CeBIT expo hot pants? Just say no!

CeBITAs a veteran of ICT marketing (yes that means 20 years) I have been amazed to see the number of ‘booth babes’ used at this year’s CeBIT exhibition. Amazed not because of the cheap sex-sells approach that send all kinds of wrong messages regarding women (just check the #cebit twitter stream for a healthy dose of how unimpressed visitors were); but amazed because it doesn’t bloody work.

We worked that out in the 80’s. Companies tried it then – lots of tyre-kicker leads that took weeks for the sales guys to filter out afterwards and a small number of real prospect leads. Add into the formula the brand ‘distress’ and alienation of the females in ICT and the return on investment was negative.

CeBIT 'Booth Babes' for CrazyDomains

CeBIT 'Booth Babes' for CrazyDomains (click for larger version)

Notwithstanding that the booth babe exercise will end up costing you more than you made, consider the core message you’re sending to your target market – ‘I know my business intimately and I can’t think of a single business benefit to highlight to prospects that’s better than making a scene’. That’s a bit sad really.

Exhibitions are expensive propositions not only for the hard costs to book the space, build the stand and the ancillary logistics; but the soft costs of taking sales staff from normal duties also add up. If you are going to invest in an exhibition, spend some time well in advance to determine the one or two key things, or messages, you want to communicate – ie. when a prospect walks away from your exhibition stand what do you want them to be thinking? Once you have these key messages you can build your whole stand around it. depending on your corporate culture you can have fun with it (eg. actors or games) or play it straight.

But if your thoughts run to ‘hot pants’ – just say no!

Annette is the General Manager of Lucidity Marketing Communications. Lucidity is a specialist B2B marketing and communications consultancy focussed on the technology industry in Australia and Asia-Pacific.

  • Zara Baxter

    Not to mention that to have women as purely decorative elements at a trade show says very strongly to any women in your industry that your booth is Not For The. Is that REALLY the message you want to be sending? Guys, think of how welcome you’d feel at a stand populated by hot young men in leather posing pouches to get what I mean…

  • Nick

    Speaking as the star of that pic, make sure you never go to Computex. I’m going next week and they run out of local booth babes and have to ship them in. The world’s tech media are there and everyone knows that sites with articles concentrating on the booth babes get the most attention. These particular girls were marshalled over to me by their boss who wouldn’t let me leave btw. It was horrible ;o)
    I’ve seen so much worse at trade shows, that frankly I didn’t bat an eyelid on this occasion. But I can see why they’d be shocking in Australia which some say is fast becoming the most conservative, prudish country in the western world.

  • Vuki

    Annette, I don’t necessarily agree with the morals of this — but don’t you, as a marketer, agree that it worked?

    Yes, it certainly alienated some potential customers — but from their perspective, looking at the bigger picture, they’ve generated online chatter about CrazyDomains, which is great for their SEO, and they’ve gotten their brand name out there. They obviously went over board but I don’t doubt that they expected this sort of reaction.

    At the end of the day, domain names and hosting are an extremely cluttered market where it’s nigh impossible to stand out from the crowd. I thought their booth looked as tacky as it possibly could — but put it this way, many more people know about CrazyDomains now than they did two days ago, and I suspect that’s their goal.

  • Andrew

    They might have received some good SEO but they have lost my business and potentially that of the people I tell. Bad word of mouth is still bad. Attending CeBIT today it appeared that the CD stand was a bit vacant of people, lots of attendees were actively avoiding it.

  • As a panelist on the Web Forward stream today for Social Media I did visit CeBIT but did not make it to the exhibits to see this for myself but found it really fascinating to watch the faux fur fly.

    I am sure that my fellow Panelist, @SuziDafnis founder of the Australian Businesswomens Network would agree, it is a bit alienating to we ‘the fairer sex’. I own over 1000 community domains so I am a potential customer but I would not have responded to this marketing, I would have cruised by.

    I also see how XYY company responsible for the booth were trying to bust a “GoDaddy” move and this provokes a few thoughts. Go Daddy CEO will love to press that he will receive from this – he is a SuperBowl advertiser and loves a pretty girl in a tight t-shirt and a pair of hot pants – Hooter’s Style.

