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JM | Aug 17, 2022

Ashleigh-Ann Mowatt | Hard on sales, stingy on brand experiences: A Jamaica International Beauty Expo 2022 review

/ Our Today

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Ashleigh-Ann Mowatt. (Photo: Contributed)

I had the pleasure of attending the Jamaica International Beauty Expo last Saturday (August 13) at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in Rose Hall, St James.

Without a doubt, it was a well-needed refresher for me – as an entrepreneur who is trying to build strong business alliances in the western end of the island. I can’t recall the last time an event like this was hosted in Montego Bay so, of course, I send much respect to the organisers for divorcing the belief that tradeshows and expos should only be hosted in the nation’s capital.

Saint James is pumping more than tourism dollars into the national purse, and I believe we should acknowledge and offer more support to the growing manufacturing community in the parish.

Hits

Multicultural exchange & diversity

I had a grand time connecting with vendors, of various ages, gender and nationalities at the beauty expo. I met a woman who said the expo is a prime opportunity for her Turkish brand to be introduced to the Caribbean market. I was also impressed with the non-traditional representations of wellness on display; there were a few financial institutions responding to financial health concerns of patrons who visited their booths.

Live product/service demos

(Photo: Facebook @beautyexpojam)

I’m action-oriented and functionally biased: show me how it works rather than tell me how it works. The product and service demonstrations at some vendor stations were some of my favourite spots at the Expo because I was witnessing outcomes right away.

Warm Jamaican hospitality

Most brand representatives were friendly but I specifically remember receiving the warmest Jamaican welcome from a chuckling, older woman with burning sage in her hand, “Get rid of the bad vibes, only good vibes”. 

Product samples & complimentary services

The small sampling of products and complimentary services offered at some of the vendor stations were quite pleasing because once again I could witness the outcomes of use right away. 

Misses

What’s in my swag bag? Too many boring flyers and business cards that I will never read. We’ve witnessed how companies have invested billions on digital customer acquisition assets during the heights of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why abandon them when prospects and customers are right at your feet?

There were too many missed opportunities for local brands to use QR code displays to drive traffic to their social media accounts, digital registration forms with redirects to e-commerce websites so that prospects could order products or book services at a later date; and Expo-only coupon codes to generate new business on-site. 

And I believe the argument that ‘yuh granny nuh deh online’ is the biggest lie. Everybody knows that Gen-Xers are digitally literate especially when they have the juiciest gossip to share on WhatsApp. 

Hard selling was a major turn-off

The sooner local brands swallow the reality pill that we will never recoup COVID-19 losses, the sooner we’ll enjoy marketing innovation and attractive brand experiences. I was turned off by brand representatives who, on first encounter, asked me which item I wanted to purchase. Some of whom quickly moved to the next set of peering eyes the minute I said, “I’m just looking.”

The 2019 staging of the Jamaica International Beauty Expo (JIBE) was abuzz with activity as throngs of patrons gathered at the Montego Bay Convention Centre from June 28-30. (Photo: Facebook @beautyexpojam)

And let’s be fair, marketing budgets have shrunk but at the very least, show me how the product can make a difference for me (function) and sustain my interest with a quick activity to cement the memory of the brand in my mind. Make sense?

Main stage seemed like backstage

The main stage appeared to be huge black boxes positioned at the eastern end of the ballroom, sporadically used by vendors for brand and product awareness. While a disc jock was on-site, there was need for more excitement and a thoughtfully-executed entertainment package. The resources were present but poorly utilised as reflective of the sparse number of attendees who actually sat and watched the presentations. 

Overall, the three-day beauty, health and wellness expo seemed to be well-supported, not only by residents living on the western end of the island but also by a diverse pool of local artisans, manufacturers and corporate brands. I’m looking forward to an impactful and memorable staging the next time around. 

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