This week, we chat to Stefanie Hanel, Director of Marketing and Communications at ISE, the world’s leading AV and systems integration exhibition. Stefanie talks about creating a brand identity for their annual ISE event and the challenges of delivering an innovative expo that gets bigger and better every year.
So, tell us what Integrated Systems Europe is all about?
Integrated System Europe (ISE) is a trade show, but it’s all about connections. It’s the destination of choice for the global AV and systems integration industry. This community comes together once a year from all over the world. They meet under one roof to get the latest information about technology, market insights and products, and to meet the big manufacturers from across the globe.
With one big event every year, how do you balance brand consistency while also keeping it fresh?
It’s a bit of a challenge, but ISE is a very established brand – we’ve been around for nearly 20 years. Since we launched in 2004, we haven’t made many tweaks to our logo, so our brand identity is clear. We create differentiation with our two big campaigns each year. One is for the exhibitors – to encourage them to exhibit with us; and the other is to attract visitors to attend and meet all these brands.
We need separate creative identities for each of those campaigns. With the exhibitors, we are very consistent, keeping our neutral corporate look and feel – a lot of blue and white. For visitors however, we try to be fresh every year. As a technology event, we’re led by the spirit of the times, bringing relevant topics to the forefront. Our industry is dynamic and evolving, it’s never static, and this needs to be reflected in the visual elements that Greenwich Design creates.
How far in advance do you have to brief in all the materials for the campaigns?
In the usual ISE year cycle, we have our event at the beginning of February, then we take quite a long time afterwards to evaluate the show. We do it with the whole organisation to ensure we consider all the different points of view – internally in small groups and with external suppliers. We believe this thorough and honest evaluation is one of our key success factors and the process usually takes about two months.
So, from February to April, we’re in evaluation mode, then we kick off the exhibitor campaign for the new year at the end of April. Towards the summer, we switch the focus to the visitor campaign. There’s some overlap, it’s not black and white, but that’s generally what the year’s cycle looks like.
For our evaluations we have a traffic light system in place. Green means what we did worked well, and we need to evolve it. A yellow light indicates a nice idea that needs improvement. And then there’s red if something really didn’t work, and we’d rather stop doing it.
“Working with Greenwich is simply amazing. They are so efficient and not just a supplier we use to get our creative stuff done – it feels like Greenwich is a real extension to the team.”
What were you trying to achieve creatively with Dan and the Greenwich Design team?
When we started working with Dan, we had a big move ahead of us – in 2020-21, we moved from Amsterdam to Barcelona. It was also the time Covid hit, so it was very challenging to do an in-person event. For our first show in Barcelona, we focussed on the city – the warmth of the south, the sun, the Mediterranean feeling. The goal was to entice people to come to the show with this nice, sunny, bright creative.
For last year’s campaign, which culminated in the February 2023 event, we wanted to move away from this aspect of Barcelona because ISE is an independent show and doesn’t depend on any location or city. The global AV industry would attend ISE and no matter where it was in Europe.
The message we wanted to convey was that whatever people required for business, whether it was specific information on a product or a certain technology; if they wanted to go to a workshop or a conference; or if they simply wanted to establish new business relationships, they could find that under one roof at ISE. We wanted it to feel young, inspiring and bright. It’s all about connections – both human connections and connections through technology.
You created a combination of digital and printed materials. As a technology innovator, how do you decide when it’s time to ditch the print and go completely digital?
It’s a bit of a contradiction that, as a tech show, we still use a lot of print collateral. But the truth is that there’s still an appetite for printed materials amongst exhibitors and visitors. But we can definitely see it changing – there’s not as much take up for the show newspaper anymore, for example. As we all know, news works differently these days. People tweet or post immediately – there’s no time to wait for a newspaper to be printed. The news often isn’t newsworthy after 24 hours. That’s an area where we’ll probably see a change for the show.
On the other hand, things like pocket foldout floor plans still have a very good take up. I think people like to look at comprehensive complex things clearly in print, rather than on a small digital device, so that’s something I see us keeping alive.
We tried to go digital with our show badges, but we found exhibitors wanted the printed badges back. It sometimes simply works better. There’s the potential for a lot more digital tools, but we won’t see print disappearing entirely.
For the on-site show branding, for example, we have lots of big posters signposting where each of the halls are. It’s convenient – you allow people to easily consume all the information in a very complex, large building. It’s more difficult to deliver the same kind of convenience with the digital. There’s a lot of smart technology that can be used for wayfinding, but if you have a power or Wi-Fi issue, you’re stuck.
All these things form a big part of our evaluation process – how many floor plans and how many show guides were used, how many newspapers were picked up? And if we see the pickup isn’t great then we’ll definitely put it on a red light.
You’ve been at ISE for a long time. What is it that you enjoy about working there?
I started in 2008, so my first show was in 2009, but I got ill and couldn’t attend. Not a great start but I’m still here! I love working on trade shows and I love this industry. It feels new every year because we have the challenge of getting better and better. It’s amazing to see our exhibitors growing each year and watching them become successful and make a difference to the world with their technology.
It’s thrilling to read their success stories. It makes me proud that I can contribute to giving them an excellent experience on the show floor; ensuring they have a good return on their investment; that they see the right people. That’s something I enjoy very much. And the team that’s behind the ISE – it’s such an exceptional mix of people and skill sets. We have everything from young talents to experienced specialists and industry insiders, and they all burn for the same thing, which makes it really easy to work together.
There’s also lots of pressure. We have a hard deadline with the fixed show dates, so you can’t discuss ideas repeatedly; you must make a decision. And once the show is over, we immediately start with the next one, so there’s a very fixed plan every year, but I enjoy that a lot.
What did you enjoy about working with Dan and Greenwich Design?
Working with Greenwich is simply amazing. They are so efficient and they are not just a supplier that we use to get our creative stuff done – they are a real extension to the team. It’s a very close relationship and it feels like they don’t see us as just a job either.
And the Greenwich team is so reliable. If they tell me I’ll get something before 12, it’s there before 12. Given the pressure and the time cycle we’re in, it’s important to us that we don’t see any delays. Dan has also got to know all the team – the salespeople, marketing, and even the operations people, so when I speak about him, everyone in the company knows who I mean and that makes a difference.
The entire Greenwich Design team contributes and provides us with new ideas. Dan joins marketing meetings to understand the ideas behind our plans. He brainstorms with us; he introduces tools or elements to us that we haven’t thought of. There’s this genuine interest in helping us be successful.
Dan also takes the time to come to the event to see everything he created, live on site. We evaluate what we did, while the event is on, and we discuss what we need to change next year. He knows the event, he knows the people, he really has the spirit that ISE as a company has, and that’s just fabulous.
Thanks Stefanie, we enjoyed working with ISE and seeing all the creative come to life. To find out more about the work we did for ISE, you can read the case study here.