For the second year in a row, the corona pandemic is forcing the industrial world to skip the annual pilgrimage to central Germany to attend the Hanover Fair, the mothership of all industrial trade shows. But that hasn’t stopped Deutsche Messe, the fair’s organizers, from putting on a heck of an alternate show.
We understand that meeting people in person and spontaneously discovering rough diamonds of innovation is the point of traveling to a trade show. We also understand that all the technology in the world can’t replace the open-air exhibits, the countless booth parties and the annual treat of white asparagus for dinner (every night).
What’s remarkable is the extent of what is now possible in an industry forced to stay home. We may, in fact, be witnessing the metamorphosis of new ways of industrial marketing and public relations.
The virtual Hanover Fair may permanently alter the grey facade of industry events. If trade fairs of the past amounted to inspecting little grey boxes nailed to a booth wall, fairs of the future will instead resemble Apple launch events. Yes, the product is in focus, but it’s the WAY the product is presented that people remember. The content of the presentation used to be the message, but today it’s HOW you present it that really counts.
Presentation arenas in the middle of trade fair halls are giving way to online staged and scripted vision events that present a company’s vision rather than showing the latest grey boxes. These expensive and well-rehearsed shows are hosted by charismatic presenters who are young, dynamic, multi-racial and no longer exclusively male. The scripted banter between presenters may be canned and corny, but it’s effective in the way it takes prospective customers by the hand and shows them a vision of how great their future can be. The necktie disappeared from the Hanover Fair about 4 years ago, and now the business suit is giving way to a much more youthful and individual look – polo shirts with jeans and tennis shoes, or sport coats over t-shirts. Long hair and tattoos? Let's see them!
The dress may be casual, but the message is dead serious: this industry is slimming down, modernizing, and making itself attractive for young people.
Clearly, it is the large exhibitors with the huge marketing budgets that put on the flashiest online shows in the best time slots, to the detriment of small companies that can only afford a static show appearance. But it’s not just the pandemic that is driving this trend. For exactly 10 years our industry has been undergoing an IIoT-inspired digital transformation that is making the OT world look more and more like the IT world. The influence of IT is showing up not just in the products, but also in the marketing and in the people.
So, what can we except in 2022 if we suddenly find ourselves traveling to Hanover again after a 3-year hiatus? Look for signs of an industry that is embracing not the technology, but also the culture of the IT world. Look for signs of emerging ecosystems in which multiple vendors contribute to a solution put together by best-of-breed choice, rather than monolithic lock-in. Look for emphasis on software-based solutions, the cloud as the place to put everything, and whole new business models designed around digital services.
Look for an industry that is catching up to the rest of the world.