With over 190 exhibitors and more than 1,800 visitors, this year’s edition of HAPTICA® live in Bonn once again demonstrated the appeal haptic advertising can enfold. Michael Scherer, managing partner of the organisers, WA Media, explained why it is so important to concentrate on one marketing discipline, how one motivates marketing decision-makers to attend the event and why all market participants profit from an image campaign.

Mr. Scherer, the eighth edition of HAPTICA® live is being staged on March 18, 2020. The “Experience of Haptic Advertising” has firmly established itself on the event calendar of both the promotional products industry and of many end users and is very popular with the exhibitors and visitors alike. What makes the concept so special?

m.scherer wamedia - Interview with Michael Scherer, WA Media

Michael Scherer

Michael Scherer: When we developed the format, it was important to us to keep the event very compact. It was to be staged on one day and was to exclusively focus on haptic advertising. We consciously didn’t integrate any other marketing disciplines into the concept, because we didn’t want to dilute the theme. Our aim at the time was, and still is today, to strengthen the image of the promotional product among the end users, i.e. the companies and institutions that implement haptic advertising for communication purposes. We wanted to address decision-makers from the marketing segment and creative directors from the advertising sector in a targeted manner and win over their enthusiasm for the promotional product. And we were convinced that we could achieve enough reach via our own media like Promotion Products or HAPTICA®, which we produce for promotional products buyers and the marketing departments of the companies, in order to strike success with this image campaign.

However, we also knew that we had to offer the marketing industry something special to arouse their interest in HAPTICA® live. Promotional products don’t have the standing in many companies that they should have, so visiting a show for haptic advertising is often not considered important enough to give an employee a day off for. This is why the lecture programme, the Best Practice Show and the Promotional Gift Award were seen to be an important part of the event from the very beginning: We wanted to demonstrate as many facets of haptic advertising as possible and offer the marketing employees added value in a targeted way. For many visitors the ideas they gain for instance from the lectures held by the speakers of famous companies, but also from the best practice examples is the actual reason for attending the event: The employers are more inclined to approve the attendance of their staff as a result of the added value gained from the further education factor.

Why is it so important to you to improve the image of haptic advertising?

Michael Scherer: We reach more than 450,000 qualified industry contacts a year via our magazines and newsletters – nobody else within the industry achieves such a market penetration. We were the first company, which disposes of the respective media and know-how, to establish such a platform for the users – and we are of the opinion that there is still plenty of growth potential on the market for haptic advertising. Everyone profits from an image campaign and when the industry is doing well, so is our company.

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At first some of the distributors were worried that the HAPTICA® live would promote direct selling. Is this still an issue?

Michael Scherer: Hardly. Most people have understood how important it is to inspire the user for our marketing discipline and they appreciate with which consulting competence the suppliers can present their products in the scope of such a platform. The HAPTICA® live works so well specifically because it addresses all market participants. Everybody, who occupies himself with the theme of haptic advertising on a professional basis, is allowed to attend. We don’t exclude anyone. If a supplier does direct business, it is his own business decision and in our capacity as a publishing company and trade show organiser it is not down to us, nor is it our job to regulate this. Companies that engage in direct selling do it, regardless of whether there is a platform like HAPTICA® live, or not.

Is it also expedient for suppliers that exclusively work with the promotional products trade to exhibit at the HAPTICA® live?

Michael Scherer: Absolutely. The participation doesn’t depend on the sales channel, it is more a question of marketing. In order to generate demand on the end user side, the suppliers have to make sure that the users are familiar with their products. They have to be present within the industry – this is possible via advertisements in end user magazines on the one hand or on the other hand by taking part at industry shows. Furthermore, the suppliers know their products and the possibilities thereof much better than the distributors – in the scope of HAPTICA® live we have created a platform, where the suppliers can present and explain their products, regardless of via which channels they sell them. But the trade also attends the HAPTICA ® live, which enables the exhibitors to hold as many dialogues with their customers in one day, that their sales representatives would otherwise take weeks for.

How does the trade profit from the HAPTICA® live?

Michael Scherer: The trade can’t inform itself in such a compact format anywhere else. Furthermore, it also benefits from the practical relevance: It can let itself be inspired by the examples of application in the course of the lecture programme and the Best Practice Show, which will in turn help the distributors advise their customers – or the distributors brings their customers along with them to Bonn in order to show them realistically and in a tangible way the capabilities of promotional products. Participation is free of charge for all visitors; hence no costs are incurred for the trade. If a distributor registers the customers personally via our registration process at www.haptica-live. de or the customers state that they have been invited by a distributor, we automatically award the customers and distributors a VIP status and bear all of their catering costs.

The recipe for success of the HAPTICA® live lies in the unique combination between compactness and simplicity for all of the visitors, the special focus on haptic advertising and the multifaceted offer – this provides a benefit for the entire market, also for the trade.

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Some exhibitors and distributors would prefer it if the different visitor groups at the HAPTICA® live were distinguished using differently coloured lanyards or other visual means of identification so that the exhibitors can recognise at a glance whom they are dealing with. Why hasn’t this suggestion been picked up on yet?

Michael Scherer: The end user is as unfamiliar with the sales channels of the industry as with our industry-specific terminology. If we would rely on the particulars submitted during the registration process based on our online masks, we would get into deep water: Industry customers don’t define themselves as industry customers, especially for instance if they work for authorities, associations or municipal enterprises and traditionally many such visitors attend the HAPTICA® live. Moreover, many distributors consider themselves to be suppliers, agencies take on a special status anyway – some are supplied with goods at trading conditions, some are not. On top of this many visitors register just before the event begins or on the day of the event itself, which means we wouldn’t have the opportunity – even if we did happen to know the status of every visitor, which isn’t the case – to check or correct the information submitted. It would be far worse to label the visitors incorrectly than not to label them at all – since in the former case all of a sudden, the distributor prices would be passed on to industry customers. The safest method is still for the exhibitor to ask before handing out a price list. Any other approach is simply too risky.


// Joanna Meißner spoke with Michael Scherer.

photos: Jens C. Friedrich (1), Beke Milas (2), © WA Media GmbH; Jo Hempel (1)


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