The Stealth Startup and the Tradeshow

September 19, 2007 at 9:24 pm 5 comments

By my own admission, I am not a marketing guru. And for that reason, I tend to give new ideas the benefit of the doubt, lest I scorn the next greatest thing out of ignorance. But I saw something today that just left me scratching my head. Details have been removed to protect the innocent…

So I was up at Moscone at a trade show, doing some market research legwork for my current company. I had a few companies I wanted to talk to, and I wanted to get the general vibe and look for fresh marketing ideas.

Then I happened upon Company X. Here’s my recollection of the conversation:

Tim – Hi, how’re you doing?

Company X Staffer – Great, thanks.

Tim – So, what do you guys do?

Company X Staffer – I can’t say.

Tim – [Smiling, thinking a joke is coming] You can’t say?

Company X Staffer – Nope, we’re in stealth mode.

Tim – [Smile gone] But you’re at a trade show. You have a booth.

Company X Staffer – Yup.

Tim – Don’t you find that strange? I mean, you paid to have a booth, but can’t tell me what you do?

Company X Staffer – If you want, I can scan your badge and send you an e-mail when we launch.

I swear, I’m not making this up. He then proceeded to hand me a small postcard with…their URL on it, telling me I could also check out their site periodically.

I’ll assume they paid $5,000 to $10,000 for their booth, plus airfare and hotel for the three people I saw (did I mention they are based on the east coast?). And the net of it is they hand me a piece of paper with their URL on it? Coming to a live show just to get me their URL? Brilliant idea. If this is their idea of guerrilla marketing, I’d suggest they brush up a little on their techniques, here and here for starters.

What does this have to do with Marketing 2.0? Nothing, I hope.


Entry filed under: Tradeshow.

CMO 2.0 Hey, CMO. What Do You Do All Day?

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Steve at Pinnacle Trade Show Displays  |  October 17, 2007 at 11:59 pm


    It’s hard to believe this “Company X” exists, but if they do, I hope they are one of my competitors…
    Can you post their url? I’d love to go to their website, which I would guess has the little black and yellow animated construction guy swinging a pick and says “Under Construction” (remember that animated gif from the last century?)

  • 2. cmo20  |  October 18, 2007 at 12:10 am

    It’s true. To tell you the truth, I often wonder if it’s good to have competitors who do silly things, or if that makes the whole sector look bad.

    These guys had a professional looking booth, logo and web site (with limited info). So no yellow and black “Under Construction.” Which I find all the more maddening. Stealth is a strategy (should do a whole blog on that), but I think some people just think it’s cool to be stealth and it affects their judgment. If you are going to be stealth, then do stealth marketing – a teaser, something edgy, something guerrilla.

  • 3. Sue  |  October 18, 2007 at 9:49 pm

    That is an interesting story, could you tell from the site what their objective or sleath mission may have been?

  • 4. cmo20  |  October 24, 2007 at 5:13 pm


    Well, as I tried to convey in the post, I don’t think it was a very well thought out mission, and ultimately a waste of money.


  • 5. Trade Shows - The Big Picture « Brett’s Blog  |  November 12, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    […] you have the resources to optimize the show? Too many people think they can just set up shop in a 10′ x 10′ booth and everything else will take care of itself. Not true. Before you commit to a show, figure out if […]


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