Booth Babes: Killing Your Brand One Tradeshow at a Time

If you have ever attended a tradeshow or conference that included exhibitors, then more likely than not you have experienced walking by a booth and seeing a “Booth Babe”.  “Booth Babes” can be defined as promotional models (men or women) that are hired to drive interactions with your brand at an event.  Let me start off by saying that I don’t have a problem with companies hiring support for large events and I understand that attendees of certain events such as car shows almost demand “Booth Babes.”  I do however take offense when this is taken to the extreme and I see booths at business events that are manned by scantily clad women who know nothing about the brand they were hired to represent. 

Unfortunately, the practice of using scantily clad women at business tradeshows is still ever present.  Even more unfortunate is the fact that the companies using this tactic don’t understand the damage they are causing to their brand.  When I walk by a “Booth Babe”, my first thought is “this company must not have anything interesting to say or showcase if they need to resort to using barely dressed models to create buzz.”  Assuming that the company does have something interesting to show, I have yet to meet a “Booth Babe” that was able to articulate the brand message or purpose of the company they were hired to represent.  This is by no means the fault of the “Booth Babe” but rather a common result of using a hired model that has no affinity towards your brand.

While “Booth Babes” may help generate more foot traffic at your booth, the question remains whether or not they attract the right type of attention.  For example, I could have easily added a photo to this post of a barely dressed model that would have most likely increased the number of times the article was shared on Twitter, Facebook, etc.  However, I would be willing to bet that the majority of the increased traffic would come from individuals that weren’t truly interested in what I have to say. 

The concept of using “Booth Babes” seems so outdated and sexist, not to mention limiting as more women hold executive positions than a decade ago.  With this in mind, I am interested to hear your thoughts so please share your comments below.

Does your company use “Booth Babes” and if so what value do they bring to the experience provided at your booth?  As an attendee, are you attracted to booths manned by “Booth Babes” or are you offended by them?

Discuss This Article

Comments: 12

  • Totally agree about the damage done to a brand, Brian. At the very least, it makes me think that the company using this tactic is insecure about their brand or value prop.

    And while I’m neither offended nor drawn to those booths, I do get a kick out of watching Middle-Aged-Badge-Wearing-Guy conspicuously orbit those booths or seeing him stop to talk for 5 minutes about something in which he obviously has very little knowledge/no interest.

    • Brian Rice says:

      Ah yes, the “Booth Babe Lurkers”, they are a dying breed but are always worth a good laugh or two. I would add one thing, usually that 5 minute talk about nothing involves zero eye contact.

  • Dom C says:

    I agree somewhat what you’re saying. Dan McDevitt and I had a lengthy conversation about this a while back when I was running SAP’s Run Better Tour. Let’s face it, the primary tech tradeshow audience is male. And research has shown that both men AND women are more likely to engage in conversation with a female in tradeshow-type settings. Women seem more approachable, I don’t consider that to be sexist, they’re friendlier than us guys.

    Now I COMPLETELY agree with your comment about dressing appropriately for a business setting and not hiring bodies that have no idea about the brand – it’s not good. But my opinion is that good looking people, that can speak to the brand very well, are the best tradeshow support you could have.

    • Brian Rice says:

      Hi Dom,

      Thanks for commenting. Some points to think about – 1) the ratio of men to women attending business tradeshows is shifting so it is better to kill bad habits now then suffer the long term effects 2) I can’t say that I have ever seen a woman waiting in line to speak with a “Booth Babe”.

  • Brian, it was fun to see the idea of this article form as we walked a recent show floor. Great job articulating the idea.

    Best, Michael
    @brennermichael

  • Brian, I’m so glad to see people talking about this outside of the trade show industry. When I go to construction industry shows and see the “Makita Girls” http://bit.ly/mynUEw I don’t bat an eye…the “Makita Girls” are a huge part of their brand and they do it really well. But when I go to a B2B tech show and see them…or almost any show, I am shocked. Stand outside their booth for a while and watch the expressions of disgust on both men’s and women’s faces.

    To @Dom’s comments, there is a huge difference between booth babes (they come in the male form as well) and professional trade show presenters. Hiring a professional presenter is a smart move. They can often times articulate your company’s products or services better than your employees. One in particular, Emilie Barta, even assists in writing the scripts. You can’t do that if you don’t have more than a surface understanding of the products or services of the company you are representing. A good presenter knows what engages and audience and it is almost impossible to tell they are not a member of your executive team.

    But scantily clad men or women draped over a server or MRI system? That’s just creepy. If you are using Booth Babes to get leads your going to end up with a lot of useless prospects and a very angry sales team when they start doing follow-up.

    • Brian Rice says:

      Hi Traci

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I completely agre. If I were at a festival and St. Pauli Girl Brewery had a booth, I wouldn’t think twice about them having their “Booth Babes” because it is part of their brand. There is however a big distinction in my mind between a professional presenter and a “Booth Babe” – well said on your part.

  • I completely understand where you are coming from and agree that scandalous outfits and uneducated tradeshow models need to go.

    BUT, often a spokesmodel can be a great asset to a company during tradeshows. More often than not, the model has been through a training program and is dressed professionally. This woman is very respectable and takes pride in representing a company with respect.

    Personally, I don’t like the “Booth Babe” name and just want to mention that there are many tradeshow models NOT participating in that type of activity.

  • Hiett Ives says:

    So much for the “What NOT to do” – With what do you REPLACE the practice? OPEN ENDED QUESTIONS – asked of every delegate passing your booth. If it’s the right question asked of the right delegate it can be asked by ANYONE. The ASKING causes the delegate to SELF QUALIFY themselves (or DISqualify as well) and the burden then passes to the company sales person. It’s your GUARANTEED method of assuring yourself QUALIFIED LEADS at any show.

  • This is a pet peeve of mine. I think booth babes manage to insult both men and women. The use of booth babes insults men because it implies they make purchasing decisions with their little head instead of their big head. It insults women because it implies they don’t make purchasing decisions so they can be ignored.

  • Mark Sylvester says:

    Interesting and I agree. We had 1000’s of leads that were all 100% unqualified when we hired a ‘booth babe’. That being said, in Japan, it is an honorable profession that women strive for in marketing. They take it extremely seriously and when we used to do Nicograph, it was very interesting to see how the tradeshow experience is so completely different in this, and other regards.

  • Mico Yuk says:

    Brian,

    Great article. I honestly thought the story was innocent until I saw the naked women painted with only their undies! I honestly can’t believe this is still happening in 2013 in the tech industry. It’s so disrespectful to women in any industry to be honest and downright degrading. Even worse is the Executive refusing to speak to BBC who covered the topic like its ‘non issue’.

    Good spokesperson is one thing.. empty headed half naked chic on a stand is something else. This show needs to be boycotted. I would loose respect for any vendor who used such methods to be honest. So yes, are those retailers hurting their brand absolutely. Wish I could get the brand names so I could officially boycott them to be honest.

    Someone needs to publish their names on a list.

    Cheers,
    Mico

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