How can behavioural economics help you design an exhibition stand?

February, 28 2018

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Long before the term behavioural economics ever existed, marketers were applying its principles.

Offers like 3 for 2 purchases, one day only deals and “buy now pay later” all tap into the psychology of how and why we spend our hard-earned cash. While pure economics deals in mathematical logic and rationality, behavioural economics incorporates the human element to explain – among other things – why we don’t always make rational buying decisions.

Whether it’s the subtle implications of vocabulary or the suggestion of exclusivity, our purchasing choices are often driven by emotional or subconscious responses; a fact brands can use to create better engagement and increase sales.

Although it’s easy to see how retailers can harness this power, the principles of behavioural economics can be applied to all aspects of branding and marketing – including designing an engaging exhibition stand. Here’s how to employ some of the foundational ideas of behavioural economics to get the most out of your design.


Loss Aversion

Loss aversion works on the premise that we fear loss almost twice as much as we desire gain. Sales, bargains and special offers all work off the principle that spending less money – i.e. losing less money – is attractive. So how do you incorporate loss aversion into your exhibition stand?

Attendees who have downloaded your brand app can be notified of any exciting highlights at your stand with a message indicating that they could miss out on a time limited opportunity.

If you’re launching a new product or service at the event, make sure your incentives focus on what the customer can save rather than what they’ll gain. ‘Save £5,000’ is more powerful than ‘£5,000 cash back’ because it speaks to the fear of losing money on a poor spend.



Salience is all about prominence. When a consumer wants to make a purchase, which brand do they think of first and why? In terms of marketing, higher brand salience increases ease and accessibility, making it more likely that a customer will choose your brand.

In terms of exhibition stand design, the concept of salience can be employed to ensure you stand out from the crowd. What will make visitors decide to come to your stand before a competitor’s?

Dramatic lighting, eye-catching colours and captivating brand messages can all help to increase your stand’s ‘wow factor’ and attract the crowds. Do you have a robot at your stand? Can attendees play games and use immersive technology like AR or VR?

All of these features can attract visitors – and nothing sparks people’s curiosity like a crowd. However, for salience to be employed effectively, it has to be relevant, or you risk damaging the integrity of the brand. To stand out for the right reasons, ensure your design choices are aligned with your brand story and relevant to your sector.


Scarcity Value

Scarcity value relates to old fashioned supply and demand. When something’s in short supply, its value increases – and we want it more. Applied correctly, scarcity value can be incredibly powerful, as it taps into our primal survival instincts.

What is everyone else offering at their stands? Try to provide something different. If most of the stands are minimalistic and cool, why not make yours cosy and comfortable? Everyone loves a freebie – and everyone knows that when they’re gone, they’re gone. So if you’re giving attendees something to take home with them, make sure passers-by know there’s something on offer.



As the name suggests, priming is about preparing someone to do something. It’s based on the principle that we’re all suggestible and open to subconcsious influence. From subliminal messaging in adverts to Christmas music playing in supermarkets in October, brands constantly use the power of suggestion to their advantage.

The World Wildlife Fund’s Pablo The Flamingo perfectly illustrates the power of priming. Instead of asking people to listen to a barrage of information about flamingos being a protected species and why they should adopt one, they created a video of a flamingo happily bouncing along to ‘Let me blow ya mind’.

It’s different, engaging and has the desired effect of putting a smile on your face – and most importantly – it makes you feel positive about flamingos. The choice of song also suggests that you’re about to have your mind changed – bringing you around to the idea of supporting the cause before you’ve even heard the case.

You can employ this technique in the design of your stand by creating subliminal feelings of positivity towards your brand. Features which delight, amuse and entertain attendees will always live longer in their memories than the information they received.

Thinking outside the box and taking a tangential approach to your messaging can be much more powerful than simply asking people to do something. Put a smile of the face of visitors and you’ll create a lasting impression of your stand and brand.


Decision paralysis

Have you ever found yourself standing in the biscuit aisle in the supermarket, staring at the hundreds of options, unable to choose?

Contrary to the opinion that more choice is always a good thing, behavioural economics says that too many options can lead to decision paralysis. Human beings are unable to process too much information at once, so when faced with multiple options, we can feel bombarded or ‘paralysed’- and instead of choosing, walk away without making a purchase.

Brands like Apple work against decision paralysis by carefully controlling when they open choices. While they could release any number of new technologies at a time, they choose instead to selectively launch one new phone each year. This type of marketing creates focussed hype around a single choice, and diminishes the potential for indecision.

In terms of exhibition stand design, the principle behind decision paralysis is possibly the most important one of all. While it might be tempting to promote all your products or services, and opt for a variety of interactive technologies to attract an audience, focussing on one is likely to be the most advantageous strategy.

Streamlining your approach also improves the memorability of your stand. People are much more likely to recall a star attraction than a confusing blur. They’ll remember it, connect it with your brand – and potentially tell others about the experience.

When it comes to designing your event stand, the competition is fierce. You need a design that will attract a plentiful stream of visitors and keep them interested long enough to absorb your message. The foundational ideas of behavioural economics can help you develop a more systematic approach to engaging with visitors, giving you the edge over your competitors and creating an impression that will live on long after the event.

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