The House (Exhibit) that Built Empathy


In the two earlier examples showing how to use the simple concept of a house as a strategic framework for a trade show exhibit, we found that a house could function as a lifelike demo area for technology products or as an announcement that a corporate giant in the insurance industry entered the pet insurance business. In this final “house,” the focus is how a house evoked empathy among healthcare professionals for the patient population they treat.

Building Empathy in Healthcare Exhibit Marketing

A little background on the nature of medical exhibits. Once a product is approved, a commercial exhibit can be branded with the product name and function as a space to talk about the efficacy of the product. But until that approval comes, an exhibitor has a choice of either

(1) a “coming soon” booth that uses the name of the product but tells nothing about it or

(2) a “disease state” booth that does not use the name of the product but raises awareness about the therapeutic area the product, once approved, will be targeting.

The “house” in this case was the latter, a disease state booth. The product was approved in the U.S. to treat psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, but had not yet been approved in Europe (the EMEA). Since the show where this exhibit was used was in Amsterdam and attracted a global audience, building awareness of the disease and heightening interest in the new product was key.

Prior to the show and independent of the event, the client had conducted a survey showing a marked disconnect between the patient perspective and the physicians’ assessment of what it was like to live with psoriasis and/or psoriatic arthritis. The empathy factor was missing. The survey also found that patients were not made aware of the range of treatment options, and that because the doctor assessment and understanding didn’t match with the patient experience, in many cases, the patients were under treated. The client enlisted the help of a healthcare exhibit house because they wanted to help build empathy for the patient experience.

Based on this data, the exhibit was a house featuring a living room, a kitchen, a bedroom, and a bathroom. In each room, doctors learned about the specific problems people with psoriasis and/or psoriatic arthritis encountered. As doctors walked through the house, graphics pointed out the challenges people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis experienced in each room—from avoiding mirrors because of low self-esteem to joint pain that hampered their ability to navigate effectively in the kitchen. The layout and accompanying graphics made healthcare professionals stop and put themselves in the patients’ shoes–literally, in one case, because putting on shoes can be challenging for these patients. There was also a doctor’s office, where physicians could ask questions—what would normally be called a medical affairs area.

The booth not only had distinct demarcations for the rooms, but each room was completely furnished. So in addition to choosing  flooring and seating options, we picked out bathroom fixtures, bedding, clothing, kitchen utensils, and window treatments. An exit survey was part of the program, and 56% of those surveyed said that the number one result of their visits to the exhibit was increased empathy and awareness of the patient perspective.

As we finish this series, we hope that by highlighting three distinct instances where the simple concept of a house was used as the foundation for an engagement strategy, you feel comfortable with the fact that sometimes keeping it simple is the best option.


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