Ah the booth babe. At this point we just expect to see these scantily clad incredibly attractive females manning booths at E3, PAX, and other press conferences. Who could blame publishers? Sex sells, so obviously booth babes will bring more foot traffic to their booth, which leads to more game demos, more connections, more leads and overall a better business turnout at a convention, right?
Well, not so fast. A recent unofficial study by Spencer Chen, head of marketing and growth at Frontback, shows that booth babes may not be driving as much booth traffic as we once thought. He tested this theory at an event where he was given two booths in separate parts of the show floor. One booth he manned in the standard fashion, with booth babes out the wazoo. The other booth was manned by show contractors that have a history of good people skills and event performance but that did not particularly fit the model of the ideal booth babe. In fact, one member of the sales team literally calles these non-babes grandmothers… partially because one was actually a grandmother.
The results of the experiment were astounding. The booth with the booth babes generated a third of the foot traffic that the grandma booth did (measured in conversations with reps and demos.) They also generated half of the leads (measured in badge swipes or completed contact forms.) In fact, the grandma booth generated three times the leads that the booth babe did in the previous years.
So why was it that the grandma booth did so well and the booth babe booth fell behind? A number of reasons actually, the first of which lies in a booth babes intimidating nature. On the internet, sex sells like pancakes because there is this safe veil of anonymity between you and the girls that you are oogling. In real life though, you may have to come face to face with the fact that this woman you are objectifying is, you know, a person. According to Chen, the existence of booth babes actually gave many people anxiety. They would stand there, oogle the babes for a while, but then instead of approaching the booth and engaging in conversation about a demo, they would just carry on to another part of the event. The booth babes themselves supported this observation! The only people who did have the confidence to engage the booth babes in conversation tended to be “overconfident weirdos” which did not do much for business.
In addition, important business executives just do not talk to booth babes. These people go to conventions and conferences with one purpose in mind: to do work. They are looking for people to make a deal with, not breasts to stare at. These execs will walk right past the booth babes and look for their peer, a designer or marketing representative. In fact, execs look at talking to booth babes as mostly a waste of time. In times when an official representative was busy doing a demo or something and an exec would want to talk with them, the ones that engaged with the booth babes would walk away after five minutes, while the ones who talked with the grandmas stuck around, partially due to sense of professionalism, and partially because the grandmas were scouted specifically for their people skills.
The people that the booth babes did attract tended to be low quality, in terms of business. Booth babes had no problem attracting low-level IT guys, or convention guests that probably wouldn’t even talk about their experiences in a blog. According to Chen, the only thing this is doing is lowering a booth’s return on investment at a show. Booth babes cost a LOT of money, and that expense on top of the already hefty expense to set up a booth means that every “hit” at your booth needs to bring you a certain amount of money back. The highest profile hits, with the potential to make the most money, tended to favor the grandma booth, not the babe booth.
Finally, the most convincing reason why booth babes generated less traffic than grandmas: booth babes are lazy. We aren’t making a blanket statement here. We are sure there are plenty of hard working booth babes out there. But according to Chen, the standard booth babes that you hire are used to showing up and not doing much more than looking pretty. They are the same babes that do car shows or restaurant shows. They don’t talk to the convention goers about a product. They also don’t have answers for people who are looking for information. They are there to simply act as eye-bait whereas the grandmas were there to do their job, and their job was to bring people to the booth and keep them there. Since they couldn’t rely on their good looks, they had to rely on their people skills and ability to feed interested parties information. The booth babes wouldn’t even engage in small talk while the grandmas would gladly keep people discussing the product, and after that would even talk about things to do and places to eat in the area until an official representative was available.
In short, booth babes are just that: babes. They are hired for the purpose of looking good and only looking good. But looking good doesn’t sell a product; an informed sales team sells a product. It’s easy to think that T & A will get you everywhere in business but it’s just not true. You can debate the social side of whether or not it’s ethical to exploit women in this context until you are blue in the face, but business is sadly business and sales teams will always do what will drive the most sales. That’s the sad truth of capitalism. From a strictly business standpoint, booth babes are simply ineffective, so if you aren’t going to fight against exploitation for a social rights perspective, do so because it will cost your company a whole bunch of money and give them very little business in return.
Senior Contributing Writer