For those of you who are lucky enough to be unfamiliar with the term “Booth Babe,” allow me to explain. A Booth Babe, euphemistically referred to as a “promotional model,” is a young girl clad in a risqué ensemble who stands in front of exhibitors’ booths at conference and trade shows. She and several other of her busty colleagues hand out fliers and try to lure you into the exhibitor booth, where some much less attractive person will tell you about their products and services and not let you escape until you sign up for their newsletter.
I’m always surprised at the abundance of booth babes at conferences, especially at professional gatherings like CTIA and FOSE, two that I’ve attended recently. Sure, maybe booth babes still have a place at the International Lingerie Conference, but the antiquated concept is inappropriate at important trade shows and conferences that are meant to provide an opportunity to learn about current industry issues. Businesses should abandon this outdated promotional ploy, not just because it’s offensive (which it is) but because it doesn’t work. Here’s why:
Booth babes are poor brand ambassadors.
What does a naughty nurse have to do with your office supply products? What does a dominatrix have to do with your IT consulting services? Probably nothing. It’s difficult for businesses to find a segue to these sexy costumes. Yes, booth babes attract attention, but do you really want your brand represented by a nineteen year old in spandex leiderhosen? What if a passerby asks her a question about your product? I’m sure that many booth babes are educated, bright, and articulate, but I’m equally as sure that companies provide them with only a cursory amount of product information before sending them out to the aisle with a fistful of free ballpoint pens. Even if she is effective in increasing your booth traffic, your audience won’t remember your stellar PowerPoint presentation, they’ll remember your booth babe’s strategically placed name tag.
Booth babes insult your customers and your products.
When you rely on booth babes to promote your product, you’re insulting your customers’ intelligence. Booth babes (or, rather, the people who employ booth babes) send out a clear message: I think that my customers can be won over by some good old-fashioned thigh-flashing. Furthermore, the use of distracting models shows that your company does not think its product is compelling enough to bring in customers on its own. If you need near-naked women to convince people to test your mobile app, I’m betting it’s not that great.
This just in: Women are in the workforce!
In fact, we make up a pretty hefty portion of the workforce and even have purchasing power. Booth babes emerged back in the 1950’s, when they were probably the only women on the convention floor, but this is no longer the case. Booth babes alienate and offend female conference attendees. Not to mention that many booth babes promote companies that have female employees standing in the booth, just a few feet away. Professional, successful employees with all of their clothes on. Booth babes send a message to your female colleagues that women ought to look pretty and alluring, not educated, ambitious, or—gasp!–actually capable of selling a product based on its virtues alone.
Fortunately, many conventions are moving in the right direction (examples here, here, and here). Booth Babes aren’t worth the risk. Child labor laws aside, this outdated promotional tool sends the wrong message to your customers and employees.