    Some points to stew on:

    1. Know Your Audience. Whilst CeBIT is traditionally male and suits, there are a significant amount of women who are either in the Marketing, Tech and social media spheres and I will let Suzi give the stats formally as this is her sphere. The increase in ‘new media’ attracted a younger demographic this year than in previous years. Perhaps a little research should have been done before determining what do to in the booth. (TIP: Ask the demographic questions if you are considering event marketing.)

    2.Here is proof we are engaged!! Despite how we may poo poo Twitter (people did today at CeBit at question time) it is a sure-fire listening channel to what people’s reactions are to marketing exercises and allow for immediate and decisive actions or responses.

    Thanks CrazyDomains for an excellent case-study. I’ll give it tomorrow at my keynote for Miller Heiman, blog it and share it everywhere.

    This could either be considered a case of ‘bad news travels faster’, or ‘at least they are talking about us’?


  • I don’t see this as prudish, I’m quite happy to attend a burlesque show and I think the female and male form are beautiful – but there is a time and a place. presently we have only 6% of computer science graduates as women, we must address this. Having a career in ICT enables you to develop teh answer to any question – be that in Fashion with the recent l’oreal fashion show filled with digital prints – needs technology and all industries impacted by ICT.
    As a women who has been working in ICT for close to 14years now it’s just a bit old school and makes me think you don’t understand the industry has grown and shifted away from this.
    What’s better 400 leads leading to hours of wasted effort and 1 contract? and a bad rep amongst the attendees – or 25solid leads that create 5 contracts and an admiration from ALL attendees.

  • I cruised past and thought to myself “what the” and received a chocolate and a crazy pill. Did not think too much about it really to be honest but thought it odd to have booth babes at a corporate event. The costumes worn did not do any of the girls justice either as there were a few bigger girls prancing around and giggling and acting up loudly. I walked past staring at with my mouth ajar – swiftly to the next booth where I could have a sensible and quiet chat to an exhibitor.

    My two bobs worth

  • Booth babes CAN work. But you need a strategy that is a little larger than “lets get some attractive people on the stand in tight clothes” This video explains more

    Warwick Merry
    The Get More Guy

  • There’s nothing like parading a bunch of tarts dressed as hookers do annihilate any semblance of credibility you may have been able to scrape together over the years.

    I’d hate to be dealing with the archetype of customer they’d attract with that bait.

  • There seems to be something about domain registration business that requires the stereotypical ”good looking woman’ slapped all over their sites.
    Is it such a commodity business that the only marketing expenditure they can afford is a couple of photos from iStock ?
    Is this the real geeky end of the computer business (i.e. this is the closest the customer will get to a real woman) ? That matches up with the female aisan gamer stereotypes I see on a lot of PC component packaging…

    Speaking as red blooded aussie male, I’m more attracted by an intelligent real woman who has things in common with me (like computers, hardware, software..) rather than with a minimum wage model who needs a good feed, or help paying her plastic surgeon.

  • Barry Waylon

    The way you rushed out of the Web Forward conference I was sure you were hot footing it down to the exhibition…But now I learn you (a) didn’t take the time to visit the exhibition; which when combined with (b) you didn’t hang around to engage the WF delegates (remember those poor buggers who paid good money to attend the conference?) – that doesn’t seem very social to me!

    Twitter might be a listening channel, but it’s hardly representative of the IT community or the broader community.

    Given Miller Heiman is a sales process model that is focused on complex, high cap-ex technology sales, I’m not sure of the relevance of Twitter?

  • Bill Rendall

    Its just Americam sales glam. Of course it doesnt work. Its just nice to see a couple of Babes in what is usually dreary techno hype.
    The Prime Albert Iprime robot guy had the same effect only far more effective and relevent 😀

  • Hate to say it but the executive might have been making their decisions with a certain part of their anatomy and it was not the one on which you can hang glasses that I am referring!

  • Aarini

    I hosted a website with CRAZYDOMAINS.COM.AU it is very inconvenient for me that it was very expensive..then i heard about i moved to is very comfortable for me.