AHIP Institute 2011: The Dodge team's observations on the exhibit floor winners and losers

By Brad Dodge on June 20th, 2011

We enjoyed traveling to the Moscone Center in San Francisco this week to attend the AHIP Institute 2011. There was a good deal of positive energy at the show and we enjoyed visiting with our clients, partners and friends.  And if you weren't able to attend, you missed a couple of magnificent days of weather--68 degrees and bright sun.

We were generally very pleased with the booth quality at the show. Unlike the AMGA conference, AHIP accepts booths of all sizes, though in general the booths are smaller than at HIMSS, for example. And AHIP does a great job getting the attendees into the exhibit hall to mingle with the exhibitors. Meals, refreshment breaks and cocktail receptions are all in the hall, with everything set up in the back of the hall so attendees need to walk by the booths to get to the grub. Same idea as where they locate the milk and eggs at the grocery store.

Best in show goes to Optum. It was an interesting configuration--20 feet wide and 80 or so feet long. The exhibit itself was very contemporary and elegant with a good use of the narrow Moss header set at several different heights. The video wall was nicely done--well positioned with clean crisp messages. And the workstation kiosks were high quality and effective.

HIMSS Optum booth

Because the booth properties were so impressive, we decided to focus our lenses on companies' tag lines for a change of pace. It's a common complaint at shows that visitors can't figure out what companies do by looking at the booths. We recommend to our clients that it's most important to jump that hurdle FIRST in their booth messaging. We believe that some companies do a great job, others don't. In our business, we talk to many companies that want to adopt a "just do it" style of tag line--all emption and no description. We think that's a lost opportunity for companies to build brand awareness. Our belief is that a visitor may be in the market for a company's product or services, but they won't recognize the company is even IN that category if they're using a tag line that doesn't establish the category. Now, we agree that descriptive tag lines often lack emotion. But we feel that you can put the emotion into the conversation once the potential buyer realizes you have an offering he may be looking for.

OK, here are some examples from the show. Our friends at MedTech publishing nailed it with a very descriptive tag line "Integrated news sources for today's healthcare management." They establish the category and the audience.

medtech HIMSS booth

Now look at the hms booth. We don't get it. At all.

it HIMSS booth

  But then we see the extra effort showing all the relevant words that have 'it' in them. We still don't get it.

hms HIMSS booth

We liked the tag line for V3 Benefits System, "Software for Health Plan Administration." Nothin' fancy, but very simple and you know what business they're in.

V3 HIMSS booth

Now how about SAS. "The power to know." Very emotive. In fact, our photographer was so overcome with emotion that he couldn't even hold the camera still. No idea what they do.

sas booth

Best idea gone awry.  FIS' chocolate fountain. Everyone loves a chocolate fountain. So fancy. So upscale. So unique. This company had a great idea. But we stood there for 15 minutes watching the server trying to get the thing running right, to no avail. I'll always remember FIS. But not for the reason they'd expect. Besides, what does FIS mean? Don't get us started on the power of acronyms.

FIS HIMSS booth

Back to tag lines. How about GTESS, "Better than humanly possible." Really? Well, at least they spent the dough to trademark their 5 letter acronym. I'm sure there were a bunch of companies trying to scoop them on that one.

gtess HIMSS booth

We thought Emdeon's tag line, although very conservative, was effective. "Revenue and payment cycle management. Clinical information exchange." Maybe they're better than humanly possible, but we'll never know.

emdeon HIMSS booth

OK, here's another pure emotion, no category from SourceHOV. "Your source for improved customer care and sustained profitability." Is the visitor supposed to understand how that happens, or is the idea that they have to walk into the booth and ask, "How is it that you're my source for improved customer care and sustained profitability?" Many corporate marketers and agency folks believe that IS the strategy--to force them into the booth to engage in a conversation. They argue that if you tell them what you do in your signage, they can keep walking and you miss the opportunity to engage. We believe that if your category represents something the visitor is interested in or in the market for, you'll have a much better chance of engaging, regardless of whether they walk by the booth and look you up on the web when they're back at their hotel .

SourceHOV HIMSS booth

Least effective tagline at the show: Inspiris, "Consistently enriching the lives of our health plan partners' medically complex, chronically ill members, while improving quality and lowering costs." We think if you added "world peace" in there, you'd have all the benefits covered. What do they do?!

INSPIRIS HIMSS booth

Well, we've run out of time here. We hope our insight was, well, insightful! See you at HFMA ANI!