Last week, Art & Science participated in our fifth year at DX3, a conference-meets-trade show at the intersection of retail, brand and technology.
As with all previous years, we secured ourselves a prominent footprint on the trade show floor designed to grab attention, and attract attendees into conversations. We’ve always tried to “lean back”, and pull people into our booth by setting up visually compelling, interactive “experiments”.
This year, we brought a 20-foot LED video wall running our “Magic Mirrors” tech, and a couple of (VERY slick) interactive kiosks that showed off a large body of work we’ve done for brands.
As a service-based agency, a trade show is an unlikely venue to showcase our work. And we certainly have experienced some challenges from having a booth at a trade show. While standing in front of one of our interactive “experiments” that we bring, we’ve been asked more than a few times, “So how much for this?” I’ve always surmised this line of questioning comes from the mental model attendees have at trade shows: namely, they expect that the “things” on display are commodities to be bought outright.
My time on the floor this year was limited. But as with all previous years, I fielded more than a few questions from people about why we participate in DX3 if we’re not there to sell a specific product or piece of technology. For us, our interactive experiments serve as demonstrations of our expertise, not commodities to be sold and resold. So why do we DX3?
Part of the brand story of Art & Science is that we do what artists and scientists do: we create and we experiment. DX3 is a venue that allows us to fulfill this brand promise to our team, and to the market at large. We invest in experimentation in ways I’ve rarely seen matched by other agencies. But that kind of investment needs a showcase beyond our own Instagram feed—and nothing motivates like a deadline. So for five years now, we have invested 2-3 months of prepping original experiments for the show.
Field Testing Prototypes
The experiments we build help us prototype new modes of interaction, new technologies and novel concepts that inevitably inform the experiential work we do for clients. Plus, since the dawn of technology, there has been a universal truth that experiments done in a lab aren’t as good as “field tests”. DX3 is a field test for us. And to be completely honest, not all of our field tests are completely successful. And that is absolutely fine, because we learn more from those moments.
Evolving a Category
Experiential marketing has been around for a LONG time. Internet marketing is 20 years old. Digital Experiential is still nascent, especially in Canada. And while it is this type of work that we showcase at DX3, the truth is that we do this to encourage brands to consider what’s possible. There is a lot of appetite for “innovation” in marketing and elsewhere, but as overused as the term is, it does not—by definition—provide a clear picture of what it is.
Our goal in attending DX3 is to spark engagement and discussion with the brands in attendance, with the end goal of exploring possible business opportunities. But much like the challenges facing the Canadian retail sector, the path to that goal is not always direct, but it is increasingly experiential.