No Pictures Please!

I spent the day at a trade fair in Cologne recently. It’s one I go to every January and have done for the past twenty-five years. Well wouldn’t you, if you could spend the day stuffing your face with cakes, cookies and chocolate?

The fair sprawls over something like six big halls, has nearly 1500 exhibitors and over 30000 visitors. And if you go every year, you begin to see trends unfold, grow and disappear. That’s the attraction for me.

This year I had a really weird experience. As I wander round the halls, I use my camera to record things of interest. It saves writing notes and is a lot more reliable. So there I was, peering at products, sampling new ideas and saw something intriguing. Out came the camera and as I focused, I was aware of a flurry of activity to my right. Arms waving, bodies rushing towards me and voices raised.

I looked up to find out what was up. And discovered I was what’s up. The stand exhibitors surrounded me, covered the intriguing product with their hands and shouted: ‘No pictures’. They then quizzed me about my interest in their company. When I said I worked for a design company, the lead inquisitor raised her hands and said, ‘well then, you’ll understand why we don’t want pictures.’

To be honest I didn’t. They were at a trade fair. They were exhibiting their products. Presumably they wanted interest. May be even orders. But they wanted this interest on their own terms. They wanted to control the knowledge.

And in today’s world, that’s a problem. Producers are no longer the guardians of information about their products. We are. And for a great product that can be a lifeline. We can be the marketing department. We can be the Ad agency. We can replace the PR company.

We can do all that.  But it means producers changing their whole attitude towards consumers. From being megaphones to becoming hearing aids.