Working Smarter

How PepsiCo ‘Gamed’ the System With a New Trade-Show App

What do you do when a custom app becomes popular among trade-show attendees — but doesn’t quite meet the corporate organizer’s goals?

When around 600 PepsiCo and Frito-Lay employees looking to increase productivity at their distribution centers gather with around 600 suppliers — offering everything from trucks and vehicle parts to computer systems — at the PepsiCo National Fleet/Other Goods & Services Summit & Tradeshow each year, organizers have one main goal: to get them talking. For the past six years that Chicago-based Total Event Resources has planned PepsiCo’s summit, that networking push has taken the form of a competitive game — until this year’s event, held Feb. 17–20 at San Antonio’s Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.

To help focus their interaction each year, the invitation-only suppliers are asked to share with attendees three things they are doing to make PepsiCo’s fleet distribution more efficient, according to Donna Collins, senior account executive at Total Event Resources.

At the first summit Total Event Resources organized, after PepsiCo employee attendees visited booths to learn about each supplier’s three initiatives, they picked up a baseball card — either a hit, single, double, triple, home run, or grand slam. “At the end of every ‘inning,’ after about 45 minutes, they would bring the cards to our umpires,” Collins said, who would tabulate the runs that each team, made up of PepsiCo employees and suppliers, scored. Scoreboards on the screens and an emcee on the show floor helped build competition and excitement.

“As the initiatives of PepsiCo became more sustainable,” Collins said, “we headed towards doing an app and designed the gamification in an app version.” Each year, the app became a little more advanced. “Attendees got very used to the competition, which became a great team- and camaraderie-builder,” Collins said. “But the interactions were not necessarily always as in-depth as they needed to be. They were just having interactions to get what they needed to get ahead of the competition. And so this year, we got away from the gamification part of it.”

The 2014 summit app, designed to enable more meaningful discussions, allowed attendees to download their photo and suppliers to feature their website. “So when people were networking with the suppliers” to discuss their three initiatives, Collins said, “they were checking out their contact information through the app. Often they didn’t even have to exchange business cards, they could make notes directly on the mobile app.”
While some attendees missed the competitive aspect of the app, the summit is, after all, “a very business-focused trade show,” Collins said. “So they all went with it.”

This year’s theme — “Bring It” — was meant to reinforce that focus by getting attendees to think, Collins said: “What are you bringing to the table? What are you bringing as a supplier? What are you bringing as an attendee? Everyone has accountability for bringing solutions, because problems and challenges are just the nature of what we all do.”

Paid for Itself’

Sponsors were offered “real estate” on the PepsiCo National Fleet/Other Goods & Services Summit & Tradeshow app for the first time in 2014, said Total Event Resources’ Donna Collins. “So as the app was downloaded onto [attendees’] iPad or smartphone, we had banners for all the suppliers that would circulate on the home page. And if you were a platinum sponsor, you received one of those banners that was scrolling in front of everybody often in front of the conference. So that became a terrific revenue generator for the client. And really the app paid for itself in that way.”

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.