of your exhibition stand as possible. However, it is a design team’s job to take on new clients, learn the ABCs of their business and build custom exhibition stands for them. As such, close collaboration with a contractor is by far and away the most efficient route to planning a successful exhibition.

Give them as much to work with as possible in brainstorming sessions, explaining what it is that’s different about your business and what kind of relationship you have with your customers. A good design team should then be able to translate those ideas into visual features, so that your exhibition stand ‘comes alive’ as a real, living representation of you and your business.


If it works, it works

It’s easy to get bogged down searching for the ‘perfect’ idea. You don’t need a perfect theme that perfectly ties together your entire company ethos into one cohesive aesthetic. Be different, be bold, and don’t be afraid to try something even if on paper it doesn’t scream ‘genius’.

You could, as an example, use a recurring aesthetic of thick, gel-like liquid visuals. Some cosmetic and skincare companies use these images to promote their products as sensual, velvety and attractive, but any company could adopt this aesthetic in graphic visuals on the exhibition stand walls. This is just one example of thousands you could potentially choose from — try to think imaginatively about different motifs and aesthetics you could infuse within your exhibition branding.

Many companies learn a lot about how to build a branding image from exhibitions. As a uniquely visual showcasing of your company, there are few opportunities like the exhibition that distill your branding into such a clearly-defined format. Companies with strong branding have a clear, recognisable image that consumers are attached to, and exhibitions force companies to develop exactly this kind of image in order to capture the attention of attendees for the duration of the event.

So, roll up your sleeves and get brainstorming — what starts out as an exhibition theme could end up defining your entire brand.