By Mary Tucker, Sr. PR/Communications Manager
IAAPA Expo produced by IAAPA (International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions) is the premier conference and trade show for the global attractions industry. Held each November in Orlando, attractions industry professionals from around the world gather to explore the latest products and services on the expansive trade show floor, gain valuable insights in 100+ education offerings, and network in exclusive and unique special events.
IAAPA Expo has been experiencing continual growth year over year and in 2017, an all-time attendance record was achieved in the event’s 99-year history. The show saw an 11% increase of qualified buyers and a 9% increase in total attendance from the previous record-breaking numbers in 2016.
IAAPA Expo 2017 also posted the largest attendance from outside the United States in the past 9 years with 5,450 qualified buyers (v. 4,893 in 2016) from 128 countries (v. 120 countries in 2016). The theme for IAAPA Expo 2017 was “Creation Nation,” which spoke to the creativity within the attractions industry. The imagery and messaging used for the campaign positioned IAAPA Expo 2017 as THE go-to destination for inspiration.
This success earned IAAPA the IAEE Outstanding Marketing & Sales Award in 2018. Here, IAAPA Director of Marketing Megan Saad shares with IAEE more about the inspiration for the campaign and how it resonated with IAAPA Expo attendees.
IAEE: IAAPA’s “Creation Nation” was a robust campaign in terms of the rich imagery used across various marketing channels. What sparked the “Creation Nation” theme and what made it such a perfect fit for the 2017 show?
IAAPA: “Creation Nation” spoke to the creativity of the attractions industry. The primary design utilized a combination of a photographic image paired with an illustration. The photograph represented a current reality — something typically found at an attraction. The illustration represented creative possibilities and opportunities to be discovered at IAAPA Expo.
Now more than ever, guests are looking for unique and innovative experiences and look to our members to deliver. Through the imagery and copy within the campaign, we wanted to show prospective attendees that being part of IAAPA Expo would help them be more forward thinking to uncover new possibilities for their attraction.
IAEE: What are some of the key considerations IAAPA Expo takes into account in its efforts to create the ultimate experience for its attendees each year?
IAAPA: Since IAAPA Expo takes place in Orlando annually, it’s especially important to make the show continue to feel new and fresh each year. This doesn’t start when you arrive onsite, it begins with the first message a prospective attendee receives for the show.
Before registration launch, we spend a lot of time getting a pulse of the attractions industry to find out what is happening in our member parks and attractions. We want to make sure that the experiences at IAAPA Expo are reflective of current trends in the industry and help our attendees stay on the cutting edge of the guest experience.
Recently, the IAAPA team was challenged in creating additional space to accommodate the increased demand from exhibitors. The “Exploration Station” was introduced in 2018, which was a new experience outside of the traditional trade show floor. This new structure was built in the parking lot of the Orange County Convention Center for our buyers to enjoy with over 160 additional exhibitors, food trucks, and a mobile DJ to draw foot traffic.
IAEE: IAAPA Expo hit its 100-year mark in 2018. What are some of IAAPA’s strategies for keeping the ideas fresh while remaining true to loyal attendees’ expectations?
IAAPA: Our loyal attendees are a crucial segment to the show’s continued growth and it’s important to find a balance of staying rooted in tradition while continuing to move forward. Throughout the week, we produce vast programming to ensure there’s something for everyone – whether you’re a young professional starting out in your career or a seasoned veteran, there’s a special event or education session where you will find a benefit. It’s important for the marketing team to identify various audiences’ purpose for attending so we can reach them with targeted, meaningful messages.
We also continue to identify new audiences. Our primary target markets continue to be our core IAAPA membership constituencies (amusement parks, water parks, zoos and aquariums, family entertainment centers, and museums and science centers). However, to grow attendance, we look for deeper representation within these groups by growing attendance by specific job functions and levels, as well as additional growth opportunities from ancillary markets.
IAEE: IAAPA Expo continues to increase attendance from outside of the U.S. What are some of the differences between marketing to international target audiences versus those in the U.S.?
IAAPA: IAAPA Expo is truly a global show with representation from over 100 countries – a really exciting opportunity for attractions industry professionals from all over the world to come together as a community.
To ensure strong regional representation, we create translated deliverables (both traditional and digital) to reach key groups. We also shift to earlier timing and information on these pieces from the tactics deployed in North America knowing the travel and planning requirements for those outside of the U.S. We are fortunate to have regional offices around the world that assist with on-the-ground marketing efforts.
Onsite, there are several things we do to make sure our international attendees feel welcome (translators, international lounge, regional programming, and more).
IAEE: What has been the most successful marketing channel for IAAPA Expo and why do you think it is so effective?
IAAPA: This is a difficult question as it has become more and more about the attendee journey through multiple touchpoints. However, e-mail has remained consistently important and one of the strongest ROI we see from our efforts.
Through careful analysis, we have worked smarter with our e-mail frequency and deployments to incorporate a variety of message formats including HTMLS, static e-cards, translated messages, and more to target our audiences appropriately. We have also updated our tone to resonate with the fun nature of the attractions industry and our members.
I think e-mail is effective for many reasons. Most importantly, it’s more targeted and versatile than most channels. The data we collect helps us not only form a strategy but change course throughout the campaign based on performance and engagement. Additionally, e-mail works well with others meaning the messages can be crafted and timed to supplement our printed pieces and social messages.
IAEE: What current trends do you consider stand outs for marketing today’s exhibitions and events, and what do you see taking front row in the near future?
IAAPA: Exhibitions and events have a lot of momentum right now and I think as a producer of a successful event, IAAPA needs to continue to deliver immersive and unique experiences leading up to and on site at IAAPA Expo.
Personalization is an important trend as we use data to work smarter. We are proud of the continued growth of IAAPA Expo but now more than ever, we need to understand our audience. The more we can segment by constituency, region, interests, past behavior, etc., the better equipped we are to communicate that there is something for everyone at the event.
Here’s what IAAPA had to say when accepting the Outstanding Marketing & Sales Award this past December at Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition 2018 in New Orleans, La.