How to Use Humor to Promote
Tradeshow Display Exhibits

Should You Use Humor at Tradeshows to Promote Your Products?

Effective tradeshow display exhibits attract traffic and create a lasting impression in the minds of attendees. After all, if a booth visitor can’t remember you and your brand message, then you won't get the business. In your promotional efforts, you also want to create a positive impression, which can sometimes be harder to do than the negative equivalent.

humor in marketing exhibits

Which brings us to humor. People love to laugh – and they like other people to laugh with them. Witness the almost constant flood of jokes and cartoons that flit across the internet: Proof that humor cannot be stopped.

You’ll often find that people go out of their way to remember great jokes, where they’ll never, ever stop to jot down the details of an eye-catching graphic. This makes humor a valuable marketing tool for tradeshow display exhibits – if you can make it effectively serve your objectives.

Some may immediately dismiss this idea and say “There’s nothing funny about my product.”  Well, what’s funny about rental cars? Beer? Car insurance? None of these items are inherently funny, yet companies in these and other sectors have effectively used humor to capture top-of-mind awareness and recall in the public eye.

It is important to remember that your campaign for your tradeshow display exhibits should be fully integrated into your marketing plan, as a whole. If you are using humor in your television and print media, bring it to the show floor.

However, if you are known as a stoic and conservative company, playing for laughs at the convention center with your tradeshow display exhibits will fall flat. Consistency in corporate image is key.

What can be learned from companies that have successfully used humor? There are four key lessons.

Key #1: Exaggerate the norm. 

Contrast exaggerated examples of industry norms with how your company excels. A restaurant chain that serves large portions could highlight the much smaller servings to be had at the competitor’s. Wendy’s did this very effectively with the “Where’s The Beef?” campaign in the Eighties. Be careful not to explicitly or implicitly identify your competitors, or you’ll be hearing from some very angry lawyers. 

Key #2: Know your target audience. 

Jokes that appeal to one demographic group may not work with another. Some target audiences may have sharp funny bones, and may appreciate dry wit. Others, not so much. It is important to know your target audience and what resonates. 

Geico and AFLAC have done well with their appealing, talking gecko and duck ads. By using the same creative approach consistently through the years, the iconic gecko and duck have created broad-reaching awareness with staying power.

Key #3: Create a character. 

Consider creating a character as part of your brand. This character should show up in creative across your advertising platforms, including online media, television commercials, literature you distribute at the show, in your signage and graphics, and potentially as stuffed animals.

The Serta Sheep toys have taken on a life of their own, and each one of them goes out with the company name blazoned on the side. That’s humorous and memorable marketing at work.

Geico has done this very well with its Gecko spokersperson that has been a memorable and constant icon for the company. The endearing character effectively delivers Geico's message in the midst of the insurance company's entertaining and ever-changing creative strategy.  

Key #4: Repetition counts. 

Remember, consumers need to hear a message at least five times before they’ll recall it easily. The trick is to keep the presentation fresh while the message remains constant. Comedians world-wide will tell you that humor is a tough business.

It is hard to tell what will make one person laugh and another roll their eyes in disgust. However, if a joke falls flat for a comedian, he or she moves on to the next joke and keeps moving.

If you’ve invested tons of time and money in your humor campaign and plan to extend your efforts with marketing your tradeshow display exhibits, you need to know these three things:

  1. It must be funny. Test the campaign on objective people who represent your target audiences – lots of objective people. If the majority laugh, you’re golden. However, if less than half the people get the joke, drop it.
  2. It must be quick. There are great funny jokes that take half an hour to tell. Inflict them on your relatives or when you've got a whole room full of trapped subordinates. Customers aren't going to give you that much of their time. You've got half a minute or less to get them laughing.
  3. It must reflect well on your company. Ethnic, racial, sexual, political and gender based humor has absolutely no place in your marketing.

Incorporating humor into your marketing strategy is hard work. Yet, once you’ve found the right balance, you’ll likely have a campaign for your company and tradeshow display exhibits that will draw the crowds into your booth area – and more importantly, toward buying your products and services. 


Source: Article by Susan A. Friedmann, CSP, The Tradeshow Coach,

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